If you’ve followed my writing here on Military.com, you know that I write about the steps to take to build, promote, and sustain a valuable personal brand. Your personal brand is your reputation, your legacy, and it is how others know you, introduce you, refer you … or not. As a job seeker, transitioning veteran, or individual seeking a meaningful career, your personal brand is a critical part of your success.
Other people around you assign you value based on how they perceive your value to them: Are you a valued resource or are you invisible in key meetings? Can they trust and rely on you or are you perceived as inflexible and unstable? When you develop and promote your authentic personal brand, you are actually directing the legacy you desire to leave behind, and the reputation you can enjoy today.
Your Brand Shouldn’t Sit on a Shelf Developing a personal brand is only half the task. Then, you’ll need to market and communicate your unique and compelling brand to an audience that will find you relevant.
Personal branding should always come from a place of authenticity and not from the goal to “spin” or “twist” the truth to make you sound better than you are. As you’ll market yourself to others, follow these steps for success:
1. Start -- and end -- with your authentic beliefs, values and passions. Authenticity is at the root of sustainable personal branding. Otherwise, it’s called “spin.” Peeling back the layers of marketing speak (and the “shoulds”) and getting to authenticity can be tricky… and takes skill, humility and time. It is the most important step in personal branding.
2. There is only one you. Focus on and embrace what makes you unique and special. Your target audience is looking for someone with your knowledge, opinion and style will find you if you stay true to your core (authentic) values. If you try to become someone else you miss the chance of letting others see the real you.
3. Focusing your audience is empowering, not limiting. Be specific about who you want to work with, invest with, and work alongside. This focus means you’re talking to people who will get you – who understand your vision, values, and purpose, and feel very similar. Invest the time to develop your target audience: Consider who holds influence over the opportunities you receive? Who is in a position to give you recognition for your accomplishments? These are clues to your target audience.
4. Social media can be your friend. Get to know this friend slowly and carefully. Begin with a goal, strategy and game plan in mind before you venture online to collaborate, share and promote. Not all social media — and social networking — venues are created equal. Some could be very valuable tools to promote your personal brand, and others can just suck up your time.
5. Feedback is always a gift. Soliciting feedback is important, understanding it is crucial. Feedback allows us to assess our current and desired brands against perception. While not always easy to hear (“Bob, we think you talk too much about your personal life in meetings,”) the input allows you to modify your behavior and gain better positioning in the future. Knowledge is power.
6. Intentional networking is more than handing out business cards and connecting on LinkedIn. When we network intentionally, we target contacts in areas that will support our goals and allow us to reciprocate and develop relationships. Data mining, contact management, and proactive communications strategies keep intentional networks thriving.
7. Take inventory of your successes – and failures. You can learn from both. In personal branding, we leverage our strengths and manage our weaknesses. Learn humility and authenticity. Then, repeats what led you to success, and avoid the behaviors, relationships, and actions that led to failure.
8. Set goals. Measure. Benchmark. Assess. Tweak. Personal branding is a lifelong process. It evolves, requires updating (i.e. wardrobes, logos, credentialing) and needs to be tested against goals and desired results. It might feel like work to build your intentional personal brand at the beginning. Over time, however, you will find that it’s so much easier to be YOU!
9. Enlist resources to help you. As you promote yourself and your personal brand, you might find areas where you are not as strong. Today, there are ghostwriters, coaches, designers, stylists, and many other professionals who can supplement your efforts, highlighting your assets and helping you build your profile.
10. Share. Grow. Learn. Pay It Forward. As you build your career and find your path, consider helping other veterans who are just beginning their transition to a civilian career. Your experience can be invaluable to them!
Personal branding is not a one-step process. You will learn, over the course of your civilian career, which strengths and passions you want to act on, and which should be left behind.
The Next Step: Find the Right Veteran Job
Whether you want to polish up your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area, or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.