You’ve been scrolling through your Facebook, only to find an old pal from Facebook has found success as a life coach. Or perhaps a journalist. Maybe they’re an entrepreneur who speaks at TED conferences. You might wonder how they turned themselves from a regular ol’ employee to a full-blown personality and brand. While this move isn’t for everyone, as more and more professionals reimagine what it means to be successful, the benefits of a solo reputation as an expert or authority becomes more common — and well, appealing.
As creative entrepreneur and career expert Kylie Carson says, like it or not, working in the digital era challenges everyone to create a personal brand — even if it is merely through Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. The more you make yourself stand out from the pack, the higher chance you have at exceeding beyond those at your same level.
“In a world where we are all fighting to be seen and heard, a personal brand helps you to stand out head and shoulders over your competition. It doesn’t matter whether you are looking to take your career to the next level or start a business, personal branding can help,” she continues. “Turning yourself from just a resume into a brand that has personality and a voice will help you to get noticed.”
Here’s how to shine that spotlight:
Start with your why
Carson says one of the most effective ways to transform yourself from a professional to a brand is by positioning yourself as an expert in your industry. The only issue, is well, that doesn’t happen overnight. Those who are able to lead their knowledge base do it by proving themselves to thought-leaders continuously over time — and perhaps more importantly, they stay true to their mission. That’s why career expert and entrepreneur Christopher Kingman stresses the importance of taking a page out of Simon Sinek’s sound advice, and defining your ‘why.’
“Stating what you are isn’t as important as why you do it. Being an attorney is great—but an attorney who does what they do to keep their own community safe? That’s a differentiator people can get behind,” he explains.
To determine your core principles, Kingman says to begin by answering ‘Why do you do what you do?’ This might mean exploring what motivates you, what makes you want to get up in the morning, what pushes you to do better and to give more — and beyond.
He says if you can answer these questions, keep going: “If you can figure it out: ask yourself some questions. Like, ‘how did I get to where I am now?’, ‘What are my passions?’, and ‘What about doing my job, that makes me or others happy?’. This exercise isn’t quick, and the more time you spend, the better the message will be so don’t rush through it,” he shares.
Express what makes you different
When you think of ‘sales experts’ or ‘marketing pros’—you can probably rattle a few dozen off the top of your head. As personal branding continues to become trendy, Kingman says to be successful, a professional should figure out what makes them different from every other LinkedIn profile out there. He says it doesn’t have to be anything extremely specific — like a designation, degree or certification — but rather, access you have or soft skills or experience you possess that others do not.
“How has that made you the professional you are today? Have you worked on hard, or high profile projects? Won important trials, been exposed to many industries? Whatever it is, add that to what makes you unique,” he continues. “The end result is what can be called a value proposition or a personal branding message. It’s a short description, like above, that tells people, who you are, what you do, why it matters, and why they should choose you.”
Define your customer
Remember in elementary school when your teacher made you answer the who, the what, the where, the why and the how? You can apply this same approach to the next step in your branding — now that you know who you are and what you do, now you have to figure out how to market it to the masses. Or a niche market. Or an employer. Or whatever your goal might be. Kingman says before you make the website, hire a logo designer and picked your color scheme, you need to know who you’re pitching yourself to.
“Identifying your target audience and customer is an easy way to make sure you aren’t being too broad or too narrow. Having a target buyer or customer in mind will help you tailor your value prop, your message to capture exactly who will benefit the most from working with you,” he explains. “Once you tailor your message it will resonate much deeper with those you are trying to reach, or more importantly, those who are trying to reach you.”
Make a website — and get going
Now that you’ve completed your research—and soul searching—it is time to build your online presence. Carson suggests starting with a portfolio that illustrates your experience, your current projects, your availability and most importantly, your brand message that you just defined. Here is where examples become important.
“If you’ve worked on a client brief of any description and been involved in the process, then you can write a case study that shows the problem the customer had and how you were involved in providing the solution. All of this helps to cement you as an expert in your field,” she stresses.
Not sure about web design, or don’t know where to get started? Hiring an agency or even a solo person is an investment in your long-term career. And hey, some designers even cater to specific groups, like DevelopHER Designs, a full-service web company that specializes in female entrepreneurs and executives.
Now what? Start posting: blogs, social media, anything and everything to professionally make your message heard, loud and clear.
“Everything you post is a reflection on who you are and what you stand for, so make it count. Think about what you’re posting before you post it and start to think about how you can use each platform to position yourself as an expert and allow your professional persona to stand out to potential employers,” Carson adds.