I’ve been hearing and reading a lot lately about this idea of a personal brand, and wanted to offer my two cents. Here’s what I think: the strength of your personal brand depends solely on the strength of your professional network – how much you value, respect and care for each of your contacts and, in turn, how much they value, respect and care for you. This is what differentiates you from everyone else that works in the same profession, has the same resume, knows the same people, etc. If you follow the advice given below, you’ll become a member of the ‘A Team’, and build a reputation and brand for yourself that make you stand out as a business professional.
Build Trust. One of the worst things you can do as a professional is not respond to someone when they reach out to you, especially if you have at least a decent relationship with the person – awful. When someone leaves you a voicemail or sends you an email, get back to them — it doesn’t need to happen instantaneously, but certainly within a day or two. Along the same lines, when you tell someone that you’re going to do something, do it. And, by all means, when someone introduces you to a friend or colleague of theirs, follow up with that person. Don’t be that guy that can’t make time to grab lunch, get together for drinks or hop on a quick call. I get it, you’re busy. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as “I don’t have time for this” – something is either important to you and you make time for it, or it isn’t important to you and you blow it off. Always make time for your network.
Follow up. Follow through. Be Reliable. Build trust.
Build Credibility. This part takes some time but, then again, building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. Invest time in your chosen profession, develop expertise, know your industry and market inside and out, and be in a position to share your intelligence with everyone you know. Take it a step further by writing articles, creating a blog, speaking at events, etc. Get yourself out there and make yourself relevant. Your network should view you as a resource and your goal is to be the first one people think of whenever they have a question or request that has anything to do with your profession.
Make the investment. Gain knowledge. Share that knowledge. Build credibility.
Build Positive Energy. Think about your network all of the time – while you’re reading the newspaper, scrolling through email alerts, meeting with clients, chatting with colleagues, listening to sales presentations, interviewing candidates for open positions within your group, etc. As you pick up market intel, think about who in your network would find it valuable and pass it along to them. As you meet people, think about who else would benefit from knowing them and make those introductions. Your goal is to help everyone in your network achieve their goals.
Think of your network. Take care of your friends. Give constantly. Build positive energy.
Building a strong brand isn’t hard, it’s just hard work. It takes a lot of effort to do all of the things discussed above. That’s why most people don’t do them and, therefore, market themselves with a weak brand — don’t fall into that category. Be a rock for your network – reliable, credible, and relentlessly helpful – and you’ll create a brand that everyone knows and likes, and that ultimately leads you to success in your career.