There’s still a lot of chat on the topic of personal branding. Particularly for people just entering the world of social media, there’s major pressure to create a distinctive personal brand now more than ever. For those in a career flux, there’s major pressure to catch up with the sexy branding thing and seize the new networking and career opportunities that social media can offer. For someone looking to jumpstart their way into a new career adventure, crafting a new personal brand can seem like a shortcut to appearing to already fit there. But I’m going to dispense some advice here: regarding the issue of your personal brand, well, um, it’s not really that personal. Big data, SEO and social analytics may just be telling your story for you.
Much like other overused buzzy terms in our working vocabulary, personal brand is a misnomer. The truth is that as a professional — as a working person in the world of work — your personal brand is a multifaceted presentation of yourself as a working person.
So how do you craft a personal brand for yourself without getting overwhelmed by the options and straying from your true self? Here are six tips:
1) Do The Work.
Whether you’re at an early stage in your career or looking to make a job or career shift, the work comes first. That’s the core. It’s why we’re all here. So work really hard. For career midtermers facing burnout, that can be difficult, but dig deep and summon up those reserves: it’ll get noticed. There’s nothing like a solid foundation of accomplishments on which to stand.
2) Be Nice And Share The Spotlight.
There’s a new cliché entrenching itself in workplace and social culture, not necessarily always deserved, but with a grain a truth. It’s the self-preoccupied self-starter, pushing himself or herself with shrill posts on social media, trash talking other people on social channels, grabbing for the spotlight, taking the credit. It’s often painful to work with people who are selfish — and this may just come up in a peer or online review. Instead, be generous and stay open-minded. We’re a competitive species. But generosity will come back to you; it’s basic career and social leadership karma.
3) #beyourself. Stay Thoughtful.
We don’t always show all sides in all situations. Social media’s one of those situations. Think of it as the ultimate kiss-cam at a Knicks game: your social presence is completely public and utterly transparent. As a friend of mine describes it, every point of your brand presence is a “plunk” with a ripple effect. So practice social etiquette, and think twice before behaving on social media channels in ways that you would not behave like in person or in real life—if your brand goes viral, it’ll haunt you when you need to shake hands in person. No whining, no calling people out just to grab attention or headlines. Do it with feeling and thought if so – not just for the sake of drawing attention to yourself or gaining rank. If you text or tweet with feeling, check your spelling. And friends don’t let friends text and tweet, um, in certain situations.
4) Face Your Own Weaknesses.
There are great tools out there to hone your own brand. Not only should you know your strengths, you need to face your weaknesses. Say, just for instance, that you’re good at big picture planning but struggle with spreadsheets. In terms of your own brand, that self-awareness is a plus, and can help steer you on a course towards a job your brand can really shine in.
5) To Thine Own Self Be True.
Personal brand genius Oprah Winfrey has turned our search for an authentic self into an empire. For good reason: someone with a strong inner core inspires confidence — for all the obvious reasons. Having a clear sense of yourself means you know how to protect and preserve yourself, and by extension, whatever project or work you’re doing. From a recruiting and talent standpoint, it’s a tangible plus.
6) Work At Happiness.
I came across an inspiring article on contentment by an obvious overachiever who drove himself forward into a law career and family life. Now, more than anything, he values contentment — an appreciation of life and its moments, a here and now attitude. It doesn’t mean he’s dropped the career or family. It means he’s the same, but better. Imagine the joy of working with someone who is truly content as opposed to restless and dissatisfied. That translates along the hiring chain: a great attitude is a great attitude.
A personal brand isn’t just an image or a voice. Even in this social age, social is just one layer of it. Your brand is the whole package: your skill set, behavior, your heart, attitude, intelligence, accomplishments, and above all, your work. So yes, keep that social presence going — it’s critical for your visibility. But take a breath, and focus. You still need to get your work done and pay the bills, and that’s good news.
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.