Activating an Authentic Personal Brand: Your Career GPS [part 2]

When you leave the room after that big interview, what do want them to say about you? Have you ever thought about that before you interview? Or how about the month before you interview?

If you did some personal reflection after the first blog post in this series, you’re armed with a high level of self-knowledge. You’ve surfaced all that is authentic about you. So now what?

Step 2: It’s time to be intentional about your personal brand.

What we’re talking about is habit #2 “Begin with the End in Mind” from Stephen R. Covey’s classic The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. In Covey’s message, he says “all things are created twice”. First in your mind, next in your experience.

In the truest sense, personal brand is showcasing what is unique about you, and communicating this across multiple mediums. It’s cultivating what gives you energy and turns work into play.

But first, let’s simplify.

If you’re a newbie to the whole personal brand thing, grab a notepad and follow along. You’ll be calculating how you want to show up across three areas: your written message, your physical presence, and your social identity.

picture11. Written

The written word is often the first time people will learn about you. What do you want them to know?

Your ability to succinctly communicate who you are and what you have to offer can be the difference between reply or delete. One of my favorite ways to make this point came from a client. She said it this way:

What’s your bumper sticker?

Think about your resume, your webpage, or your LinkedIn profile as a story. The story of professional you. Your bumper sticker is the title, the theme, the Big Takeaway. If you find yourself bumbling over words – or worse yet using dreaded corporatese language – go find an expert. There are countless people (copy editors, resume writers) who make a living specializing in the written word.

Any document needs to flow from this overall theme. If there are aspects of your career history that don’t relate to who you are now or are irrelevant (your 1995 stint in vitamin sales network marketing?) then delete them. Yes – you can.

Here’s the how-to in creating your bumper sticker. In last week’s blog, you identified your superpowers and what you value. Merge them with the people you wish to serve and don’t be afraid to let your passion shine through. Here are a few to get your brain ticking:

  • “Intentional creator of organized thought, solutions and frameworks”
  • “Naturally inquisitive leader who connects, engages and empowers others”
  • “Driven trailblazer with a passion for finding tech solutions that impact lives”

2. Physical

You-in-person is the most memorable way people will learn about you. This is area not to be overlooked. We will spend hours pouring over a resume or LinkedIn profile. Why don’t we give an equal attention and time to our physical presence? Research has proven that body language (facial expression, eye contact, gestures, touch, posture…) accounts for 50-70% of all communication. I’ll say that again. 50-70%! Just this fact alone validates authentic personal branding. Begin with the end in mind, and visualize the answer to this question:

What kind of energy will you bring into the room?

Think about energy or “presence” as the driver of your brand personality. We can’t see it but we feel it. It can be fun or it can be ho hum. How you want to show up? Name it. Write out your answer, stand up and rehearse. Yes, really.

If you’re serious about maximizing the 50-70% x-factor, recruit a friend, family member or coach to role play with you. Practicing a greeting or interview with someone else takes your game to whole new level. They will see nuances that you don’t. And for this, you will be grateful.

Another consideration is your image. If you’re an artist, ear gauges and the stunning 6-color dragon body art may be an appreciated creative expression. But if you’re pursuing a conservative legal career, not so much. Construction will have a different dress norm than financial, academia, or social work. Respect the industry you’re pursuing.

Even if you don’t have networking or interviews lined up yet, you can still communicate yourself visually. Go get a professional headshot that expresses your personality. Use it liberally but tastefully on all media – resume, online profiles, websites, email taglines. Tiny Tip: Make sure your face takes up 80% of the frame.

3. Social

Social media is ubiquitous to personal brand. We live there. Like it or not, it’s the first place we go to learn about each other. So whether your technology of choice is Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Hangouts, Snapchat, Instagram, etcetera, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you are aware that your brand follows you online.

While it would be nice to think that we could neatly categorize our lives between professional and personal, social media has blurred those lines. If a recruiter scanned your posts for the last year, what impression would they take away?

Your homework is to align your professional intention with your social impression.

What do you want your social identity to be?

Rampant revelry is a ripe example. If your daily posts, comments, likes and shares consistently portray your party prowess, it could plant a seed of doubt that you could step into a leadership position. The message here isn’t to judge, it’s prompting you to be aware and purposeful.

Even if you’re not active online, you can still use this medium to your advantage. Professionally, LinkedIn is the frontrunner. If you’re looking for a new career, it behooves you to optimize LinkedIn functionality. Here are seven steps to get you started:

  1. Headline: this is your bumper sticker and key words for search. Use all 120 characters to your advantage.
  2. Summary: too many people use this section to regurgitate their resume. Don’t do this. Make it first person and conversational. Include your point of view.
  3. Skills & Endorsements: you actually can control what shows up here. Choose the skills that support your desired career and delete the rest. Stack rank the top 10.
  4. Recommendations: these are gold. Set a goal to have at least eight recommendations that support your career goal and POV.
  5. Be Active: At least weekly, like, share, comment and/or post articles that support your POV, industry or brand.
  6. Upload Docs: maximize functionality by adding your CV or resume, whitepapers, PDFs, presentations, videos to your profile.
  7. Contacts: set a goal to have 500+ contacts. This will allow you to be found. LinkedIn searches reach 3-degrees of separation.

The bottom line? You’re in the driver’s seat. Personal branding is a strategy that focuses you on your most important product: you. When done intentionally and authentically, it communicates what is meaningful and descriptive of the best you and what you offer. A great brand is always honest; you can’t fake your way through it.

Keep watch for Activating Your Career GPS, part 3, coming next week. You have a high level of self-enlightenment and have designed a strong and authentic personal brand, so now what? In Part 3 we’ll navigate the roadblocks and chart the most direct route to get you to your career destination. Buckle up!

Julie Schaller is co-founder of M-Power Coaching and architect of the Career GPS System, a professional coaching program that enables you gain clarity of who you are and how to use this knowledge to find a career that is ideally suited for you. Learn more and get your complimentary copy of the Personal Branding Blueprint.

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