Are you a brand? Or better still, what do people think of you when your name is mentioned?
Let’s talk a bit about branding and personal branding and how you can really make it work for you.
In Nigeria, when you hear the word “Branding”, many of us quickly refer to it as “packaging”. There are many misconception about branding of personal branding. E.g. fake it till you make it, etc.
But personal branding is actually beyond what we think.
A dictionary or internet search for the meaning of branding is – the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design. Branding, by definition, is a marketing practice in which a company creates a name, symbol or design that is easily identifiable as belonging to the company.
In simple terms, branding means what a company do to market its products. If branding is what companies do to market themselves or their products through their names, symbols and design, that means personal branding relates to marketing yourself as an individual through various means.
Do you get the gist?
If you studied Mass communication, Marketing, Public relations or related courses in the university, you might have taken some courses in branding, but I doubt you were taught the concept of personal branding and most especially how you can use that concept to differentiate yourself in your field and attract opportunities in your industry.
Personal Branding as a concept is rooted in the ideology that you have to see yourself as a product that gets other people to buy into you.
In recent times, the concept of branding and personal branding has been popularized in the career space and whether you like it or not, we are all brands, we are personal brands. Whether you believe it or not, you are a brand, but the question is – are you a superior brand? Is your branding style working for your goals? Can your personal brand attract an organization to offer you opportunities?
A personal brand is what people know about you, it tells who you are, what you are doing, what you have achieved, as well as what you can offer.
So as a fresh graduate or a job seeker ready to embark into professional world, it is crucial for you to not just have a brand but build a great personal brand that sets you apart from competitors. You need to first start seeing yourself as a brand. How can you do that practically?
These two key things would help:
- Audit & Define your brand: I mentioned before, we are all brands whether you know it or not. You just need to know how you are currently perceived by people around you. So the question is, do you know how you are perceived in the eyes of your chosen market or your field? You need to first know how you are seen in your industry. What do people think about you? Who do people say you are?
In spending many years in the university, you may have built a reputation about yourself that people hold of you, you must know what kind of reputation you already have in the eyes of the public and confirm if such reputation is what you want your industry to have of you now.
Quick example: Let’s say, while in the university, you were a member of the popular club called “Kegite” (an association of people who share bonding through palm wine drinking) and you were even their leader, leading activities publicly and are known for that by people –That is your reputation.
Now that you are graduate, you need to audit that brand you already built around yourself in view of where you are going to or what career path you want to build for yourself.
You need to ask yourself, what industry do I want to play now that I am a graduate? Within that industry, what do I want people to know about me? What unique strengths and personality do I want people to remember me for? What will make me different from the crowd?
This means you must know your audience. Your audience is simply the people in your chosen industry or your field of play. Media, Health, Business, Financial services, Manufacturing/Fast Moving Consumer Goods, Consulting, etc.
You need to define how you want to be seen in your industry, that’s the first key.
2. Show your brand: Once you get your definition right, remember you don’t have a superior brand if people don’t know it and so the work of showing your brand as superior is an ongoing task that never ends. How do you do these?
Network Offline & Online
The foundations of our career and personal lives are interpersonal relationships and networking. It is important to learn how to build networks with both old and new people, to open up new doors. This is where you get to show your brand and what you offer.
Most times people think personal branding is just what you do online but much more about personal branding is what is done offline. For example, going to career fairs, industry events, holding informational interviews, sharing your resume, attending alumni gatherings and even volunteering for events, gives you a chance to create meaningful relationships with the people on your industry you want them to perceive you.
When you get to know people and experience them and you bring value to the conversations with them and these people get to know who you are, then your personal brand gets easily recognized. This means you must be proactive in pursuing your interests and connecting with people you could learn from.
Once you can create an offline perception with people you want to connect with, you can then continue to sustain that personal brand through online channels with new networks, those people can refer and open you up to other meaningful people in their networks.
You should take very seriously who you are online and how you are perceived online. Start with your major social media handles. LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Ensure those social media channels portray what you want people to perceive you as.
You may need to audit your social media handles and delete any content you think doesn’t match your new personal brand, because perception is key. If people see on your social media handles content that are not responsible they simply perceive you as not responsible.
Also, know that the business world is becoming more and more driven by digital marketing and communications, so expressing your beliefs and industry-specific insights and skills in the form of a blog is a great way of making a reputation.
Feel free to start a blog like mine ,sharing your ideas and thoughts on your field and industry. Be bold with your suggestions and opinions, you are influencing ideas in the industry and over time you will be seen as a thought leader.
You must be found to be consistently adding value everywhere within your industry.
The bottom line is that your age, your professional level, and your work experience don’t define your brand because you already have one – being who you are.
Be fearless about sharing those ideas, beliefs, suggestions for your industry.
As a fresh graduate you have to be highly resourceful, let people know about your personal brand and market your unique traits and experiences to target employers or future employers.
Whatever career path you decide on or the choice you make – act on them fearlessly, learn from your mistakes, evolve, grow and remember that you’re in control of your personal brand.
So, quick concluding question – How do you want people in your industry to perceive you in your industry? Share in the comment section.