Regardless of your age, experience and seniority, a personal digital brand can be a huge differentiator in securing a new role, premium consultancy projects, or advisory or non-executive director (NED) positions. This is vital in a job market where opportunities are limited, sought-after skillsets and experience requirements change regularly, and competition now includes not only local but also global peers. Every candidate wants to stand out from the crowd and get noticed, and today’s shifting marketplace is making it increasingly difficult to do so.
Just like a strong brand helps a business cut through the noise and establish itself in the marketplace, a strong personal digital brand will help an executive to make a lasting impression, particularly with recruitment practices shifting online and an increasing amount of talent being sourced digitally. Even if a senior professional isn’t looking for a job change, their personal digital brand can open the door to other professional opportunities.
Here are some initial steps you could take to begin carving out your own personal digital brand.
A ‘personal brand’ is a recognisable, uniform, and consistent impression an individual makes on others. It is often based on the person’s experiences, expertise, actions or achievements within their given industry or role. Simply put, it is the professional image you present to your peers, and the way that they perceive you.
A more effective form of this is a ‘personal digital brand’, which is what we at Rialto help our clients develop. As the name suggests, a digital personal brand is the image that a professional presents digitally, whether it be on social media, email correspondence, or thought leadership pieces such as blogs. The personal digital brand is not an amendment or an alternative to the traditional personal brand. Rather, the personal digital brand is simply the more forward thinking, future-ready version. Much of today’s networking, thought leadership, recruitment, and business-building activities happen with a digital element involved. Think about how you present yourself in prospecting emails, LinkedIn communications, and even on Zoom. These activities have become an integral part of business life, and must be considered in the holistic big picture of your brand.
Your personal digital brand ensures that your online presence matches what people experience when they meet you in person, and vice versa. If you are a strong voice in your industry at conferences or in meetings, you should continue this online. Alternatively, if you are very vocal online, you should not act timidly in person. For your brand to be a success, it needs to be consistent at all times.
When beginning to establish your brand, you must first answer a few crucial questions. What do you believe in, or stand for? When you leave an interview, conference, or client meeting, what would you like the others in the room to remember about you? What skills, accomplishments, or traits would you like to be known for? And most importantly, what makes you different? What do you offer that others may not? What makes you you?
This process of self-reflection is similar to Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ model. Sinek’s simple yet powerful model discusses how the world’s most influential leaders inspire action by starting with ‘why’ they do what they do. Answering these questions should give you an idea of not only who you are, but also what you’re interested in, talented at, or passionate about. Knowing this will help you to seek out opportunities that will cater to your skills, and help you to find a role that you will actually enjoy. Having a clear idea of what your ‘why’ is helps pinpoint your unique selling proposition in the job market and what you want to be known for amongst your peers.
If you are undergoing the process of developing a personal digital brand, it is highly likely that you have a reason for it. A personal digital brand helps you become recognisable or even memorable in a highly saturated job market, and can help you secure or even attract a coveted position. Even when you are not actively searching for a role, your personal digital brand continues to work for you as a basis for thought leadership, and is a great way to re-establish oneself in a sector or as part of an evolving tech transformation. Down the road, this may lead to advantageous introductions to new contacts, keynote opportunities, or good publicity.
Whatever your end goal may be, it is crucial to have clarity on the big picture when you are in the process of developing your brand. The self-reflection you have completed in the initial steps of brand development should help to paint the picture.
Once you know what you’re working towards, you can begin to think about what actions will help to carve that path forward. You should be able to determine which of your skills, attributes, or accomplishments are best to champion in order to reach your endgame goals. Your brand will become much more refined and polished as a result.
Once you have an idea of what you would like your brand to be and where you would like it to take you, a wise next step is to conduct a ‘personal brand audit’ to determine where you currently stand. Ask your colleagues, friends, and family to choose some adjectives to describe you. Are these in line with the ideas you have about yourself, the impressions you would like to leave others with, or the professional image you would like to project?
If this feedback is not consistent with what you had in mind, do not be discouraged. People grow and change all the time, and your brand is completely within your control. Perhaps this peer feedback identified traits or skills that you overlooked previously, or downplayed. Maybe your peers helped provide a few areas where you could improve. At least now you have a better idea of where you need to focus your energy in order to create a consistent, authentic, and strong personal digital brand.
Once you feel confident in your brand, it is time to put it into words. The best way to do is to develop a short elevator pitch that expresses the main points concisely, yet accurately. This statement should provide a good overview of who you are and what you are about, but leave enough out so that others are interested in learning more.
This pitch will become a critical tool in your professional arsenal. You can deploy it in one-to-one introductions with key contacts, or in an interview when asked the dreaded “tell us about yourself” question. You can use it in the biography section of your social media profiles to leave any visitors to your page with a strong first impression.
It is easy to say what you stand for, but it can be harder to prove it. However, for your brand to be authentic, you need to be able to back up your words. Begin to identify examples from your life or career that best tell the story of who you are. Choose examples that highlight the key skills you identified in the previous steps, or solid examples of times you lived out your ‘why’. These are great to have on hand in interviews, and help to solidify your brand in the minds of others. Online, you can become a champion for your personal digital brand via the topics you comment on and the content you share. We will go into further detail about this in later articles, but for now just remember that consistency is the key to authenticity. Your personal digital brand will only work for you if it is truly reflective of who you are and what you have to offer professionally.
We see businesses reinvent themselves and overhaul their brands with time, and you should do the same. As you grow, learn, and develop, your brand should change with you. The hardest part is developing one to begin with, but do not be afraid to adapt it over time. The best brands are those that remain true and authentic throughout the test of time.