When you first approach the idea of your personal brand, a slew of things might come to mind — your department title, your soft skills, your unique bank of knowledge… the list could go on for pages.
The problem is a personal brand statement isn’t an autobiography: it’s a statement, and one that should be easily grasped and remembered if it’s going to advance your career.
Sure, you have many assets that can (and do) make you a stand-out at your org… but the reality is that the more you try to pack into your personal brand, the less clear your optimal career path becomes to the people around you. Being succinct about your assets will make them easier to relay at every opportunity.
To begin defining your personal brand, ask yourself the following questions, and challenge yourself to write a personal brand statement in 280 characters or less.
Get to the bottom of the only things that really matter for your career growth: your strengths, your passions, and how you make them known.
What revs your engine?
Or in other words, what gives you the energy to do your job and still feel energized when you leave the office at the end of the day?
Step one to defining your personal brand is identifying what fuels you. What do you love to do?
At first instinct, this might seem obvious: you’re a product developer because you love developing products; a graphic designer because you love designing graphics.
Sure, but wouldn’t everyone with your title say the same? While loving your job is great, leaning into a title that a handful of other people share won’t get you the next promotion.
Maybe you’re a product developer because making things more efficient is satisfying to you, or you feel fulfilled by delivering creative solutions to exceed customer expectations. A graphic designer? Maybe you love your job because you have a passion for color theory and you’re able to work that into how you pitch and complete projects.
If you’re struggling to easily pinpoint your passion within your role, ask yourself instead: what elements of your role do you gravitate toward or naturally prioritize because they bring you the most satisfaction?
But what if I don’t feel passionate about any parts of my role?
Fair question. If you can’t think of anything you enjoy about your job, it might be time for a career pivot. Or, maybe you need to spend some time actively planning ways to bring your passion to your current work.
What makes you excited or curious outside of work?
Whatever you incorporate into your personal brand statement, it has to be something you will easily carry with you for the trajectory of your career. That means, for the sake of your professional stamina (and avoiding burnout), it should be something that you seek out, not something you force — even outside of work.
This is especially important for authenticity. If you claim your personal brand involves being excited about public speaking, yet you’re never the one to raise your hand, you’re quiet on social channels, and all of your hobbies are isolated… is public speaking really your fuel?
Consider how you spend your free time. What do you enjoy learning about? Is there a common thread in your extracurriculars that might tell you something about what brings you fulfillment?
Don’t think too hard about this one or try to weed out what comes naturally to you for what seems “marketable.” You love being active, helping people, learning about psychology…
Any passion can be marketable if you are able to relate it to how you’re successful as a member of your org.
Which brings us to the next big question:
What is the common thread throughout your successes?
Take a look at your accomplishments for this quarter (and if you aren’t tracking your accomplishments already, start now); what was it about your contribution to the org that made that success a reality?
We’re not talking about hitting goals that are woven into your role already. (Some disappointing news: if you’re in sales and you meet your quota every quarter, that’s not a brand-worthy accomplishment — that’s just your job.)
Rather, ask yourself how the thing you’re passionate about — yes, any of those things we just brainstormed — motivated or enabled you to achieve something beyond what was expected of you.
There doesn’t have to be a number tied to your accomplishment to make it noteworthy. In fact, (especially in sales, where the numbers are the job), it might be better if there’s not. Your personal brand should be personal, meaning it speaks to the nuances of your deliverables, not just the deliverables themselves.
What comes naturally to you that makes your approach to your role unique, and how does it benefit the org?
This is where your passion connects with your strengths. It is also the sweet spot for defining your personal brand.
I work in sales, and I exceeded my department goal for Q1.
I love being active, especially in team sports.
→ I have high stamina and enjoy working with others, so I’m able to maintain a consistent, positive demeanor with a wide range of clients. As a teambuilder, my CTAs are sincere; I’m on their side, and want to be sure they invest in the product that best serves their endgame.
(273 characters…in case you were checking.)
I’m an engineer, and I solved an industrial glitch that was holding up our production cycle.
I’m passionate about the environment, and enjoy researching energy conservation.
→ As an environmentalist, I spend a lot of time thinking about my carbon footprint. While optimizing our production cycle, I instinctively found areas where we could innovate to reduce our expenses on fuel. It brings me joy to use my problem-solving skills in a globally impactful way.
(283, but close enough.)
What is the why behind your successes? What about getting there did you find most fulfilling?
Have your answers? You have a draft.
By considering these questions, you’re already in the beginning stages of defining your personal brand. If you’re still feeling pressured by the thought of “a brand statement,” just write freely. Brainstorm all of your strengths and passions, and once you have a map of your fuel and your assets, try to draw connections between these and your accomplishments.
The more you do this, the clearer your personal brand will become. Once you have a draft, then see if you’re able to edit down to the length of a Tweet (approximately).
Sure, 280 characters might seem like a silly parameter for something that holds so much value for your career, but the point is to be as succinct and transparent as possible, and giving yourself a loose word limit will inspire you to be creative with how you define your personal brand statement.
Remember: if you’re vague about your unique contribution to your org, then you’ll only be considered vaguely for new opportunities.
Clear Personal Brands Inspire Personalized Career Growth
The bottom line: when your higher-ups know (and easily remember) your personal brand, they can clearly envision the scope of your career while they consider your next promotion or project assignment.
They want to keep you energized so you don’t burn out, and naturally they want to know where you’ll thrive so they can best utilize your assets to benefit the org.
You have to be able to clearly define this for yourself before you can expect your personal brand to speak for you in the C-suite.