What does YOUR personal brand say about you?

A few years ago I special ordered a chocolate brown limited edition Mini Cooper Highgate convertible.  What does this have to do with my personal brand?  Keep reading…

This was my 2nd Mini Cooper and first time custom building a car. It had saddle brown leather seats piped in blue denim trim, a chocolate brown convertible top, a manual transmission and every dial inside you can imagine. Shifting gears on a Mini is like driving a race car (if you haven’t watched The Italian Job, you will want a Mini Cooper after you do).

So I get to work on the Monday after I bought it (I was working at Justice then as the VP of Store Ops). A colleague saw me pulling into the garage with this new car.  It was November, the top was down and he said…”that car is so you. It fits your brand perfectly”.

From that moment on, I realized that I had built a brand that others recognized better than I did. It made me stop and think about everything I said, everything I did, everything I wore and even what I drove. It made me think about who I was and who I wanted to be.

In today’s blog, I will share the basics of evaluating your own personal brand. And if you don’t have one, I am including some simple steps that you can use to begin to build your brand.

What is a personal brand?

Building a personal brand begins with really knowing who you are. There are many different assessments that help you identify style and personality. One of my favorites is the Clifton Strengths assessment.  This online assessment helps you identify and maximize your strengths by exploring how you think, feel and behave (www.strengthsfinder.com) and I highly recommend it. Research shows people who use their strengths are more engaged at work, more productive in their roles and overall happier and healthier (www.gallup.com) 

WIIFM (What is in it for me)

By knowing your strengths, you will be able to communicate clearly who you are

Click here to order the Clifton Strengths Book and the link will take you to amazon where I have an affiliation).  
From my personal experience, I suggest you take the online assessment before reading the book.
– Block about 30 minutes.
– Answer the questions quickly. If you over think it, you may skew the responses resulting in a less accurate assessment.
– Once you have completed the test, read the corresponding chapters.  

You will learn so much about yourself. The book is full of great action steps you can take to grow as a leader and a person.  Remember, it is best to focus on understanding the behaviors behind the talents.

Knowing your strengths is the first step. Next, you need to be able to share your strengths effectively in person, on paper and online. Once you master these two components, the final step is to find opportunities to utilize and showcase these strengths! This could be finding additional opportunities in your current role, a volunteer opportunity or perhaps a new role where your strengths can be maximized.

What about Weaknesses?

When we talk about strengths, you cannot help but also think about your weaknesses. Everyone has them. As a friend recently reminded me, “You can’t be good at everything Rachel”. If you have a driver personality, this can be hard to hear. While there is always room for improvement, our weaknesses will not become our strengths. Self awareness of the weak areas are key. You don’t want these weak areas to become career stallers. To weaken your weaknesses, work to mitigate and manage them so they don’t hold you back.

What makes up your personal brand?

Your brand is about bringing who you are to what you do and how you do it. Cathi Fallon, Founder of the Etiquette Institute of Ohio, says that “Your personal brand is a picture of you that someone carries with them forever.  It is what people say about you when you leave the room”. Wow, when I read this, it was a great reminder how intentional we need to be in how we behave in every situations. It is so difficult to undo a bad impression.

Let’s review the basics of creating a positive personal brand:
– Professional Headshot
– Resume
– Social Media Footprint
– Business/Calling Cards

Professional Headshot: A picture says 1000 words.

 Headshots are often overlooked as part of your personal brand.  A well done image helps tell the story of who you are.  

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to use a social media cropped photo as their professional headshot. If this describes your photo, spend the money and have a professional photo taken.  This shows your attention to detail and becomes part of your brand image.

Resume: First Impressions Matter

Think of your resume as a marketing tool.  It shows your education, skills and work experience.  

A few callouts (regardless of the amount of experience you have):

– Keep your resume to a page or two max.  Hiring managers don’t typically get past the first half a page before they decide if they are interested, so you need to catch their eye quickly. Your communication should be crisp and concise.

– Don’t talk about responsibilities, talk about accomplishments. They don’t care what you were supposed to do, they care what you actually did.

– If you need some inspiration for writing effectively, google job descriptions for the type of role you have or are looking for and use similar language in your resume.

– Integrate your strengths from the Clifton Strengths Assessment into the resume. This will help hiring managers get to know the real you.

Social Media Footprint: Start with LinkedIn

Once you have your resume updated, apply the same updates to your LinkedIn Profile. Be as thorough and complete as possible. Recommendations are an important addition to your profile and you cannot have too many.  Ask professors, mentors, previous employers, current supervisors and even direct reports to write a recommendation for you.

This is quick and easy on LinkedIn.
– Go to your profile
– Scroll down to Recommendations.
– Click “Ask for a Recommendation”
– Type in the name of the person you want to ask
– An email will go directly to the person you select and they can write it and submit with a click of a button.
– You will get a notification once the recommendation is available to review. You can edit or confirm the recommendation. Once you confirm, it uploads to your profile page.
I suggest notifying the person in advance that a Recommendation Request is coming from LinkedIn.

As you scroll through your profile, make sure your contact information is accurate and you have created as robust of a profile as possible. Remember retail is detail. Paying close attention to the details reflects your personal brand. More employers and recruiters use LinkedIn than ever before. Investing time in putting your best self forward will pay off.

Social Media: Keep it clean.

Okay, I am going to sound like a mom here but it is sage advice. If you have any inappropriate content on your social media sites, remove it. Examples of inappropriate content includes, explicit language, lewd comments or images of intoxicated behavior. Many companies look at social media before they even check references. What they see tells them who you are. Nothing you say in the interview will undo this impression if it is a bad one. Likewise, a good social media footprint leaves a positive impression.

Photo by Lexie Janney on Unsplash

Business / Calling Cards: Favorable First Impression

Business or calling cards are part of your introduction and make a favorable first impression. While they may seem old fashioned in a world of smart phones, a business card shows that you are a professional.

If you have business cards for your current position, you are set. Make sure to carry them with you. If you don’t have business cards, have calling cards created with your name, contact info and LinkedIn address.

When you meet someone at an interview, a business event, or a networking event, handing out a card helps people remember who you are and sets a great first impression.
There are a lot of places to get cards printed fairly inexpensively, just google business cards. I have used zazzle.com and vistaprint before. (Not a paid endorsement, just providing some initial ideas)

Now that we have covered the basic components of your personal brand, let’s review a few more details to consider.

Keys to grow your personal brand

– Be Positive! Having a positive attitude is contagious. If you are having a bad day, which we all do from time to time, try to find a way to cope with the situation and do your best to not let it affect your work environment. Being a negative or complaining person is a label that is hard to shake.

– Have a mentor or successful example to follow. A mentor will boost you, provide support, an unbiased perspective and can help you move your career in the right direction.

– Live your brand. Actions speak louder than words is never truer than when you live your brand. Your brand is your reputation.

– Don’t be afraid to fail. If something doesn’t work, tweak and try again. If you wait for perfection, you may never start.

Check out the Resource page on my website for Personal Branding 101, it is a great resource that articulates the details in this blog in an easy to follow format.

Action Time

What actions will you take based on what you learned? I encourage you to review the basics of your brand. If you haven’t taken the Clifton Strengths Assessment, click here to buy the book (~$15 on Amazon). If you are looking for feedback on creating your personal brand, I am happy to assist! Email me at Rachel@runninggreatstores.com. If you are enjoying my blogs, please share with friends and encourage them to join my mailing list.

I am rooting for you,

Rachel

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