Personal Branding: A strategic, career-building tool, or an elusive, narcissistic notion? We find out the importance of building your personal brand from Nompumelelo Ngwenya, Brand and Strategy Manager, below…
Meet Linda. She is 25 years of age and ticks all the right boxes: She dresses for impact (not a fashion faux pas in sight!), her hair is perpetually immaculate and you’ll never spot a single smudge in her make-up, day in and day out! Suffice to say she oozes confidence and those around her trust her opinion on matters across all reckoning. Linda knows what she is talking about and she takes time to engage with others both at work and with external networks. Linda’s bosses always receive positive feedback about her from people outside their department; they’ve described her as being eloquent and knowledgeable. In her spare time she enjoys going to the gym, she has her own blog and is finishing off her Masters Part time. Everyone knows who she is. Everyone wants to be her. Linda has built herself a solid reputation that she trades on with immaculate precision.
We crossover to Joan, a 26 year old with many redeeming qualities. Joan applies herself well, having completed her studies in record time to the level of a Master’s degree (Cum Laude). Joan is a workhorse, anticipates requirements in advance and is second to none when it comes to her dedication and pride in her chosen vocation .You’ll hardly catch a glimpse of her around the communal kitchen having the ‘odd’ catch up, nor does she find value in attending work events – her time is solely for the purpose of completing her work tasks. Joan’s personal life suffers tremendously under the strain of the hours she dedicates to her ‘cause’. Her boss always praises her for her diligence. She is always the first one in and the last one out. Most people have seen her around the office but don’t really know who she is, and are unsure of what she does. Those close to Joan often describe her as extremely sweet, thoughtful and kind. In her spare time she volunteers at the SPCA, old age home and helps her parents run their business.
Linda and Joan are both capable young ladies with much to offer.
Now imagine you are a top Executive of a company. You have a vacancy to fill, of the two ladies who would you give the job to? Joan or Linda?
In today’s world, competition in the workplace is extremely intense. There was a time not so long ago where you could rely on your qualifications and hard work to set you apart. The reality is, that is no longer enough.
What sets individuals apart from the rest and creates a unique selling position is their ability to stand out from the crowd and be noticed. You see, Linda will probably get the job because she understands effective personal branding.
What is personal branding, you may ask? In a nutshell, Personal branding is what you reflect to the world; it is the what and the how you want the world to perceive of you. To elaborate further, it describes the process whereby individuals, professionals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves by identifying, crafting and articulating their unique value proposition and then leveraging it across various platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal or vision.
The good and bad news is that you have a personal brand whether you choose to actively shape it or not. A well-executed personal branding ‘campaign’ helps an individual advance their career, enhances their recognition as experts in their chosen field, and creates an equitable reputation and credibility. According to Warren Buffet, the most frugal and wealthiest investor in the world, he would rather lose money than lose his reputation. The importance of your reputation cannot be emphasized enough! Let’s take a page out of two of SA’s most recognizable personas, Khanyi Dhlomo and Bonang Matheba. It is evident that they have taken great care to establish and maintain their personal brands extremely well. They offer something distinctive and unique – A wow factor that creates a stir and makes people want to know more about them. This was achieved by strategically positioning themselves for the world to take notice, and there’s no denying that you know what they stand for.
As a millennial lady, you are probably at the beginning of your Self-Mastery journey, and are positioned somewhere between Joan and Linda on the personal branding spectrum. Here are some essential tips on crafting your personal brand:
- Know thyself. Do a little digging to uncover the essence of your brand. Write down all your key strengths and weaknesses; what you are good at, what you really love, what you struggle with and what would you do whenever, wherever. When it comes to this exercise two heads are better than one – in fact three, four, even five heads are necessary when it comes to seeking this advice. Ensure you engage with colleagues, family and friends for their input. Be sure to keep an open and objective mind as some of the feedback may be a shock to your system. Remember the aim is to find out what you are consciously and unconsciously reflecting to the world. Determine your current position and where you aspire to be and work towards closing that gap.
- Be authentic. Now that you know yourself better, including the blind spots we tend to overlook, be true to yourself! You are an original, don’t try to be someone else. Your uniqueness is what will set you apart. Often, people find mentors and fall into the trap of becoming their clones. Learn from others but be sure to remain original. People build trust over time with your brand, and consistency will give you a competitive advantage.
- Perfect your craft. Keep ahead of the game and do your research in terms of what is new and relevant in your industry. Sign-up for a short course or further your studies. Read as much as you can. There is power and knowledge in books. That will assist you in identifying growth areas, and prevent you from being left behind or becoming stale and repeating the same mistakes as your predecessors.
- Be innovative. Personal branding is a journey, and part of that journey is constant refinement and rebranding. Continuously work towards improving your brand. For example, start a new hobby, learn a new language (I recommend Mandarin), or join a social group.
- Look the part, be the part. Take great care in your Personal Image – this is your front office so treat it as such! Dress for success, not sometimes, or most of the time but all the time. Research shows that people judge you based on how you present yourself within the first sixty seconds. Impressions are critical in the work and business environment. The manner in which you present and project yourself matters – that is your brand identity. The image you portray to the world is not just about what you wear, it’s also about your body language. If this is not your forte, get yourself a personal stylist or a vocal coach.
We’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. I’d like to believe that you should be a little more familiar and comfortable with the fundamentals of personal branding. Now, start thinking of ways to enhance your brand by complimenting other people’s brands. However, that is a discussion for another day.
When in doubt, simply ask yourself: What Would Linda Do?
Images provided by Nompumelelo Ngwenya
Name: Nompumelelo ‘Mpume’ Ngwenya
Occupation: Brand and Strategy Manager (Nandos SA)
Qualifications: BCOM (Marketing, Accounting & Finance); University of the Witwatersrand