No matter where you are in your professional career, it can be hard to articulate who you are in a concise and compelling manner. As your interests and needs evolve, it can become even trickier to highlight your successes and differentiate yourself from others.
The good news is that you can figure this out by uncovering who you are, understanding how you are perceived, and crafting your narrative to achieve better results. Similar to a company brand or product, you can develop your brand to resonate and connect with others in an authentic manner.
Here are five steps to help you harness your “you-ness” and cultivate your personal brand.
1. Start with you
All transformation starts with the individual. Your greatest tool is your capacity to choose your mindset and actions. You define how you present yourself to an audience. What you say and how you say it should be personalized to the audience and the message you want to get across, but you are empowered and accountable for how you depict yourself. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Commit time to focusing on you.
2. Understand your preferences
Like any change or introspection, awareness and acknowledgement are key to understanding why we do what we do. If you’re not already familiar with your Myers-Briggs type or preferences, it’s worth the time to discover it. Once you do, you can apply these lessons to your career growth and trajectory.
I encourage you to work with a certified practitioner who ensures you determine your best-fit type, rather than just reviewing a reported type, which is automatically provided when taking the assessment. Your best-fit type is what you decide after going through a 90-minute session of learning about the different types and inherent preferences, as well as assessing your reported type results.
3. Reflect on how people perceive you
Are people are seeing you the way you want them to? Are you sending mixed messages? Does the experience people have with you measure up to what you say about yourself? Would they confirm your strengths and best characteristics? Your behaviors and how you are showcasing your wants and needs may be right on target or entirely opposite of what you intended.
The FIRO instrument provides understanding around our interpersonal relationships. It illuminates what we express to others and what we expect in return. Just as with our biological needs, we may become uncomfortable and anxious if our interpersonal needs are not being met. FIRO insights can provide you clarity to uncover better ways to interact with others and manage their expectations, and ultimately your brand.
4. Develop your unique value proposition
To cultivate your personal brand, you need to choose and foster what you uniquely offer. What do others attribute to you? This is known as your unique value proposition. It’s why people want to hang out and work with you.
For example, are you known to be kind, reliable or dependable? People feel your “brand” through your interactions with them. How you shape and tell your story becomes part of your brand and its promise. It’s the outward expression of your value proposition, with concrete facts and anecdotes that come together to make up your story line.
Here are five quick steps to help you frame your message in a captivating and succinct manner.
5. Create a change action plan
After reflecting on what you’ve learned about your current state, you can outline your desired state. From there, you can produce a change action plan to help you close the gaps to cultivating your personal brand. As you map out your “to dos,” think about documenting a “stop, start, continue” list to prioritize what gets your attention and eliminate activities that are no longer valuable to your success.
Once you’ve gone through these steps and have an outline of your personal brand, the next step is to update your essential materials to reflect it. This includes your résumé, LinkedIn profile, narratives, and case studies that you’d share in an interview or important meeting to articulate who you are and showcase what makes you who you are.