You have a personal brand, whether you are aware of it or not. It’s the collection of what people know, think, and feel about you, and that collection is a result of your own thoughts, words, and actions. What we want to talk about today is being deliberate and intentional in that personal branding while remaining genuine and authentic.
Start from the right place
Most people approach networking from the “outside-in,” meaning, they think about who they aspire to be and then try to become that. This is contrived, and ultimately, isn’t you. The best personal branding is exactly the opposite: inside-out. Take who you truly are then work from there.
Who am I?
Key questions to audit your personal brand include:
1. Who am I right now? Try to lose the scripts, for better or worse, of what you were in the past or what you aspire to be in the future. Be ruthlessly real with yourself.
2. What do I really enjoy doing? This could be an income-generating pursuit or activity, but it doesn’t need to be. Don’t focus on the money side of it right now.
3. What am I passionate and/or excited about? Again, this is not what you aspire to be passionate about, but what you actually are passionate about, as demonstrated by your time and attention.
4. What do I want to do? Can we link your desires and identity so as to orient you in a particular direction?
Who am I not?
Gary Vaynerchuk hammers home this point frequently across all the channels he is on: don’t pretend to be something you’re not. If you’re aspiring to be an expert in a specific category, do not brand yourself as an “expert.” Brand yourself as someone learning and aspiring to be that expert and document that journey. Embrace your status as a learner each step of the way. Don’t worry about when that journey will end or when you will get a certificate labeling you as an expert (that’s never going to arrive, by the way) but challenge yourself and interact with those who engage with you and you’ll find your brand continuing to develop from the inside-out.
Do the work
In our society in which social media seems to make the journey seem easy or the workload irrelevant, it’s ever more important for you to realize that this exercise in branding is not a substitute for the work you need to do, but is rather a product and accelerator of it. If you take the time to be properly oriented in your personal brand you will be directed towards the work that you do. That work will help you refine and upgrade your brand, which will then push you back out to do more work.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember that your social capital is the glue of your brand. Lean on friends and colleagues throughout this process: they don’t have the blind spots you might have.
Ultimately, a true awareness of your personal brand, and a desire to give it focus and direction will make all those around you better, and that’s definitely a win for everybody.