Before piecing together components of your personal brand, you first need to identify who you are as a professional. Your professional identity is what you will promote, so a thorough understanding of who you are, what you do, and why you do it, is important.
Getting to Know Yourself
You are you, and there is no one else like you… that’s what makes you the best positioned to make informed decisions about your personal career goals and developing a strong personal brand.
Your values, interests, skills, and personality can largely impact the manner in which you present yourself to your intended audience. Consider the information below as you begin building your personal brand.
Values: Your personal values have a significant role in the way you approach work. Perhaps you're motivated by financial gain, or you want a defined separation and balance between work and family time. Clarifying your personal values can serve as a blueprint for effective decision-making and optimal personal branding. Complete the Life Values Inventory, a free online assessment, to help connect your values with strategies for personal growth.
Interests: You can learn a new skill, but you cannot learn to be interested in a topic that does not appeal to you. Create a list of work related activities you enjoy doing most, the industry or industries you desire to work in, employers you would like to work for, and the job titles or positions that are most appealing to you. Defining these interests can help provide focus and direction for executing your personal brand strategy.
Personality: Personality assessments are all the rage online. Various tools purporting to detect your hidden personality traits, unveil the "real you," or identify which pop culture icon you share common traits with can be fun to take.
Most of these assessments are just for fun, but there are sometimes nuggets of truth and wisdom that help shed light on different aspects of personality, behavior, and preferences. Such assessments often provide an amusing source of distraction during the middle of a tedious workday, but they can also be a useful exercise in getting to know yourself a little better, whether you are taking a serious psychological inventory, such as the MBTI, or discovering which Harry Potter character you are.
Understanding your personality preferences can be helpful for career goal setting and planning, and overall beneficial for promoting your personal brand.
Skills: Your skills are essential to the work you do. Think about the work activities you do and the skills that are used to complete these tasks. A strong understanding of your skills will add value to your professional identity and assist with promoting them through your personal brand.
Strengths: What are your greatest strengths? No, this is not an interview, but you should be aware of your personal strengths and how they impact your work. As a part of getting to know yourself, identifying your personal strengths can be helpful for creating and sharing your personal brand.
As a framework for identifying your personal strengths, The Career Planning & Development Center offers CliftonStrenghts, an online assessment that helps you discover what you naturally do best, where you have the most potential, and what makes you exceptional. Current students can schedule an advising appointment to learn more about their personal strengths through the CliftonStrengths assessment.
Building Your Brand
A strong personal brand will help articulate who you are, what you do, and what you bring to the table to your intended audience.
Your personal brand includes the overall structure, appearance, and content included in application materials, social media profiles, your networking pitch, and written correspondence to professionals or potential employers. View a complete list of personal brand components below.
- Social networking platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter
- Digital portfolios and websites that display your work
- Application materials, such as a resume and cover letter
- Professional attire
- Business cards
- Networking pitch
- Written and verbal communication
Continue reading for strategies and tips for building a personal brand.
Your social media presence is a great way to publicly display your strengths as a professional. Your profile activity and engagement can also infer positive or negative impressions based on information you share, "like" or comment on.
The first part of the information in this content section will include general tips and strategies to consider for auditing your entire social media footprint, and the second part will highlight strategies for optimizing your LinkedIn profile.
Strategies for Auditing Your Social Media Footprint
Adjust your account privacy settings: It is important to maintain control over how others perceive you through social media. From managing a job search discretely on LinkedIn, to approving tagged photos on Facebook, familiarizing yourself with all of the privacy and account settings across your social media footprint will help you maintain control over your public persona. Here are a few pointers for managing personal information on social media:
- review and adjust all social media account privacy settings to permit who can view your account information (information about you) and activity
- consider your audience (followers, connections and non-connections) and what they're able to view on your profile
Selecting a profile photo: Your profile picture is a signature element of your social media presence. LinkedIn research shows that just having a picture makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by others, so selecting the right photo will go a long way. Here are a few tips for picking the right photo across your social media profiles:
- pick a photo that has been taken within the last year
- use a high resolution image, for LinkedIn, select a photo that is a minimum 400 x 400 pixels
- be the only person in the picture
- do not use a selfie, have someone else take the photo for you
- smiling in your photo can help you look more approachable to your audience
- avoid distracting backgrounds
- wear what you would wear to work
- use filters wisely
Information about yourself: Social media profiles such as LinkedIn and Facebook allow its users to fill in information about themselves. While your account settings can limit the ability for non-connections to obtain your contact information, it is important to consider what identifying information you're sharing and why.
Social media posts: For good or bad, once you share perspective through a post on social media, an impression has been made. Here are a few tips to consider before posting on social media:
- consider proper grammar, punctuation and tone when posting status updates
- avoid sharing or commenting on polarizing topics such as religion and politics and posting negative messages about current and previous employers, supervisors, and colleagues
- do not share overly personal information
LinkedIn for Personal Branding
LinkedIn is the premiere social networking platform that enables users to showcase essential information about their professional self. Building a complete profile will assist your intended audience learn more about your work experiences, transferable skills, and interests.
