The Basics of Personal Branding

Personal branding is the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about YOU.

A personal brand consists of all content people will see, read and hear about you. We all know Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Apple and Microsoft. And we all can name the differences between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola or Apple and Microsoft. Either in we like Coca-Cola and Apple and we dislike Microsoft and Pepsi. But, if we have to give words to the brand,

Apple’s success is due in large part to its obsessive focus on the user experience. Apple is a designer-centric company that likes to build all parts of a product — hardware, software, and online services — itself. That approach has allowed Apple to build some of the most elegant and user-friendly products ever created. Steve Jobs was a personal brand himself, by always wearing black, turtle neck sweaters and his geeky appearance. This is what you can create yourself as well.

WHY build a Personal Brand as an applicant/jobseeker?

Well, the dealmaker in the application process besides knowledge is lying in the soft skills, your fit to the company and team culture. This relies heavily on the way we present ourselves, from the profile picture to the things we express on social media, and our written and verbal communication. We all make decisions on the impression we have from someone, from clothing to words used and the way we speak. The more consistent our impression is, the easier it is for others to decide to hire us.

I believe we don’t fit all teams, companies and responsibilities or projects. Based on our core values and strengths, we have a conscious or unconscious preference for different things. By reflecting on WHY do you do what you, your core values and your signature strengths you will be able to build a Personal Brand. A consistent, ongoing and prescribed image or impression of yourself and how you can contribute to a team, company and project. The GO-TO person. And this is what we are after.

Setting up a personal brand starts with defining the WHY behind the things that you are doing and what you want to be known for. Building a Personal Brand consists of 5 steps and within these 5 steps, we will take a look at 2 instruments you can use to define your WHY and what you wish to be known for. Let’s start with the 5 steps you can follow to build your own personal brand.

The 5 P’s of building a Personal Brand

These 5 P’s are a sequence, so one comes after the other and together they build a personal brand and define what the end result should be for this Personal Brand.

1. Personal

Let’s start with P from Personal. Personal means it is all about you and what makes you the employee to hire. In building your personal brand this section contains the answer behind It answer the questions:

  • Why are you doing what you do? (Why am I doing this?)
  • What do people know you for?
  • What do you stand for?

It is about the things people immediately notice upon meeting you. If you always wear black, it might be your signature colour. If you are always cheerful or always relaxed – no way they can stress you out, This is your signature.

Usually, this comes back to knowing your Core Values and Signature Strengths. They are the foundation behind the things people recognize in you, what they know you for. At the same time, they define the choices we make. Down below you will find more information about the topic’s Core Values and signature strengths.

  • If one of our core values is financial stability, we probably will not choose to be a contractor or start a business.
  • If one of our core values is personal freedom, it is probably a reason to start a business or work as a contractor.

Your core values and signature strengths often also define the words we use in verbal and written communication, the way we dress and express ourselves. This is also WHY reflection on your WHY will help you to create a consistent image.

2. Pointed

Pointed relates heavily to Personal and answers the following questions:

  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What are your priorities?
  • What is important to you?

3. Purposeful

From there on you move on to Purposeful.

This answer the question: What are the journey, strategy, and tactics you’re going to employ towards reaching the goal of getting hired for this amazing job? This could be setting up a Personal Brand, building a network, sending out x number of applications per week and so on.

What will make this journey purposeful?

Purposeful could just be landing a job as soon as possible to secure financial security. Purposeful could also be wanting to secure stable surroundings and offer your kids safe surroundings to grow up in. This is might be a reason to relocate to a Western European Country.

Or perhaps you want to be a well-known financial controller who can influence corporate companies to incorporate sustainability within the company. It might take a few years to get there. So it might need other steps compared to only securing a job as a financial controller.

It is pretty simple to jot down the steps from A to B as I did in the previous paragraph. But it is meaningful to think a bit further, to think long-term. Sometimes an in-between step is necessary to end up where you wish to be. And then it boils down to knowing what needs to be done to actively pursue the goals you are after in building your personal brand. Then you reached the sixth P of Planning. But we can only start planning after we prioritise what needs to be done.

Usually, a coach or someone outside of the work situation can help you to reflect on the long-term and support you in setting up a plan to make this possible.

4. Prioritised

When you have the long-term plan ready, it is time to prioritise. Your first priority is to establish a personal brand and create a foothold – so short-term goals should answer these questions. Once your brand gets some rhythm and creates a toehold in the market, it will be about maintaining this rhythm and being consistent in your outings.

