4 steps to finding a personal brand

Taking time to reflect on your personal brand can help focus your career goals.
Personal brand

If you haven’t given much thought to your personal brand, it’s time to start.

That’s the advice of Dima Ghawi, a leadership speaker and executive who transformed her own career by going through the personal branding process. Ghawi spoke about her insights at the 2018 AICPA CFO Conference in New York.

After working for years in supply chain management roles and obtaining a master’s degree related to it, she thought her career would be spent doing that type of work.

She just happened to be miserable in her high-profile job managing global teams of engineers.  

That was until she hired a career coach, thinking that a job change may help her, and realised, through the brand-development process, the kind of jobs that were aligned with her passion.

She began to focus on building up her skills by volunteering to mentor others and eventually was offered a job doing career coaching before she launched her own firm.

“It all started by really discovering who I am,” she said.

Taking time to reflect on your personal brand can help focus your career goals. Here’s some advice on how to develop a personal brand.

Define your brand. The first step is recognising your strengths and weaknesses. Ghawi works with clients using personality assessments, something that few take the time to do in a professional setting.

“Most people don’t stop and reflect on who they are,” she said.

It also helps to reach out to those you trust and ask what they think of you in terms of strengths and weaknesses, said Merge Gupta-Sunderji, a Vancouver-based executive coach who works with companies to help develop their high-potential talent.

This 360-degree type of assessment helps individuals see what sets them apart from others and turn those unique assets into a brand.

But developing a brand doesn’t mean selling yourself as the type of professional you’d like to be. Make sure your brand is rooted in authenticity.

“This isn’t something you’re going to manufacture,” Gupta-Sunderji said. “You have to think about getting real.”

She recalled a client who was known for his bluntness but wanted to be seen as an empathetic leader. She worked with him to help him realise that empathy wasn’t his strong suit, but being a person who was straightforward and unafraid to address delicate topics was a strength that could be translated to a personal brand.

Promote your brand. After going through the process of discovering your brand and identifying what sets you apart, it’s time to make sure that knowledge doesn’t remain hidden.

There are several ways to build your brand, from retooling your résumé or CV to using social media. Ghawi encourages her clients to seek out their own opportunities, from speaking at industry conferences to blogging about the subject in which they are experts. That shows the outside world what you’re professionally known for and will help your image at existing and future jobs.

If you’re seeking more visibility at your company, volunteer for company-wide efforts, like leading a volunteer campaign or similar effort, Gupta-Sunderji said. The skills and abilities you’ve identified as part of your personal brand will have a chance to shine in a new way.

Weigh career options. After hammering out a personal brand and its accompanying goals, it becomes much easier to weigh career options, Gupta-Sunderji said.

“Once you’ve crystallized [your brand], then you evaluate everything you do with that filter. ‘Will this add to my brand or detract from it?’ It actually really simplifies decision-making,” she said.

If you’ve decided you want to work towards executive roles, don’t consider job offers that wouldn’t give you the exposure needed to build those skillsets. Or if you want to be known for your expertise in an emerging area of your field, don’t spend your efforts highlighting previous, but unrelated, work.

Highlight your skills. Success comes when your value is recognised by employers and those around you. But many people are worried that highlighting their skills and successes will come off as bragging, Ghawi said.

Those fears need to be set aside, and those hoping to progress in their career need to be able to comfortably talk about the expertise, skills, and talents they’ve identified in their personal branding.

“We’re living in a world where if we don’t demonstrate our value, no one else will,” she said.

Go ahead and talk about your workplace successes, she said, and include them in your LinkedIn profile.

Ghawi wishes that there was a focus at the university level on how to develop personal brands and identify what students love doing and what doesn’t fit their goals.

“They would have saved people decades of being miserable at jobs,” she said.

— Sarah Ovaska-Few is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Sabine Vollmer, an FM magazine senior editor, at Sabine.Vollmer@aicpa-cima.com.