7 steps to 'owning' your personal brand

man points to his own head with arrows pointing at himself

We hear a lot of talk today around the need for young people to develop their own ‘personal brand’. But what on Earth does it mean? Before you go slapping on a bright logo, walking around to your own jingle or ‘merching’ yourself up, find out what your personal brand is, why it’s important, and how you can tweak it so it shines as bright as the star you are.

The purpose of a marketing brand is to help identify and sell products, and the same can essentially be said of your personal brand. Consider it a way of advertising your USP (unique selling point), that thing that makes you different to other people and gives you a competitive advantage. It can tell potential employers or collaborators about your core values, background, journey and struggle as well your skills, abilities and experience.

And you already have one. Your personal brand is the impression that others have of you - it’s the reputation that precedes you. Every decision you’ve made, the clothes that you wear, the language you use and the things that you say have already created your brand. If you’ve managed your brand well, or you’ve just been lucky, it can make you stand out from the crowd and help you make that dream job or business a reality. But if you haven’t really been managing your brand, if you’re aware of some slightly dodgy photos of you on social media or if your email address is ‘unicorndreams4eva@mail.com’, you might want to have a bit of a think about the steps you can take to make sure your personal brand reflects the person you want others to see.

1. Know how others see you

Search the internet for your name - what comes up? Is any information out of date, damaging or not reflective of the person you want to be now? If so, take charge and change it! You can alter many websites yourself or ask for amends to be made, and you can request that search engines take down any inaccurate information about you.

Next, ask your close friends and family to describe you in 3 words. Is this how you also see yourself? If not, do something about it. You have the power to change people’s future perceptions of you through your actions.

2. Know who you want to be

You’re an evolving person, so recognising who you are right now doesn’t mean you can't or won't change. You will adapt and grow based on your experiences. Ask yourself, what are you good at? What kind of work gets you excited and how can you best represent yourself online and IRL?

Spend some time thinking about what you really want to achieve. This could be starting your own business and plotting world domination, or it could be to have a job that allows for your creative expression to be the change in an area of society that you are passionate about.

What is your background experience and how does this relate to the work you want to do now? Once you have some answers, you can start to redefine yourself and consider how you can make sure you portray the best version of you to the world.

3. Own your story

We are all the result of every failure and every success we’ve ever had. But how have you learnt from your mistakes? Being open and honest about this demonstrates maturity and will attract people to working with you, because you are unlikely to repeat past errors.

What else has shaped you along the way? Lord Alan Sugar started out selling car aerials aged 21, and Steve Jobs was the child of Syrian immigrants who struggled to make a living in the USA. If you read biographies of successful people, you will see that they include the parts of their lives that presented obstacles for them. Showing that you can overcome challenges is a really desirable character trait, so don’t shy away from talking about them.

4. Visualise your brand

If you’re drawn to visuals, can you design what represents your brand as an image, even if it’s just for you? Can you write it down in 3 clear points to keep it succinct? Be creative: make a mood board, draw a mind map, pin up inspiring quotes or photos that represent where you want to get to. This can help remind you of the 'you' you want others to see and are working towards.

5. Build it over time

Owning and developing a personal brand takes time and care. While you might not see immediate results, seeing it flourish is more important than being an overnight sensation. Set your own pace, because there is no race... It's just you and your ideas. Take your time, and build a brand that people will engage with. 

It's natural to have crippling 'what am I doing!?' moments, especially when you're focused on creating a personal brand, but you don't have to throw in the towel. Overcome self-doubt by looking at all the amazing things you've done and the experience you've built up. You've got this!

6. Communicate it

Now tell people! When emailing a work enquiry, applying for a job or having a coffee with a potential future client/mentor/customer – tell them who you are and what makes you unique. Wear your brand. Speak it. Be it! Stand proud in the knowledge that there truly is only one of you.

7. Share it

Share your journey. Tell people what you're up to, how it makes you feel, how it makes you unique... You could blog about what you're doing and learning, and link your blogs to your social media presence. People love the human connection, including future employers or collaborators - so and always be you, because fake can never last.

Now you have your personal brand, why not trying checking in with yourself again every so often to see how your perspectives and priorities have changed? Do you need to polish a few edges? Does your personal brand still reflect the person you want people to see?

If you feel fired up with entrepreneurial spirit and are interesting in building your enterprise skills, check in with Bitesize Careers for more guides from young people bossing being their own boss.

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