Do you know what I was most excited about when I walked into my first job after graduation? Getting a big stack of business cards with my name on them.
But sadly, I didn't get any. I was working internally in my company, not with clients, so they never gave me a business card.
If I could go back, I'd make my own business card. And so should you if you haven't been given one. It's simple. Just use your name, your role, and an online resource such as LinkedIn or your personal website.
Why go to the trouble? Because your brand is everything. If you have aspirations of building a business around your personal brand, then you have to work towards it step by step.
Think of your business card as step one. Yes, there's a long way to go, but you have to start somewhere.
Here's what comes next:
Learning Your Field
I actually started building my brand while still working full-time. How? Outside of my 9 to 5, I was working in project management in the IT world. I began speaking at conferences, participating in local events, and getting my name out there.
Soon, I started to notice that I was getting a reputation for my knowledge about Agile project management and techniques. By going to those conferences and speaking, I was building my brand--but I was also learning more about the industry.
When I did leave my company to start my own business, I already had built up these layers of knowledge about who I was and what I knew.
This is important when taking time to learn about your field. Deepen your understanding so that people know you for being knowledgeable about your industry. That industry reputation is an important piece of your brand.
Your brand, and by extension, your business, will rely heavily on your credibility. People don't just click on the first profile that they see online to hire someone. They're more skeptical than that.
So, how can you build credibility? Public speaking is a great place to start. When speaking to a group, you're directly sharing your knowledge and experiences with them, building your credibility in person.
And this can transition to sharing your message with the masses. Publishing articles, writing a blog, even writing a book--these are all very specific ways that you can cement your credibility as an expert in your field.
Remembering the Essentials
Your brand isn't just your reputation, it's also what people perceive when they search for you online. It's made up of your blog, social media presence, website--everything that Google will reveal. With that in mind, it's important that you have professional, up-to-date information available for everyone to see.
Do you have a professional headshot? Have you completely filled out your LinkedIn and other social media profiles? Or are there pictures of you partying on the weekend? Don't cut yourself any slack here. Constantly update your presence online to make sure everything is relevant and professional.
As a bonus, think of a tagline for yourself. Narrow down your expertise into something specific that will catch people's attention and demonstrate what you know. When I stepped out into the project management industry, I quickly became known as "the Agile expert" in the traditional project management world. That set me apart and people remembered who I was.
After meeting the President of an organization in Jamaica while at a conference in Marsaille, France several years ago, we connected on LinkedIn and a year later, he reached out to me when they needed Agile training. That led to the head of the project management office from a local bank hiring me to train their teams in Jamaica and Trinidad. Because when they thought of Agile, they thought of me.
Building a Brand Can Take Years
It took years to build my personal brand to the level it's at today. I'd say that's probably true for most people.
Start now. Be Agile. Put something out there and adjust it as you go. Just take one step at a time, little by little, until you've really developed and solidified the direction that you want to go.
The effort will be worth it. Trust me. Set aside a little time each week to work on your personal brand, adding to what you already have. As you continue to gain clarity on what you want to do, your brand will grow along with you. Each step is a step towards successfully building your business, and your life, around that brand.