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Staying True to Yourself While Building a Personal Brand

When I first heard about the concept of personal branding, I was admittedly confused. The idea of marketing myself to universities and future employers made me feel inauthentic, and as if I was a commodity not unlike a brand of cereal or shoes. However, in a world where over 92% of children under the age of two already have an online presence, many of us already have established a personal brand whether we know it or not. The concept is defined as a “process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization” (via wiki). Having grasped a further understanding of what it means to curate an external image for others to see, I couldn’t help but to think of social media. Without a doubt, if you have a social media account that you post on, you already have a personal brand. Perhaps you love to travel and share pictures of your experiences, or maybe you love to go to sporting events and frequently post pictures of you and your group of friends together. Whether you know it or not, you have selectively built a brand for yourself. For example, one look at my Instagram feed would convince anyone that I spend most of my time cooking or hiking, but this just happens to be when I feel most inspired to take pictures and post. Try taking a look at your own social media profiles from the eyes of another person, you might be surprised to see that despite having a few bad days, you’ve maintained a professional and positive candor that others find inspiring and delightful. This is an example of good personal branding, and we can derive inspiration from the workplace as well. For example, I work at a local bakery that prides itself on friendly and quality service. When customers arrive at our store, we greet them with a cheerful smile and a phrase that is essentialized in our greeting. This is part of the bakery’s “brand”, and as a result our store has built a reputation as having excellent service. Are there times when I feel a bit frazzled and have to push through difficult situations? Sure, as any person in the service industry may attest. However, receiving positive feedback as a result of my interactions undoubtedly gives me a sense of satisfaction. The idea of having a positive rapport with others and a strong reputation goes hand in hand with the notion of building a brand. It isn’t about convincing others of what you have to offer but instead showing the world what your values are and why you make the world a better place. On the inside we may all possess certain hopes and passions, but creating a link to share with the external world is what personal branding is all about. Self-awareness is critical in allowing one’s online presence to flourish. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback from a mentor or someone that you trust will remain objective in giving you criticism when needed. You may be surprised by what opportunities can arise from successful personal branding and a strong online presence. On a professional level, this can help grow your network by attracting people with similar goals and interests as yours. Personally, I have been surprised by the feedback I have received on social media. Many people that I have never spoken to in person have messaged me saying my posts have helped them, or that they view me as a role-model. Helping other people’s lives while also growing professionally are two major benefits of personal branding, and authenticity does not have to suffer as a result.