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What Is a Personal Brand and Why Do You Need One?

Student building personal brand

Landing a dream job and excelling in a career isn’t only about resumes, cover letters, and a track record of strong performance. It’s also about who you know — and who knows you. Your reputation precedes you. That saying is true in any setting and essential in a professional environment. You want to not only be great at what you’re doing. You want to be known for it. Having a solid personal brand can do wonders for your career. In this guide, we cover:

What Is a Personal Brand?

Your personal brand is an image you project personally and professionally, based on your experiences, beliefs and credentials.

Milan Singh, a California-based entrepreneur, investor, and finance content creator, defines a personal brand as “your reputation and how you present yourself to the world.” Singh has built a powerful personal brand online and currently has 3 million followers across his social platforms.

“It’s who you are, what you do, and how people perceive that,” he says. “You can think of it as a billboard for your online presence: it’s out there for everyone to see, and it’s meant to represent your character in some way.”

Why Is a Personal Brand Important?

A personal brand is not only crucial for influencers, entrepreneurs and CEOs, and other professionals in leadership positions. It can make a difference in most types of careers.

“A strong personal brand can help you attract better opportunities,” Catherine Castro, senior HR and recruitment manager at a virtual assistant services company 20four7VA, says. “If employers or other professionals know who you are and what you’re all about, they’re more likely to seek you out for projects or positions that fit your strengths.”

Castro adds that having a personal brand can give you an edge. Between the Great Resignation, mass layoffs, and hiring freezes, job seekers need every advantage they can gain. A well-defined personal brand can help you set yourself apart from the competition and make a positive impression on employers.

As your brand grows, it can also benefit your networking efforts. When other professionals learn about you and your work, they may want to reach out to you. This visibility can lead to more referrals and connections, further strengthening your professional network.

Finally, having a positive personal brand can help you build trust and credibility. If you establish yourself as an expert or thought leader, you’ll gain recognition in your industry. When that happens, you may find that employers and clients begin to seek you out instead of the other way around.

How to Build a Personal Brand

Creating a personal brand can take time as you grow your expertise and utilize tools to showcase it. Here’s what the process looks like:

1. Finding Your Niche

When you’re developing a personal brand, you are the product. A product needs a niche market. Think about what you’ll offer, who you’ll help, and what your passions are. This exercise will help you identify your niche.

Say you want to establish yourself as a marketing expert, which is a broad term. Try to narrow it down. For example, you aspire to work in direct-to-consumer marketing rather than business-to-business. You want to focus on fashion brands and advocate for diversity, making fashion more accessible and inclusive. And just like that, you’ve found your specific niche.

2. Developing Expertise

Once you’ve identified what you’d like to be known for, you want to ensure you’re good at it. If you’re new to an industry, make a point to build your knowledge and skills, seeking out training, learning from established experts, and attending industry conferences. (Forage offers free virtual work programs to help you build new skills and get hands-on experience with the day-to-day duties of various career paths.)

Remember that building expertise is a career-long process. Naturally, the longer you work in your industry, the more knowledge you gain, but you also should stay aware of new trends and developments to be a true expert.

3. Creating an Online Presence

Now you need space to showcase your expertise and let the power of word-of-mouth do its magic. Since that power currently inhabits the Internet, your online presence will be critical to your personal branding.

Creating a website or portfolio with information about you and highlights of your work may be a good idea. And, of course, social media can be instrumental to your success if used right.

According to Castro, social media offers an excellent platform for sharing content, connecting with others, and growing your audience.

“One of the best ways to build a personal brand is by creating content that educates, entertains, or both,” she says. “If you can provide valuable information or insights that help your audience solve a problem or improve their lives, they’ll be more likely to remember you and seek you out in the future.”

You also want your online persona to be authentic and match your own. This authenticity allows you to share expertise, advocate for things you’re passionate about, and create a unique brand. After all, no one is you but you.

4. Building a Community

This step is where personal branding connects with networking. You can start building a community by growing your online presence, offering value, and interacting with your audience and other professionals.

A community is a space where people can interact with you and each other, sharing experiences and providing support. At this point, your name is out there, which can be invaluable for further advancing your brand and career.

The Bottom Line

Building a personal brand can give you competitive edge in a hot job market and help you become a sought-after professional in your industry.

However, remember, creating a positive personal brand won’t happen overnight. It requires consistent work providing value to your community and showcasing your achievements.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a successful personal brand,” Castro says. “Be patient, stay focused on your goals, and keep putting in the work, and you’ll eventually see results.”

Are you looking for other ways to get an edge in the current job market? Then, check out these 14 hiring manager secrets for job seekers.

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