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Personal Branding 101

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Personal branding is a concept that more and more people recognize as an essential element in marketing themselves and managing their careers. Elements your personal brand, include 1) how you present yourself to others; 2) your reputation; 3) how people describe you; and 4) people’s opinion of you.

Guided by this framework, consider how people who know you will describe your reputation, personal appearance, personality, oral and written communication skills, and social demeanor. At minimum, these elements should form the foundation for your personal brand, which may include seemingly insignificant elements of your individual style and preferences.

Tip: By your conduct, create that impression so that others view you likewise.

Your public and private behavior, including what you say, how you say it, and how you present yourself, influence how you are perceived by others. Your reputation, which takes a long time to build and only moments to destroy, evolves over time based on these perceptions and the opinions that result from them.

In the workplace, your reputation may precede you. If it does, you always want it said that you a reliable hard worker, who is creative and resourceful (in other words, someone who thinks outside the box) as well as a person of good character and integrity, who can be relied upon to tell the truth. Do workers who are dishonest and unfamiliar with the truth prosper?

Unfortunately, some of them do, but don’t try it. It’s not worth the risk.

Before you begin to market yourself in interviews and as you network, find out how self-aware you are by asking:

  • Who am I?
  • What is my personal brand?
  • Does my personal brand serve me well or do I need to make changes?

You also need information that will help you be successful rather than affirmation that you’re as wonderful as you’ve been led to believe. Ask people who know you and whom you respect—teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends, and clergy—what your strengths and weaknesses are.

You need to find out whether you are:

  • An effective communicator;
  • A team player;
  • Reliable;
  • A leader or a person with leadership qualities; or
  • A person with special attributes. (If you are, ask them to please list them for you.)

Rehabilitating Your Personal Brand: Everyone missteps at some point in their lives so you should know that rehabilitating your reputation is possible, but it also takes a strategic plan, time to execute the plan and positive experiences to convince skeptics.

Olympic champion, Michael Phelps is a study in rehabilitating a personal brand successfully. After enjoying unprecedented athletic achievements at as a teenager and being thrust into the global spotlight, Phelps hit a few bumps. The negative press he received about his conduct behind the wheel and in South Carolina, to some may have been insurmountable, but Phelps has rehabilitated his personal brand to the cheers of well-wishers.

By speaking opening and candidly about his missteps, Phelps took responsibility for his actions. Thereafter, by his conduct he demonstrated that he had taken measures to redirect the course of his life. An adorable baby boy, a beautiful fiancé, supportive mother and winning 23 gold metals doesn’t hurt.

If your reputation needs improvement, and you’re willing to do the work required to change it:

  • Be prepared to talk about the changes you’ve made.
  • Explain why you have changed.
  • By your conduct, demonstrate that you are no longer the person you once were.

You may not be Michael Phelps, but if you make the requisite effort and sincerely change your behavior, you can establish another more positive personal brand.

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multifaceted employment professional, author and lecturer

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