How to develop your own brand
A strong brand stands out from the crowd. Companies with strong brands are more likely to get remembered by potential customers. And by the same token, a young person with a strong personal brand is more likely to get noticed by potential employers. But what even is your personal brand? And how do you go about branding yourself? Our top 10 tips will tell you everything you need to know.
What is a personal brand?
Brands are everywhere. Whether you prefer trainers with a swoosh or three stripes, we all make decisions about the clothes we wear and the products we buy based on how we feel about a company and their brand.
A brand is the personality of a business. It represents what makes each company unique to its competitors. In the same way, your personal brand represents who you are, what you stand for, and the skills and experiences that make you different to everyone else around you.
Developing a strong personal brand that communicates your own unique value could make you more memorable and ultimately land you a job. It could also help you gain confidence, by encouraging you to recognise your skills and acknowledge your achievements.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is famously quoted as saying, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
How do you get started?
Creating your own personal brand might seem daunting. But there’s no need to rush off and design your own logo or interactive website. Whether you realise it or not, you already have a personal brand.
Your personal brand is the impression that other people have of you when they encounter you online or in real life. Everything you do impacts how other people see you. And there are lots of simple steps you can take to make sure your personal brand reflects the person you want others to see. Find out how with our top 10 tips for building your personal brand.
1. What does your brand say about you now?
The best place to start is by checking what your brand looks like now. What will people see if they search for you online? Head to Google, type in your name and see what comes up.
You need to make sure that any information online reflects how you want others to see you. Is there anything that could be potentially damaging to your career prospects, such as embarrassing photos or bad language? If there is, put in extra security settings on your social media accounts – so only those you want to see pics from your nights out can view them – or remove them altogether.
If it’s a post on one of your own social media accounts, you can simply delete it. If it’s on other people’s, you can ask them to remove it or un-tag you. If necessary, you can even request that search engines take down any inaccurate information about you. Take a look at this advice from Google on what to do.
While you’re cleaning up your online presence, it might also be a good time to rethink your email address. If it’s something quirky like email@example.com, change it. If you can, go for firstname.lastname as its easy to remember, clean and professional.
2. Define who you want to be
Now you’ve cleaned up what’s already out there, it’s time to figure out who you want to be. The starting point with any branding process is being able to clearly define that brand.
In personal branding, the product is you. So, what are your interests? What drives you? Is there a specific company you are desperate to work for? Or perhaps you’re a budding entrepreneur keen to set up your own business.
Set yourself some clear goals and write them down. That doesn’t mean you need to map out your whole life. But it’s important to spend some time thinking about what you might want to achieve in the next year, three years and five years.
Once you have those goals in place, work out what you might need to make them become a reality. Is it a specific skill or some training?
3. Understand what makes you unique
What experience and qualities do you have that make you different to others? Think about the achievements you’re most proud of. It could be a particular school project, winning a prize, raising money for charity, or helping out in the local community. Did you help anyone vulnerable during the Covid-19 lockdown?
Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. You could ask a parent, teacher, or even friends what they think your strengths are. They might think of things that you wouldn’t. It will also help you understand what impression others have of you.
Think about your specific skills. What problems are you particularly good at solving? What do you have to offer potential employers? If you’re having trouble identifying your own skills and behaviours, take a look at the top 10 skills and behaviours valued by employers at HPC.
4. Know your target audience
Before you start developing your personal brand, you need to decide who you’re trying to reach.
Are you looking to stand out to recruiters in a particular industry? Or even an individual you admire at a particular company?
This will help you understand the best ways to reach that audience. For example, LinkedIn is one of the best social media channels for presenting yourself directly to potential employers.
5. Create your brand statement
Now you’ve defined who you are, what makes you unique, and who your audience is, you can use that information to create your own brand statement.
A personal brand statement is a one or two-sentence phrase that sums up what you do and what you stand for. Think of it as your slogan. You don’t need to do anything with your statement. But it’s a great basis for underpinning everything you do and share on social – and your interactions with others.
Get creative. You could practise creating your own personal commercial in which you present your personal slogan. If you’re a visual person, why not design your own brand image or mood board featuring inspiring quotes or photos?
The best company brand statements are often short, simple and memorable. For example, Google’s brand statement is ‘to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful’.
