“Who are you, really, and why should I care?” is actually the true meaning behind that good old interview question and conversation starter that is “Tell me about yourself.”
It’s the question I hope this article will help you answer like a pro (because let’s face it — we’ve all gotten stumped on it a few times). And, if you’re looking to develop your personal brand, it’s a question that you’ll eventually have to answer in diverse ways.
I recently left a successful career in digital marketing communications to become a freelance consultant. And, it led me to an interesting discovery. That when I described myself, 20% of it was about me, and the rest of it was about the brands I was a part of. So, imagine my predicament when I began to introduce myself, and now it was about me 100%.
I had become (dun dun duun) my own brand. I realised that a) I should have thought of this subject a lot sooner (duh). And b) that personal branding is something that we could all focus on regardless of whether we’re a part of a brand, or out to forge our own.
In the beginning….
So where to start? As first research steps in creating my personal brand, I searched far and wide (on Google mainly *cough*). A couple of resources worked, kind of. But the majority of articles talked about personal brand colours, how to go about speaking engagements, or straight up gave me examples of how to be the next Tony Robbins.
And they’re (mostly) legitimate and valuable ideas, but what comes before that?
Start with the foundations.
Building a personal brand is a sum of many parts involving target audiences, brand colours, networks and more. They’re important, yes absolutely, but not quite yet, because building a personal brand begins with getting to know you first.
I looked at some of the great personal brand storytellers and noticed they have these three things in common.
- They have a set of values that permeated into their decisions and work.
- They are purpose driven.
- They have a personal story enriched with their values and purpose.
Discover your values, purpose and story.
Organisations often use techniques and processes to create their brand identity. Using this knowledge and combining it with innovation tools picked up over my career, I carried out three activities to help me discover my own values, purpose and story.
I shared these activities in a new workshop format named ‘How Might We…’ with a small community of people at SheSays MCR who wanted to take steps in creating their own personal brand.
Step 1: Identify your values.
Values can be interpreted as a set of beliefs that guide you through decisions, impact your behaviour and actions.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Your values are your own, so feel free to draw inspiration from others, but this boils down to you. Yep, that means no peer pressure of values allowed here. All values are good, I mean hey, one of my values is rest. It means that no matter how busy I get with projects, travel and workshops. Or how busy my mind gets. I must make time for rest, reflection and reset (usually done through running which is the opposite of rest but hey, I’m getting there.…)
Some other values are creativity (always take the unconventional route), empathy (guiding me to understand and empathise with others) and overcoming fear (going outside of my comfort zone).
What are some of your values?
Step 2: Discover your purpose.
“You know once in a while you do something and the little voice inside says, “There. That’s it. That’s why you’re here.”
…and you get a warm glow in your heart because you know it’s true?
Do more of that.” — Jacob Nordby.
When was the last time you felt a sense of achievement? In fact, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Understanding this is a way for us to strip bare to the core of what drives us. Building communities is part of mine, as is learning and storytelling. Which also brings me to….
Step 3: Build your personal story.
“Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear” — Dave Isay
Most of us connect to people with memorable personal stories because we aspire to be like them. Or, we relate to them. And everyone has a personal story, never think you’re not interesting enough, you just have to know how to uncover it.
Think of three things that shaped your life, how can you connect these to become part of your story? At my workshop, a room of twenty individuals went through this exercise and we uncovered stories of that would make us stand apart when we next answered: “Tell me about yourself.”
Once you have a better understanding of your values and purpose, they will guide you as you develop your brand.
You can focus on storytelling them through your words and actions. From the projects you choose to support, the articles you write, communities you interact with. It all starts with unlocking the genuine you first, and then you’re ready to start building your personal brand.