A professional portfolio can help in any circumstance where you want to make a strong first impression, provide proof of your value, and differentiate yourself from others. Whether it's in a digital or physical format, your professional portfolio can be a great asset to have at your disposal. Here are a few areas where a professional portfolio can add value to your personal brand:
Employment Interviews: Sharing that you planned an organizational fundraiser for over 200 guests is one thing, but showing the event budget, timeline, invitations, and photographs from the event is another. Having a professional portfolio contributes to your professional persona. You will appear prepared and organized, and your interviewers will see that you’re proud of your work and take it seriously.
Negotiating Salary: When assessing your worth during the hiring process, a thoughtfully prepared professional portfolio can provide the leverage you need to seal the deal.
Performance Feedback and Promotions: What your supervisor perceives and what you can display during a performance appraisal will help clarify any areas of strength they're uncertain of. The same thing goes when you're up for a promotion. A collection of work samples can help reinforce your overall value to the company.
Depending on your field, your professional portfolio can include a number of artifacts about your professional self. Here's a list of common items to include:
- Your updated resume and/or professional bio
- Client feedback, letters, or emails
- Professional development plan and goals
- Honors, awards, and recognitions
- Completed professional development
- 3-5 work samples
- Project outlines or write-ups
- A list of signature accomplishments
Source: Why You Need a Professional Portfolio by Chrissy Scivicque
An employment application typically consists of a resume and cover letter that summarize your skills, strengths, and qualifications. Elements of your personal brand can come through these application materials in the manner in which they're prepared and presented.
From the header used at the top of your documents to the type of font you select for the content sections, the overall look of your application materials should be created with purpose.
The information that follows is organized in two sections, Format and Content.
Format: Your application materials should present information in an easy to read format. Here are a few formatting recommendations for preparing tailored application materials:
- Templates: Do not use a resume template. Resume readers can immediately identify these formats. They also limit your ability to change the content and style of your resume.
- Layout: The layout of your resume should be well-organized and consistent. The reader should be able to quickly pick out information from the different content areas of your resume.
- Font and Font Size: Use one professional-looking font. Consider using Arial, Times New Roman, or Times. Font size should be between 10 and 12 point. Font size for headings and subheadings may be slightly larger to draw attention to them.
- Color: Pops of color in your resume should be used sparingly, if at all.
Be aware of your audience: When preparing an employment application, you will need to customize the content to appeal to the reader. You should prepare a tailored application to your intended audience.
Highlight your key skills and experience: In a job posting, the employer will outline a list of skills and qualifications that their ideal candidate would possess. As you're crafting your tailored application, concentrate on describing your skills and experiences that align most directly with the employer's needs.
Consider multiple sources of experience: Every activity in your life is a source of valuable experience, providing skills that are either specific to your job of choice or transferable to multiple fields. When deciding on the types of experiences to include in your application materials, think about your entire background including co-curricular activities, internships, jobs, academic projects, etc.
Create a theme: Connect your resume content to other pieces used in the application process. How does your cover letter reinforce key areas of skills/qualifications that are highlighted in your resume? How will this connect to your interviewing approach? In preparing your application materials, ensure that you unify the message that you want to relay to your prospective employer.
Business Casual & Professional Attire
Most individuals put some thought into what they wear every day, but you may want to pay extra attention to your attire when you have an internship, job, or graduate school interview or when you're attending a networking event such as a career fair, professional association meetings, informational interview, or speaker event.
The manner in which you present yourself in person will leave an impression on your contact network. Here are a few tips and recommendations for strengthening your personal brand through clothing and accessories:
- Understand the difference between business casual and professional attire
Business casual: Typically includes dress pants or skirts, collared shirts or modest blouses, and closed-toe shoes. Because business casual dress is frequently selected by organizations as the day-to-day dress code, individuals can be flexible with the type of fabric, color, and patterns of the clothing selected.
Professional attire: Typically includes a two-piece suit, collared shirt or modest blouse, and closed-toe shoes. Business professional attire is recommended in more formal professional settings and when interacting with organizations that favor this dress code.
- Understand how to dress for different occasions
The work day: If your employer has a dress code policy, make sure your interpretation is reflected in the clothing you wear. For instance, if you're coming to work in a three piece suit every day, but the dress code is aligned to recommendations for business casual, you may be overdressing.
Professional events: The format of the event will determine how you should dress. If the event is by invitation only, you may find clothing recommendations as part of the invite. If not, do your best to match your attire to the event as best you can.
View the Career Planning & Development Center's guidelines for Professional Attire to learn more.
A networking pitch is a brief, thoughtfully prepared and practiced message about your academic and professional self. It tells your audience who you are, what you do, and where you're going. It should be delivered with purpose and last no greater than one minute.
Purpose: The purpose of your pitch is to share just enough information about yourself to engage in a mutually beneficial conversation with your new connection.
Benefits: Done right, a networking pitch can be the verbal equivalent of dressing for the job you want. That is, it can show you in a good light today, as well as reveal what you’re capable of in the future.
Hi, my name is Sara, and I am a PR manager, specializing in overseeing successful initiative launches from beginning to end. Along with my 7 years of professional experience, I recently earned my MBA with a focus on consumer trust and retention. I find the work your PR team does to be innovating and refreshing—I’d love the opportunity to put my expertise to work for your company. Would you mind if I set up a quick call next week for us to talk about any upcoming opportunities on your team?
Learn how to elevate your networking pitch by viewing our interactive guide here.