In a world where jobs no longer last forever, the only constant in your career is you. So instead of relying on the brand of your company to define who you are, you have to rely on your own brand.
That’s not easy, though. Think of all the brand managers who have had their hands onNike or Apple. The brands people adore and really connect with are brands that are consciously developed and well cared for every day, even in bad times.
Admit It — You’re Special
That’s how you have to treat yourself. It’s true that you’ll never be as big a brand as Nike or Apple, but your brand is much more important than theirs, because your brand is what will feed you and clothe you and keep your life stable. And just as specialized brands are always the most successful, specialists have the best careers.
Think about it: The people who get the most job offers are the ones known for doing something very well. They have an area of expertise and they have a reputation for being great at it. The stronger your specialty is, the more opportunities you’ll have for career moves; and the more opportunities you have, the less likely that the inevitable bumps in the road will throw you off course. That’s how branding creates stability.
The way to build a brand is to know what your strengths are, why they’re special, and what you like doing with them. If you’re unclear of what personal branding is, here’s a great definition from personal-branding blogger Dan Schawbel. And if you’re unsure of how to build your own brand, here are three steps to follow:
1. Know what you’re very good at.
This isn’t about what you like to do. We all like to do a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean we stand out for them. You also don’t need to get paid for what you love to do most. After all, you may love food, but you probably don’t get paid to eat, right?
So pick something you love but that makes sense to get paid for, which means it should pay enough to support you and whoever depends on you. Also, pick something in an area you’ve done work in that people have told you is exceptional.
Each of us can only be fantastic at a few things. One of the big tricks to career success is to find what you do better than almost everyone else, and then let people know that that’s what you do. For most people, the search for what makes them special takes years and years, and includes a few wrong turns.
2. Know what people think of you.
This is hard to do. For example, most people think they’re more well-liked than they are. And most people think they’re more essential to a team than they are. A great way to get an assessment of how people think of you is to ask yourself if you have the five traits of a likable person.
Another approach is to think about traits that likable people have and work on those, because the traits you consciously focus on are ones you can generally improve. Branding blogger Adam Salamon writes that there are some things you should always want to convey, for example that you’re interested in other people and that you have a positive attitude. These are things everyone should think about.
But being likable is only part of brand building. You need to be not just liked, but known for what you’re good at. Do people know what you’re good at, or do they just know that you’re nice? You want both.
3. Meet the right people.
Not every brand is relevant to every person. Understand the kind of people who’ll connect best with you, and surround yourself with them, at least to get started. That way you can focus on presenting the parts of you that are most relevant to your brand.
This shouldn’t seem extreme. The younger the workforce gets, the more mainstream the idea of personal branding becomes. Travis, a blogging entrepreneur at Young Go Getter, describes his community as a place where people write about what they want to be known for and share ideas to connect with people who think like them.
You need a community like that. Because in the new workplace, no one can take care of you but you — not your boss, not your company, not the economy. It’s all up to you, and it’s hard to do alone, so figure out what you’re great at and then let people know. Start with a small community and let it get bigger and bigger. This is where true financial security and job safety come from.