Everything you do builds your image, your reputation, positively and negatively, your personal brand. For inspiration look at the face in the mirror. From a branding perspective, the mirror becomes a window to the outside world looking back at you.
This brief overview about the Personal Brand Pyramid comes from a guest lecture presented to Professor Jackie Kuehl’s Advanced Marketing classes at DePaul University, comprised of juniors and seniors, many preparing to seek their first real job. The content in this post does not attempt to reach the depth and the examples covered in those classes but rather to help the reader start thinking about their own strategies in personal branding.
A pyramid creates an excellent model for representing personal branding, hierarchal and triangular. From bottom to top, the topics correspond to increasing challenge and potential reward. The triangles’ vertices reflect relationships, direct ones and those built through a connector, a third person.
Even a strong structure like a pyramid needs a sound foundation:
- Competence — combining your education, training, skill building and anything else you contribute to be the best at your experience level
- Commitment — dedicated and focused on your goals, living your passion
- Consciousness — actively looking and listening to see and hear the things surrounding you
- Confidence — believing in yourself, recognizing no one else knows 100% about any particular complex decision being made
- Caring — thinking about others and their needs; learning how to give
Especially true for first time job seekers, you need not make a statement by how you look and dress! Your objective, you want the job so you do what you can to make a favorable impression. Who loses if you don’t get the job you want?
The saying goes “actions speak louder than words.” Your deeds prove and support your image. They demonstrate your ethics. Good manners fit here, and also things like your body language influence how others perceive you.
Most everyone has said or heard, “That isn’t what I meant” responding to some important misinterpretation. We often assume others understand the words we don’t include. Sometimes the words we use have multiple meanings based on definitions, geographical and cultural backgrounds. You must think about the words you say in conveying your message.
Find causes and charities you believe in and want to support. Your volunteer commitment demonstrates compassion–a win for the charity and you.
Participate in organizations (political, community, student groups) and take leadership roles when opportunities arise. You gain work group experience and build relationships. Some may last a lifetime benefiting you professionally and personally.
Attending a party, sports events, social clubs, a fraternity or sorority, all social activities including who your friends are, impact your personal brand.
Your audience, your content, your delivery offer an amazing opportunity. Imagine speaking to a group that includes ten potential employers, ten people influential in your career advancement or ten potential customers/clients. You reach them at one time versus the months you likely need to arrange individual meetings with those same ten people.
Writing conveys expertise and creates permanence. Getting an article or a quote included in a well-read publication, a prestigious one generates special recognition for the contributing author.
Social media offers everyone unlimited opportunities for self-publishing with huge potential audiences. Remember though, what you write exists permanently. Your posts today may turn from “good” to “bad” over time. You must always consider the current and future benefit and risk to your brand.
Strategic Relationship Development
This triangle at the pyramid’s pinnacle reflects its peak importance. Strategically building relationships more than any other personal branding activity will open doors to jobs and help you identify informal mentors, sponsors, future bosses, co-workers, customers/clients, also people who become friends.
Often connections start through random events. The topic here focuses on a strategic approach to creating relationships. The process starts with identification of who; then research to discover connecting points, perhaps common interests or people; determining and doing the how (best way to connect), where (in person if possible, perhaps at an event) and what (planning ahead the first ten seconds of interaction) of the connection; and the ensuing relationship building process.
Start adding to your personal branding by focusing on the foundation items. So much relates to those five things: competence, commitment, consciousness, confidence and caring. I often highlight consciousness. So much surrounds us yet we often fail to either see/hear it or recognize its opportunity.
In closing, let me share one example I suggest in my class presentations. It illustrates how one’s environment offers strategic relationship building opportunities.
Students enjoy better access to top business leaders than the rest of us. I suggest they strategically choose a term paper topic that requires interviewing leaders at companies they might like to work for. Very few leaders will turn down a student with an interesting topic. A relationship starts and builds with the outreach, the interview, the sharing of the finished paper, and the connection again during a job search or later in one’s career.
Fred Siegman, a personal branding consultant and strategic relationship development expert, helps corporate and individual clients create opportunities for career advancement and business development. His company’s website is www.scschicago.com.