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.


16 replies
  1. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    Good article, although I am not sure what sort of people really read it on Yahoo Finance website! They all seem to know so much more. Pity none of them is getting paid to write ;-)

  2. Kat
    Kat says:

    I totally agree with what you say about becoming a specialist, as it’s the experts that are the hardest to replace in a team/company. But I think I would get bored if I was just good at one thing – doing the same thing… all day… everyday. I enjoy working on a variety of projects, doing different tasks, learning new skills etc. Maybe I just haven’t found the right “thing” to specialise in yet.

  3. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    I find it interesting that everyone who looks for a job uses the tools laid out in this column – even if they don’t know it. When looking for a new job what is the first thing people do – They turn to people they know. Their resume is filled with things that they are good at and hopefully shows what they excel at. And Lastly, when they land that interview they want to make the impression that they are likeable. It’s just common sense – and I think it is great advice to use these tools ALL the time to make that name for yourself.

  4. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now, how fortuitous.

    Kat: I’ve had problems with the specialisation v. boredom issue too. More experts seem to be good at various different things these days- maybe it’s about finding a field where the experts are using lots of skills in a varied day seem worth considering. (Yet another reason why entrepreneurialism is so hot right now?)

  5. thom singer
    thom singer says:

    I speak and train on the power of building a network and having a personal brand. I often present at large corporations or law firms, and many of those in the audience pooh-pooh (yes, I just said “pooh-pooh”) the importance of devoting the time to creating a personal brand and being “a little bit famous” in your industry or business community.

    But if you look around at people who are offered amazing jobs, it is not because they were picked at random or someone thought they looked interesting on Monster.com. The amazing opportunities come into our lives from people we have already known and who know our work.

    Penelope, if everyone in the world would just listen to us and take our advice….ahhhhhhh, it would be a nice place, yes?

    thom

  6. Tim
    Tim says:

    what was it I heard…
    Whether you know it or not, you already have a brand
    -Others have determined your brand for you.

    Once you think of it that way, you realize the importance of building your own brand.

  7. Chris Young
    Chris Young says:

    Penelope!

    I love your blog!

    Might I suggest a small “tweak” to what you are saying in your blog?

    When you say, “Know What People Think of You”, I would suggest changing it to… “Know What The Right People Think of You”.

    I’m 36. Gen X. If you are busy worrying about what everyone thinks of you, you may be trying to please everyone. I can’t tell you how many people out there who don’t fit their job. They hate their job. They are in an emotional “down” because of it. They aren’t easily pleased and in the end – they aren’t “players” in their work anyways. Why bother with the “wrong” people?

    Know what I mean?

    Been there… Done that.

    Chris Young
    Founder, Daymaker
    The Rainmaker Group, Inc.

  8. Vikram Rajan
    Vikram Rajan says:

    if you don’t STAND FOR SOMETHING,
    you’ll fall for anything….

    it’s a risk to STAND OUT in the corporate world, but you’ll be better off without a boss anyways.

    the most prominent personal brands represent a lifestyle, a way of life, a way of doing business, a way of working, a way of doing what they do…

    While typical brands are “liked” some brands are more brash… in fact, they are proud that not everybody likes them: think Howard Stern or even O’Reilly.

    Again, this is risky with a job. But life is risky with a job.

    ~ Vikram
    PersonalBrandMarketing.com

  9. Dale
    Dale says:

    Excellent article on a topic that cannot be emphasized enough.
    Kudos to you for sticking to your beliefs instead of going with the crowd!

  10. Dan
    Dan says:

    The 5 tips to be a likeable person also
    could say treats other people as equal
    to themselves. It was a cool simple
    comment. Thank you.

  11. Glenda
    Glenda says:

    I agree this way a very informational blog! This topic of building your personal brand is become increasingly important in today’s work environment and I think it is something that everyone should learn more about! I am including the URL to a article I found on how to build your personal brand through blogging, twittering, posting videos/presentations, etc. Should be helpful for anyone interested in enhancing their personal brand.

    http://psycray.com/tips-for-building-personal-brand.html

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