Clueless about creating a successful personal brand?
You are not the only one!
Two of my friends moved to Mumbai to make a career in Bollywood right after we finished university. Mumbai being the hub of the entertainment industry in India is the place where everyone heads to work in this field. But it is not easy to shine there. The competition is huge and only a few find the road to success. Luckily my friends found their foothold after much struggle. 10 years later, they are doing great work. They both are extremely talented, creative, and hard working people. But only one of them is living the dream and is as famous as they wanted to be. This friend is travelling the world giving workshops, attending film festivals and teaching at universities while earning additional money and fame. One can argue that perhaps the other person doesn’t really want fame and money. But it is only a matter of how they marketed themselves.
Then what worked so well for this famous guy? Yes, you guessed it right- his personal branding is outstanding. He has an active digital presence and whatever awesome work he is doing is right out there for people to see. He fully leveraged the story of his personal struggles and made a brand out of it (which is not a bad thing). It is incredible that this has inspired many to follow his footsteps.
I am sure, you all keep hearing such stories and how important personal branding is for your career. I once read a very funny comparison that said- Personal branding is like brushing your teeth. It is a preventive measure that is good for your teeth and when neglected can also impact your long-term health. So no need to further explain its importance! In theory, personal branding is all about marketing yourself and taking charge of the way people perceive you so that your prospects in job or life increase.
So does it mean that you have to fake it to make it work? Absolutely not. Some people do so and succeed but what really matters is how you identify your true (I am sure you have many) skills and talent and present them.
But jumping into it without planning can also break your career. I am not the best one to share tips on this as my personal branding has never worked well for me but I am going to discuss this anyway as sharing thoughts we all relate to can actually give us great insights.
The most common question first- Why is it more important than your CV? Well, personal branding is your whole image; an amalgamation of your professional and personal lives. Also, it actually ‘shows’ what you are capable of whereas your CV can only ‘tell’. A CV is just a part of your professional identity these days as a large chunk of your image is defined by your online presence. Having a website or a social media presence that screams your story is definitely an advantage.
The internet is full of funny stories of personal branding fails including the story of two women getting arrested for selling cocaine on a cruise, thanks to their very popular Instagram marketing. Not a good move for business, for sure! Like I said, this can make or break your prospects. This also means being careful with your online activities. Needless to say that your digital footprints are everywhere. You don’t want to regret going passive-aggressive on your boss, for example.
It has now become easier to quickly build a digital persona that exudes confidence and success but behind this could exist an entirely different story of insecurities and dishonesty. Let’s just remember, a popular online persona is not same as having a successful personal brand!
Then what happens when there is a huge gap between your personal brand and your reality? It affects the way employers measure qualifications and skills. This either increases the level of expectations they have from you or severely underrates you!
Ideally, a credible story that speaks of your personal values should define your personal brand. However, harping on a story not matter how honest it is won’t get you there. You can be an accomplished professional and everyone is aware of your achievements but if they don’t see it in your actions then it is definitely a failure.
During a discussion at work, a colleague was much surprised to know that I had majored in TV and Film Production in my Masters as they only know me as a content writer and digital marketing professional. Somehow, my personal branding fails me because it doesn’t fully reflect my background and skills. So when despite being part of a highly creative environment you are not showcasing your skills then it is not ‘smart’ personal branding.
So I have been advised to make a website showcasing my work and being the procrastination queen, I have been putting it off. True that your work should speak for you but it is actually your job to drive attention to it. In this age of deafening digital noise, your work doesn’t get to the right spot without some serious marketing.
I also figured that physical networking works better than skillful Online Reputation Management. Dedicating my work hours entirely to my computer screen hasn’t been a help because it doesn’t leave me any room for networking. Likewise, I am aware of the importance of having a good elevator speech and how the first two lines you blurt out can leave a lasting impression on someone useful. But your elevator speech will fail if you haven’t worked on your personal branding. For example, if you are extremely conscious (like me) of invading other people’s space both at work and social events, you will never get the chance to pitch yourself.
But does that imply that you need to ambush people with small talk or your elevator speech every time you see them? I would say no but then my personal branding hasn’t been successful. Remember?
Thus this brings us to the eternal question- to be or not to be (an aggressive emissary of your skills, talents, and overall charm)? Evidently, this has become mandatory for career growth. So we may benefit from it as well. Hopefully, we will get it right someday but don’t ask me how. I just told you my story and you at least know the ‘things that don’t work’.