Uncovering the Secrets of Personal Branding
Career designer Petra Drahoňovská reveals all you need to know about personal branding.
Whenever discussing career, it seems inevitable that someone will bring up the importance of personal branding. Make no mistake: it’s not just a buzzword. The hype around your personal band is real and your employability is increasingly dependent on it. The real question is, how do we define a personal brand and why exactly is it important?
We interviewed career coach Petra Drahoňovská to uncover some secrets of personal branding. As a trainer, Petra is focused on personal branding and personal marketing, helping clients to make professional transitions. Her work is especially relevant, she says, “when people need to make a big professional change in their life and to smoothly change their career.”
A fast-changing labour market
There is a common misconception that personal branding is not relevant to people who already have jobs. You might even wonder whether only freelancers need to worry about personal branding. Or you might assume your work experience and skill set on your CV should speak for themselves. But on both accounts, you would be wrong.
“So many people think that since [personal brnading] is for individuals, it’s for freelancers,” says Petra. “[But] the reason why we are talking about it right now is that our current labour market is changing a lot.” As a direct result of those changes, the way in which companies make hiring decisions is also shifting in new ways.
“In the past [there was] no necessity to build a personal brand because the majority of evaluation was based on your previous experience and your hard skills from school, what you studied,” she elaborates. She recalls a time when one might have had a clear-cut path after graduating from school, landing a first position, and spending the best part of their lifetime growing within the same company.
That’s not the case in our internet age. Today, says Petra, “we will change our work three to five times per lifetime, and it’s not just going to be your employer, but also your whole expertise.” What’s more, “the changes are faster, bigger, more frequent.”
So, what’s your story?
When people think of brands, we tend to imagine logos and slogans of consumer products that we see advertised. But as any marketing professional will tell you, the visible face of a brand is just one aspect of its identity. The rest is all about the experiences of those interacting with it, from all access points, and the same goes for personal brands.
“I know there are so many people totally focused on their branding more from the point of view of fashion or styling,” says Petra. “It is a part of it, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Personal branding is something which is part of us, part of our identity.”
In essence, your personal brand is composed of your personal goals, your professional ambitions and your core interests. Petra sums it all up in three key criteria: “The features of a strong personal brand, for me, are authenticity, clarity, and consistency. It’s about staying yourself, being yourself.”
So in order to figure out what your personal brand is, you have to take a long, honest look at yourself and decide on which direction is truly yours. If that sounds too abstract, Petra recommends thinking about your personal brand as telling your story including your past, who you are at present, and who you want to be in the future. “It means that I understand who I am, from where to where I want to go, and what I want to present about my identity, my personality, and my life situation.”
Communicate your personal brand
There is no doubt that having a personal brand is a strong asset. But once you have formed the personal story you want to present to the world, how do you communicate it? Petra says the first step is to define which tools you like to use. How much you actually enjoy using a certain tool is an important factor to consider. As Petra says, “Even if everyone is using Instagram, if you hate Instagram, don’t use Instagram! It’s easy. Find another way.”
When deciding which tools are best for you, ensure you are making a conscious decision. “The decision could be, ‘I don’t want to have a LinkedIn or Instagram profile because I’m really good at networking in person,’” offers Petra as an example. As long as you compensate with taking other initiatives to promote your brand, you can afford to avoid certain tools. In fact, it’s wise to limit how many different tools you use. “I always say less is more — one or two tools maximally and frequently.”
Keep in mind each online tool is completely different from the next, with its own pros and cons. Test the tools until you find one that suits your personality. “I have friends who are real experts but they have dyslexia and problems with writing, even if they are super clever so maybe for them, it is easier to record a podcast. For somebody who is extroverted, maybe a video or a blog. For [others], it’s easier to just comment on LinkedIn.”
After selecting which tools you are going to use, it’s time to decide on the frequency you will update and interact with them. Petra recommends doing small bursts at highly regular frequency. “Working on the brand is not just doing it one week per year,” she says. “It’s better to devote five minutes every week, or one hour every month. Try to keep track.”
It will pay off and, as Petra says, it will move you forward. “Sometimes, you get the feeling that you want or need some change, sometimes big and sometimes small, but just living with the feelings without visualising or verbalising doesn’t move you.”
My name is Salwa and I’m a copywriter and communication strategist. I have Moroccan roots, an American accent and a British sense of humour. I moved to Prague from London in 2015 and have been based here ever since. I work mainly in advertising and content marketing while freelancing as a journalist. My passions include acting, surrealist literature and complaining that the coffee I’m drinking is not strong enough.
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