Branding Yourself for Success

Business Zimbabwe

Sibonginkosi Mlalazi

In today’s job market and entrepreneurial landscape, there is no room for being just another face in the crowd. You must separate yourself from the competition and be more appealing to your target audience. This can be achieved by creating a recognisable personal brand.

What is a personal brand?
So often we hear people talking about brands and the first thing that comes to mind for most people is companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. While this is correct, in the more personal sense a personal brand, according to Jeff Bezos, is simply what people say about you when you are not in the room.

Now more than ever, it is important to brand yourself as it helps you to build credibility and position yourself as a thought leader and an expert in a particular field/industry. Building a recognisable personal brand opens up professional opportunities and helps you to stand out when looking for a
job.

Getting started:
To build a strong brand foundation, start by taking inventory of the branding assets that you already possess. Brand assets refer to skills you have acquired throughout your life; training, credentials, certifications, or awards you have received; industries and topics you are most interested in; what you are passionate about; basically anything that makes you, you. Where these assets intersect is where you should build your personal brand.

Audit your online presence
You cannot mould perception without first understanding the status. In other words, Google yourself and setup alerts for your name on a regular basis. This helps you to keep track of anything negative or positive that may appear online that has your name attached to it. Cultivating a strong personal brand is just as much about being responsive to what is being said as it is about creating intellectual property.

Social media is the new age way of crafting one’s own unique career path. Social media has been the way of crafting one’s own unique career path for a while now. Sites like LinkedIn and Twitter have been gaining a lot of traction here in Africa over the past 10 years, and as such more and more employers are looking to social media to hire candidates. Individuals can use LinkedIn and Twitter to craft their own identity and brand. This helps them stand out and best represent themselves to potential employers.

Different social networking platforms offer different opportunities for personal branding. On Twitter, one can follow potential employers; different Human Resources thought leaders and key industry players. This way individuals can keep themselves up to date with trends and insights that can help them push forward. On LinkedIn you can connect with potential employers and like-minded individuals. Engaging in industry related conversations on these platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter), helps position you as an expert in your sphere of influence, thereby presenting you with opportunities to progress your career.

Be purposeful in what you share. Every tweet you send out, every status update you make, every picture you share, contributes to your personal brand. It is an amalgamation of multiple daily actions. Once you understand how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about your personal brand.

Content to avoid  
More times than not, we have seen social media become the downfall of any people. Some people have lost jobs and tarnished their reputations because of being careless about what they post on social media. The rule of thumb is to avoid posting anything that is controversial or content that people have different views and opinions on, for example, religion, politics, gender orientation, racism, and sexism. These are sensitive topics that people have differing views on and it is easy to get carried away with the conversation and end up casting yourself in a negative or unprofessional
light. As such, it is safe to just avoid commenting on such topics.

Key takeaways
To build a successful and formidable personal brand, you need to be yourself, engage and connect with your audience. People love authenticity and being yourself will help you resonate better with your target audience.

Being human and opening your soul to the world is vital for your personal brand. Be the authentic true you when sharing your joys, your sorrows, and your journey with others.

Secondly, do not let your personal brand be dragged down by others; partner with supportive people who believe in your brand almost more than you do. Having self-confidence and self-belief is important to build a strong personal brand, but do not lose yourself in the process.

Your personal brand is based on what you share, not just on what you know. You can teach your audience amazing things from your own experiences and knowledge.

Sibonginkosi Mlalazi is Zimbabwean born Communications Expert based in South Africa. She is the Founder of Ingenious HD, a communications company based in Cape Town.