So, coming back to the financial controller question in the previous section, securing a job as a controller within a social enterprise might be the first step. Or perhaps securing a job within a corporate company that likes to be more sustainable and supports sustainability and using this experience and job to create more awareness by regularly publishing articles supporting your bigger goal.

5. Profitable

The last P on this list is profitable. This is signing the new contract, for an interim position, a fixed-term contract or a permanent one. But, profitability also contains the number of times you are approached by a recruiter, the salary raise you might get once you add a certain certification to your personal brand and so on.

To help you with the first 2 steps of defining your Personal Brand, you can do the course: Know How You contribute or delve into the instruments offered below. Both are a good first step to finding out what matters to you. Both instruments offered are free of charge.

Core Values

Core Values are the theme of your life. It is defined in the dictionary as a principle or belief that a person or organization views as being of central importance. It answers the questions:

  • Why are you doing what you are doing?
  • What do you stand for?
  • And allows you to reflect on What do you want to be known for?

Values can be simply described as things that are especially important to us. For example family, health, security, freedom, and trust. They are always present with us, although we do not always have to be aware of them. They led you to where you are today. They shaped you as a human being and determine how you are perceived by others.

For example:

  • a health-conscious person will feel the great importance of diet and exercise. Thanks to their systematic efforts, they enjoy vitality and are perceived by others as a specimen of health.
  • If you live by the statement “Family First”, it means you will probably move your schedule if your family needs you.

How does knowing your own values help you make decisions?

When you have a decision to make, consciously or unconsciously it should match your values. If it has a positive effect on the realization of your values, then you already have a clear answer. You will feel comfortable with your decision because you will stay true to your values. Thanks to this, you will avoid dissonance between your actions and what is really important to you. The more your core values align with the things you are doing, the better it will be.

It is important to rely on your own values ​​when making important decisions. Not the general values, but your own. Values ​​are very important even when making small, everyday decisions and choices. For example, what foods we choose when shopping. How we spend our free time. What do we spend our money on?

These seemingly insignificant choices accumulate and after several months or years of systematic repetition, they are no longer meaningless. Their consequences become visible to us and affect us.

How to live in harmony with your values?

To find out more about your core values you could do the personal values test. Within the online environment, over here. Or download the list of Core Values over here and pick the 5 that matter to you most.

The awareness of your core values will help you to make the right decisions every day and within your job search. If you join a team or a company that doesn’t match your core values, it will be far more difficult to find your place within the company.

You can also use these core values in your cover letter when highlighting your motivation for the company. If you are able to define why it makes it so much easier to select job opportunities and present yourself in the job interview.

For example:

How would you answer the question: Why do you go to work every day?

  • To be able to support your family,
  • To have financial stability,
  • To achieve professional success in the future,
  • To help others.

We will all answer this question differently and your uniqueness is important to highlight in your job searching journey.

I’ve uploaded the list of core values in the online environment for you to download and work with. Once you defined your core values, it is worthwhile to go back to your resume, your cover letter and LinkedIn profile to see if the content, and the look and feel match your core values.

To learn more about Core Values and how they help you to find purpose at work, I invite you to listen to the Podcast Episode on this topic that I recorded together with Anna Blasiak. Check it out over here.

Signature Strengths

The second methodology I want to hand you to define your Personal Brand is the Signature Strengths Assessment of the VIA Institute. Signature strengths answer the following question:

  • What do people know you for?

Signature strengths align with core values. To name an example: If a core value is “stability” what will people know you for. Probably you are an easy-going person who I can turn to for advice, who will objectively listen. One of your signature strengths might be “Listening”.

Knowing your signature strengths is also a good starting point to reflect on them and see if you are happy with what people know you for or not. Perhaps you want to build on some strengths to strengthen your personal brand, profile or professional qualities.

Let’s say your top strength is Humility, On the VIA website, you can see the category of strengths this belongs to and you can find a description of the strengths in more dept and a short description in one sentence.

So humility is described as “I see my strengths and talents but I am humble, not seeking to be the centre of attention to receive recognition.”

This is great input for building your personal brand and your application documents.

  • If you are a project manager known for bringing humanity into the team by always being there for your team member this is a signature strength. Humanity is one of the signature strengths presented in the VIA character survey.
  • If you are a fitness coach who has the ability to set up programmes that align with the core values of people, this is a signature strength. 
  • If you are the one who just gets to work as soon as you join the team, this is a signature strength.

You can do the signature strengths assessment to define your signature strengths, your middle strengths and your lesser strengths. What is nice and useful about the description offered by VIA Institute is that they offer you a short description of each strength and this definition can be easily transferred onto your resume, cover letter or LinkedIn Profile.

Do the Signature Strengths Assessment over here.