The Beginner’s Guide to Personal Branding

In business school, they talk about personal branding. A lot.

In fact, all my professors mentioned it so often that I came away from class thinking the concept was overhyped and somewhat useless. A personal brand, I would scoff, isn’t necessary. My experience and general awesomeness speak for itself.

That is, until it doesn’t.

Perhaps if you’re a networking genius, C-level exec with a sterling record at the world’s highest grossing companies, personal branding isn’t an issue. But I found out the hard way: when competing with those millions of other job-seekers on online job boards and you’re just an average Joe (or Jane), your marketable presence makes all the difference.

Personal Branding
Personal branding is a necessary evil. Or, if you think about those HR reps, a personal brand makes their job a hell of a whole lot easier.

What does a brand do? It makes consumer choice more convenient—think about the last time you walked down the cereal aisle at the supermarket, did you reach for a fave brand or stand and antagonize over every colorful box? Brands create a sense of belonging; they evoke experiential and aspirational emotions. You end up loving your brands, and your brands (should) end up loving you, too.

And what do you want to convey to a company, client, or investor?

The exact same impression.

So how do you go about building a personal brand when you have no idea where to start? It all begins with a personal roadmap strategy:

  1. Figure out who you are today. What skills and experiences do you have that make you who you are? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  3. Think long and hard about where you want to go. In reality, this means defining what your goals and objectives are. Are you aiming for a specific job or responsibility? What are the most important aspects of this future objective? Are you a die-hard movie-producing nerd, or do you just want a position with creative flexibility?

  5. Chisel out some experts’ keywords for that field of interest. Find out who’s influential in that sector and what factors make them a coveted brand.

  7. Pick out 3-4 keywords that best describe you. Remember, these descriptive adjectives will dictate how people perceive you.

  9. Get connected in your community niche, employing those keywords like your life depends upon it and constantly refining your strategic horizon to match your professional and personal progress.

Then you’re well on your way to creating a personal brand. Indeed, the most difficult part is the strategy definition (as all new college graduates, transitioning former employees, and fledgling entrepreneurs know). All of us have experienced that clueless, hopeless moment where you don’t know what you’re good at and how that makes you special. But prepping your personal brand strategy and consistently working to make it an impression to remember will go a long way toward guiding that moment of self-(un)awareness.

And don’t worry if your strategy isn’t perfect. Just as you can consider yourself a work-in-progress, your personal brand is, too.


Need some more guides? Check out these great “personal branding” articles:

Personal Branding 101

Create Your Own Personal Brand in 8 Steps

The Definitive Guide to Personal Branding