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6 Steps for Building Your Personal Brand
She’s a career strategist, award-winning author and president of her own firm, Career Coaching 360. She’s also a woman who’s been laid off from several jobs she loved, and learned how to bounce back and re-create herself, in fields as varied as television, professional sports and finance. Sherri Thomas, author of “5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand,” has been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale of how she established and maintains a powerful, personal brand.
“We all have different comfort zones when it comes to our career; and not every career-building strategy will be within your personal comfort zone,” says Thomas, who shared some of her unique strategies during a powerful webinar on personal branding, as part of the free career webinar series sponsored by Bentley University’s Alumni Career Services.
Learn how to build a personal brand and get your career moving #preparedu @SherriThomas #career tipsTWEET THIS
Thomas’s early career path was hardly unique. She was a good worker who followed the rules, took orders and did what she was instructed. “If I was told to run a project or do a specific task, I did it. My approach at that time was very reactive, and then I realized that being reactive wasn’t working.”
Thomas went from reactive to proactive, when she was unexpectedly laid off from work. Reeling from the experience and trying to determine next steps, she grabbed a piece of a paper and wrote down the words, ‘Mission Statement: I Am Driving My Own Career.’ “I didn’t even know what it meant,” she says.
Not realizing her layoff would mark the beginning of her own, personal brand-building journey, Thomas’s experiences since that time have led her to help others drive their own careers and build powerful, personal brands.
Follow these tips and show the world what you can do—and what you stand for:
- Don’t Leave Your Career in Someone Else’s Hands
Calling this the biggest professional mistake she ever made, Thomas urges young professionals to put themselves in the driver’s seat of their own career and personal brand. Whether you’re in your first job, or one you hope will be your life-long career, never underestimate your power and ability to represent yourself uniquely and dynamically.
- Do What You Love
You can’t build a brand if you’re not engaged in work you enjoy or find meaningful. First, determine if you’re working for the right company. Then, decide if you’re in the right position there.
“If you give a company 8, 10 or 12 hours a day of your time, it should bring you joy and satisfaction. If not, find a place that does,” she urges.
Use these 3 Secrets for Finding a Career You Love.
- Create Street Cred
Thomas suggests determining what you want people to think of, when they think of you. Do you wish to be known as the IT go-to, the company’s key problem-solver, the high stakes risk-taker or financial rainmaker?
Determine the assets you want your personal brand to be built around, such as saving costs or being innovative. The attributes and skills people associate with you are powerful elements of your personal brand story.
Is your street cred part of your personal brand? Make it happen. #preparedu @SherriThomas #careerTWEET THIS
- Find Your Sandbox
“We as human beings tend to make judgements about other people and we do it rather quickly—that’s human nature,” says Thomas, who urges young professionals not to confuse having expertise with being an expert.
“Having expertise in a particular area or skill is enough to give you credibility. What do you specialize in? Where is your expertise? You don’t need to be the leading expert, you just need to identify the sandbox you want to play in,” she says.
Do your skills need some sharpening to help set you apart? Explore going to graduate school to learn new talents, make valuable career connections and move your brand forward.
- If You Can’t Toot Your Own Horn, Toot Your Team’s
If singing your own praises is outside your comfort zone, Thomas suggests building your brand by touting your team’s accomplishments.
“You must lean into the spotlight with a very clear message,” she says.
For example, tell your best story, either within your company or outside it. At work, you can simply send team updates. Let others know what your team has accomplished, problems they’ve solved and benefits you bring to the organization.
Outside of work, you can write a book, blog or white paper, speak at conferences or teach a course. There are lots of ways to toot your own horn (even if it’s subtle) and bring attention to your burgeoning brand.
- Connect With Influencers
Creating your brand doesn’t happen in a bubble. Talk to influencers—people who can get the world out about what you’re doing and help move your brand’s message forward. People in your industry, friends, coworkers, mentors, etc. Get out there and stay connected to professionals and thought leaders who think highly of you and can tout you to others.
Having trouble getting the right support? Here are some tips on why you need a mentor and how to find one.
Building a powerful, personal brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, commitment and focus, says Thomas.
Creating a personal brand takes time, commitment and focus, says @SherriThomas #prepareduTWEET THIS
And, Thomas-style, never be afraid to change your brand. The brand story you’ve built in one field can follow you to another. Find the common threads that can follow you throughout your career and build those.
Want more of Thomas’s personal brand-making tips? Listen to her webinar for Bentley University on this topic, as well as the other webinars, available free, in Bentley’s Career Speaker Series, sponsored by Alumni Career Services.
Corey Whelan is a New York City-based writer whose work has been published at CBSLocal.com, WebPsychology, Care.com and other online outlets.
Learn more about Bentley’s PreparedU Project, which examines challenges facing millennial workers, the companies that employ them and the colleges and universities that prepare them.
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