6. Share your brand with the world
You’ve put the hard work into creating your brand… now get out there and share it! Social media sites – like LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook – are some of the channels you can use to make yourself visible.
Be consistent. Use the same colour, style and tone of voice across all of your channels. That said, you should adapt the message depending on the channel.
For instance, Instagram is all about sharing beautiful images. It’s a great way to showcase your personality and interests. So make sure you share things that reflect what type of person you are and what matters to you, as well as personal posts. Whereas LinkedIn is the ultimate site for presenting yourself as a professional (see below). With all sites, make sure you’ve got the right security settings in place so your public posts are those you’re comfortable sharing more widely.
Consider setting up your own website or starting your own blog if you feel you need another outlet for your brand. It’s the most effective tool for creating a personal brand online and it’ll make you easier to find on Google too.
Tips for using LinkedIn to present your personal brand
Even if you’re not a fan of social media, you need a LinkedIn profile. If you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re reducing your chances of being discovered. 87% of recruiters use the platform to find or vet job candidates – that’s more than all other major social media networks combined.
- Make sure your profile is complete and up to date
- Keep your photo professional
- Focus on your experience and skills that are relevant to your chosen field
- Invite people to submit testimonials for you
- Find out who the thought leaders are in whatever field you’re interested in, follow them and share their posts
- If you write a blog, share your posts on LinkedIn, along with interesting and relevant news articles
- Join groups that are relevant to your interests to expand your network
7. Put yourself out there in person
The prospect of networking with potential employers might be scary. But it’s important to get out there and meet people face-to-face.
Find out what events are going on near you. Are there any careers fairs or networking events you could attend to meet with potential employers? Even Covid-19 isn’t an excuse to stay home. Many fairs have gone virtual, so there’s no excuse not to get out there and start networking.
If there’s a particular company you want to work for, find out if they run open days for apprenticeships, or any other events targeted at young people. Through Young HPC, you can attend site tours at HPC, meet employers at skills days and develop your skills through programmes, like Elevate. It’s a great way to improve yourself and test out different skills.
Don’t be shy about asking for support and tips from the experts. If you’ve spent time building up your own personal brand, you should feel confident in how you present yourself to others.
8. Be authentic
Personal branding is about celebrating your individuality and expressing your authentic self. So don’t pretend to be something you’re not. And don’t feel all your posts need to be tagged #livingmybestlife.
If you’re dishonest about your skills and experience, you risk being found out. Your brand has to be believable. If you’re just starting out, employers won’t expect you to be an expert in your chosen field. But you can present the skills that make you an ideal candidate to work in that area. And this is what employers want to see.
And remember, everyone makes mistakes and encounters challenges in life – these make up a big part of who we are. Demonstrating how you have learnt from your mistakes or overcome challenges shows maturity and resilience. Sharing your experiences and learnings will make you stand out – for all the right reasons.
9. Live your brand
Your brand is more than just an online persona; it’s how you carry yourself at home, school, college, or the workplace – and in real life.
There is no point in presenting yourself as a motivated go-getter online, if all you do is spend your days watching Netflix boxsets in your PJs! Think about the clothes you wear and the way you present yourself when you’re out and about. Especially when attending professional networking events or interviews.
You also need to be aware of your personal brand every day. Everything you do – both on and offline – can affect your brand and your ability to achieve your goals. Getting involved in a social media spat with a friend might seem harmless, but it could reflect badly on you when an employer’s reviewing your social media presence.
10. Evolve your brand as you evolve
Your personal brand needs to change over time – just as you will as a person. So it’s a good idea to check in with yourself again every so often to see how your experience, values and goals have changed. Does your personal brand still reflect the person you want people to see?
As you move through your career, some parts of your brand that were once relevant may need to be updated. You may even decide to change your career path completely!
Whether it’s small tweaks, or a complete rebrand, don’t be afraid to make changes to your personal brand, as and when needed.
Want to set up your own website to showcase your personal brand? Take a look at these links:
- What makes a good webpage?
- The Blog Starter
- How to start a blog
- The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Personal Brand Website
Get more tips from this LinkedIn article on polishing your LinkedIn profile.
Complete this Start activity to reflect on what you’re good at and how you can ‘sell’ yourself to others.