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Personal branding is nearly synonymous with your reputation. It is the appearance you display in your life towards the people in it, and the impact this has, both inside and outside your career. No matter where you see yourself on the professional scale a student, job candidate, employee, business owner or freelancer personal branding is crucial. Apple challenged the world to “Think Different.” Nike encouraged people, regardless of age, gender, or physical fitness level, to “Just Do It.” Over the years, these recognizable slogans have morphed int rallying cries, setting the tone for how each company communicates and identifies in the market. In just a handful of words, these slogans have told a story and influenced how people perceive the organizations behind them. Together, they represent the power and potential of branding.

“Branding is what companies stand for,” says Dr. Sean Gresh, a faculty member in Northeastern’s Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication program. “It’s reflected in how that company acts, how it serves people, the value that the company shares, and how the company projects those values.” A strong brand stands out in the crowd—and gains more sales, increased awareness, and better customer experiences as a result. 


Figure out who you are.

In order to build a personal brand that accurately reflects your personal and professional identity, you first need to know who you are. Be introspective, and create a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself in particular:

which areas of work do I excel?

Which projects have others had to help me with repeatedly?

What motivates me?

Which roles seem to drain my energy?

Which characteristics have others complimented me on?

If you cannot answer these on your own, ask friends, family, and co-workers how they would describe you. Then you can decide how best to brand yourself based off of the different facets of your personality. Keep in mind that many people struggle to choose a specific niche because they don’t want to limit themselves. Realize that your personal brand, like many corporate brands, will change as your career grows. The best strategy is to choose a particular area you’d like to focus on and let it evolve over time.


Determine what you want to be known for.

Your personal brand not only reflects who you are? But it’s like a roadmap of where you want to go. In addition to understanding your existing skills and competencies, Gresh suggests assessing your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to whichever industry or career you want to break into next. By doing this, you’ll uncover the skills and traits that make you distinct, as well as the areas where you need to improve or gain new knowledge in order to advance. Forecasting where you want to be in five or 10 years and the attributes you want to be known for can help you better determine what steps you need to take in order to get there.


Define your audience

Before you start crafting your personal brand, you also need to determine who you’re trying to reach. An individual at a particular company? Is it other industry thought leaders? Recruiters? The sooner you define the audience, the easier it will be to craft your story, because you’ll better understand the type of story you need to tell (and where you need to tell it.) For example, if your goal is to reach hiring managers and recruiters, you might start by creating or updating your LinkedIn profile. Why? Because 92 percent of recruiters leverage social media to find high-quality candidates and, of those, 87 percent use LinkedIn.

On the other hand, if you are a graphic designer trying to impress existing clientele and attract new customers, you might choose to tell your story via a personal website or portfolio, where you can better express your wide range of talents.

Embrace networking

As you cultivate your ideal personal brand, it’s important to network regularly (and effectively) to grow your professional circle. Connect with peers and industry thought leaders by going to formal and informal networking events. The more connections you make—and the more value you can provide in your interactions—the more likely it is your personal brand will be recognized. And, considering 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking, regularly attending these events will help you not only build your brand, but potentially advance your career, too. At these events, don’t be shy about asking fellow attendees to meet again for an informational interview or a casual coffee chat. And remember, if you don’t get a chance to connect at the event, reach out via email or LinkedIn to spark a conversation.


Grow your online presence

One of the most important aspects of personal branding is making sure your online presence is engaging to hiring managers, co-workers, and others even if you’re not on the job hunt. There are so many different social media tools available today, your online presence will likely look different depending on the medium you choose. While your story should match across all platforms, once you know where your targeted audience is most likely to turn, you can redouble your efforts in telling your best story there.

 Additionally, if you want one of your sites or profiles to be exclusively for friends and family, adjust your privacy settings to ensure that potential employers don’t stumble upon any information that could potentially harm your chances of landing a job. LinkedIn serves as a professional social media tool and is the ultimate site for defining your brand. The best way to use this network is to participate in groups, make introductions with people who interest you, and ask for (and give) recommendations. 


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