3 Simple and Effective Ways to Start Your Personal Brand

Most professionals get uncomfortable when I mention personal branding. I see it with my clients, audience members, and even some colleagues. In this age of social media madness, personal branding is something they know they should do, but don’t know how, so they avoid it all together.

I am going to dig into personal branding in this two-part post. I’ll explain why it is so important and how it can even save you some time. I’ll also share simple and effective tips to get you off to a great start with your personal brand and keep it well maintained.  You’ll see how to jump right into the world of personal branding and find how rewarding it is.

Personal branding is a product of the digital age. Social media has made our lives and personalities more visible to the world and this hyper-visibility invites assumptions, judgments, impressions, etc. It’s simply human nature; when you put something out into the world, people react. They find a way to contextualize the information they are given by making judgments about what they see and hear. These judgments are made about people, products, countries – it applies to everything.

It’s been proven that people will judge you in less than one second (this goes for the online “you” as well as the in-person “you”). This instant and impulsive judging is what psychologists call “thin slicing.”

Personal branding is the antidote to thin slicing. Branding your professional image will help you influence the impression others have of you before they even meet you. Done right, your brand can create a consistent, compelling message about your professional skill, ability, and performance, that works hard on your behalf. In many cases, it shows up before you do (online, for example), and therefore gives people a great impression of you before you even meet.

It’s an effective tool for any professional, and it can work hard to save you time and energy by being there when you can’t be. It produces great ROI if done right, so let’s get started:

1) Begin by putting a stake in the ground: How do you want the world to see you?

We are multi-faceted personalities. We have many sides and different ways of showing up in the world so picking just one can feel incomplete – like we are leaving a bit of ourselves in the shadow.

It’s understandable that you’ll want to present yourself as a whole person, but think about this from the other side: does a prospective employer or colleague need to see every nook and cranny of you to know you are a good fit? Is that even possible?

You can’t be all things to all people. You need to start somewhere, otherwise, you will be the jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

Start with three words.

Research has shown that people can only hold three or four things (numbers, ideas, concepts) in their mind at once. Capitalize on this by choosing the three things you want people to know or remember about you.

Here are some examples: an accountant who prefers client-facing relationships may pick the words: diligent, friendly and good listener. A sales representative may pick words like: helpful, generous, closer.

How the words help: The words you choose help you focus your efforts on revealing those traits to your colleagues, employer, and business associates. Since what you focus on grows, you will “show up” exhibiting those traits in conversations, meetings, and even small interactions. People will notice that you act in a certain way and begin to describe you using the words you chose. A personal brand is born.

 “I never wanted to be on any billionaires list. I never define myself by net worth. I always try to define myself by my values.” – Howard Schultz

If you don’t know how to get started picking your words, simply jog your memory a bit: revisit your resume and be sure to list any experience that’s not on there. Do you have any deep expertise in a certain area? Any special skill sets? Do you gravitate toward certain types of projects or like to serve on certain committees? Take all of that into consideration. Ask trusted friends and colleagues what they think you are known for, good at or have expertise in. Review all of this information and begin crafting your words, knowing that you can revise them over time if necessary.

One of the best ways to find the perfect word fit is to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. This tool assesses your natural strengths and talents and creates a prioritized list of 34 traits unique to your personality. Your top five strengths are your most dominant, so using those traits for your keywords would be very easy. It’s also helpful to speak with a professional coach to get an objective viewpoint. I have helped many professionals find expressive and accurate personal brands by blending my years of professional experience with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment.

2) Go beyond words: Associate your brand with images and color

You can create one online (with these tools: moodstream, moodboard, or a simple PowerPoint slide will work).

Many people will get stuck here and skip this step. I encourage you to put some quality time and effort into this exercise. It pays off. Here are some outstanding mood boards that were used as inspiration for logo design.

3) Find your message: Putting this all together

With your words finalized and mood board in progress, the next step is to create a mission statement. Your mission statement is the way you express your purpose (professional or otherwise) to others. What do you stand for? Whom do you help? What is the change you would like to see in the world? How do you make a difference every day? All of these questions can help you hone in on the perfect statement for you.

A graphic designer’s statement may read something like, “I create beauty and harmony for my clients.”  A human resources professional may say, “I connect people in order to create a more helpful and friendlier world.” A lawyer, “I let my clients be seen and heard.”

Mission statements focus your energy and your action. They breathe life into your work and give you a goal and purpose in life.  Once you craft your mission statement, you immediately begin to live it and people take notice. Your brand becomes unstoppable with the momentum of your mission.

You are on your way to creating a personal brand that expresses who you are as a professional and will get you great results. In Part II of this post, I will show you how to craft an elevator pitch that will quickly pique interest from your target market, go over the essential elements of your website, and show you some tricks of managing your personal brand on social media platforms.


Julia is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach, and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com,  www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian,  https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian(@JuliaHolian) and  www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian

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