People First HR Services

Building a personal brand takes time, consideration

Colleen Coates

When you buy a bottle of pop or a box of fabric softener at the supermarket, what makes you reach for one brand instead of another?

Sometimes it’s habit, sometimes price, but usually it’s because of branding. You just know that when you buy that particular product, it will meet your expectations. It will be reliable. It will be quality made. It will give more value and deliver a better, more satisfying experience.

Like the supermarket brands that successfully give one product an edge over another, we all have the potential to build a personal career brand. In fact, the people who are most sought after in the job market are those who stand out in their field. They have set themselves apart by mastering a subject area and becoming a specialist or by building a remarkable track record. They have positioned themselves by creating a recognizable brand that people want.

Your personal brand is not limited by your job title, job description or the company you work for; it’s much bigger than that. It’s your expertise. It’s your reputation. It’s the reason colleagues and customers trust that when they call on you, you’ll meet their expectations and deliver a better experience. Not surprisingly, the people who get the best career breaks are the ones known for doing something exceptionally well.

To build and strengthen your personal brand, consider these five steps:

Do a self-evaluation. Think, really think, about what you have to offer a potential employer. What makes you stand out from the competing candidates whose resum├ęs precede and follow yours on the recruiter’s pile of applications? To build a brand, you have to understand your unique strengths. Start by figuring out what it is you do better or know more about than nearly everyone else. Find your own niche.

Track your accomplishments. Make a list of your career highlights, achievements and accolades. Do you have attributes that people sing praises over? Do you have qualities that were once celebrated, but could now use polishing? Sometimes it is necessary to complete additional education, training and certifications to establish yourself as an expert and enhance your brand. Remember to keep an up-to-date list of your accomplishments as they happen as it can also serve as a great personal morale booster.

Ask your peers for an assessment. Now that you’ve evaluated yourself, it’s time for a reality check to see what others think of you. This isn’t always easy — or fun, for that matter — but it is an important step towards building your brand. For instance, most of us like to believe we’re likable, that we have a great attitude or that we convey a professional image. But do others see us that way, too? Ask trusted friends and colleagues if your self-image and how others perceive you are one and the same.

Build new relationships. No matter if you’re hoping to advance your career or land a coveted spot as an industry-leading keynote speaker, the most powerful way to promote your brand is through word-of-mouth marketing. Once you figure out what you’re good at, let others know it. Create a website or blog, take part in conferences, volunteer for events, buy an association membership or contribute an article to an industry association. The point is to fortify your network and expand the community of people who know about your expertise. Always be mindful of what you put out on the web — including social network posts about your personal weekend activities — as it’s there and remains there for all to see.

Promote yourself. If you have defined and refined your personal brand, yet no one knows about it, what’s the point? Be visible and continually build up your profile. Promote yourself on the job by telling your boss about your successes. Use social networking and select online discussion groups to get the word out to a huge audience about your latest wins. Showcase your skills or work on developing new ones whenever opportunity knocks.

Personal branding helps identify your image: who you are, what you do and why you manage to do it so well. But perhaps most importantly, branding is a promise. You’re promising that what you offer (a unique combination of knowledge and specialized skills equalling greater expertise) is above the competition.

That’s why building a brand takes time. Not only do you have to understand precisely what it is that sets you apart, you must then be able to deliver on the promise. From there, success will surely follow.

— With reporting by Barbara Chabai

Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 5, 2011 I2