Many of us find the idea of crafting a personal brand off-putting. Even as employees or job seekers, we want to be seen as authentic individuals, not corporate robots. But a personal brand doesn’t have to be fake—in fact, it shouldn’t be. A truly successful personal brand accurately captures your professional identity and trajectory.
Personal branding is important for every stage of your career, whether you are an entry-level employee, an established professional, or someone trying to make a career change. Being able to present yourself in a compelling way will benefit you whether your goal is to land your first full time job or attract clients as a freelancer.
Here are the first steps to take.
1. Do Your Homework
Personal branding is all about you, so get out your journal and let’s do some soul-searching. Write a few sentences (or draw some doodles) on who you are, what skills you have, where you went to school, what your major strengths are, and where you hope to be in five years’ time.
Next, do some research on your chosen profession—either what you do already or what you would like to be doing. (You don’t have to pick just one if you’re interested in multiple paths.) Read up on your industry, whether that’s by getting books from the library, reading articles or subscribing to journals and blogs, and take notes on particular companies, organizations or individuals you want to learn more about.
2. Expand Your Network
If you’re not on LinkedIn already, you need to set up an account; 95% of job recruiters use the site to find candidates, and it is by far the easiest way to expand your professional network. (Check out LD’s guide to creating a professional LinkedIn profile.) Also think about following relevant people on Twitter and sharing industry-related content across various platforms.
Reach out to professionals in your area who already do the kind of work you hope to get involved in. The best way to learn about careers is to ask for an informational interview, the goal of which is to find out any requisite skills, networking circles and job opportunities that you should be aware of. (But do not beg for a job.)
Once you’ve gathered this information, look back on your journal. What skills do you already possess that are worth emphasizing to potential employers? What do you need to learn more about? What do you uniquely bring to the table for this kind of work?
3. Create A Website
According to Nick Macario, the CEO of Branded.me, your own website is, “one of the best ways to take a personal brand to the next level, beyond the standard résumé or LinkedIn profile.” Branded.me offers access to a professional designer as well as a domain, but if this is too big of an expense for you, you can also try GoDaddy, or a free service such as Wix or Blogspot.
Creating your own website gives you the opportunity to communicate your professional narrative to potential employers and clients. Your website should tell your story and give readers a sense of who you are, what you do and where you hope to go in the future.
There are a few points of consideration as you build your website. You’ll want both the design and the content of the site to reflect the expectations and style of your industry. If you are a freelancer in the arts, it is essential that you use this space to provide examples of your photographs, writing, etc. If you’re going to start a blog, do make sure that you’re prepared to attend to it regularly; you want your site to always appear well-maintained.
4. Order Business Cards
You may think business cards are only for, well, business people, but that’s not so, my friend. You’d be surprised by how many people will ask for your card when you open yourself up to networking opportunities. I supplement my freelance income with a part time job at a café, and even as I’m making lattes, I’ve had customers ask for my card because they knew someone looking for a writer, editor or tutor.
There are many places to purchase a set of business cards, such as Zazzle, Vista Print and Tiny Prints—but let me warn you, it is a black hole. I spent days and days looking at designs and asking my husband for advice, so much that he banned the term “business cards” from our house. To avoid getting flustered, have an idea in mind of what you want before you start browsing.
You may want to add a little color and flair to your card, especially if you work in a creative industry, but make absolutely sure that it still feels professional and can be used in all circumstances. There’s no need to add a huge amount of text in addition to your name, contact information, job title and website address; that’s what your online presence is for. When in doubt, keep it simple!
5. Take Your Headshot
For a lot of people, the fear of crafting your personal brand comes from worrying about seeming too self-involved or self-promoting. Nothing says “I’m too into myself” more than over-the-top photos. But they are a huge part of how you present yourself.
Just as it’s important to smile and make eye contact at an interview, a good headshot demonstrates your confidence and trustworthiness. The goal of a headshot is not to look like a model, but you should make sure you’re dressed professionally, facing the camera, and have a natural expression. (Take many, many photos if necessary—you don’t want to look like a serial killer.)
You can pay to have a headshot done professionally, take a selfie at home in front of a plain background, or ask a friend to take some photos of you outside in natural light. If your work spans a few different industries, you may want to have a couple of different outfits. For example, if I am presenting myself for corporate writing opportunities, I may want to wear a blouse and a blazer, but if I’m trying to get a creative job, I might want a brightly colored dress. Be your best professional self!
How do you craft your personal brand? Tweet us @LitDarling!
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