The CEO Of You: The Why And How Of Personal Branding

by Mohamed Amine Belarbi

Everyone you meet around the corner thinks he or she is a one of a kind, a unique being with an exceptional story. Every job seeker shouts that he or she is an industry leader, the right man for the spot and someone with the single most valuable asset that can take the company to the next level.

Well, in a world where seven billion people go around trying to make a name for themselves, and in an online society with millions of interactions and connections shaping everything from the employment market to the dating world, it is virtually impossible to come along and claim that you can stand out, make your voice heard and get the attention of the right people.

This is where personal branding comes in handy because in the company of YOU, there is plenty of marketing that can be enacted in order to turn the once unknown guy into a household reference and center of attention!

Know your qualities and you’ll know how to upgrade yourself

Generation-Y is sure as hell about what they want to be, what they want to have, where they want to get and sometimes how, but what people tend to forget is that if they don’t know who they are first, then the rest can’t flow seamlessly.

Self-evaluation is like detailing an assessment plan for a company before reshaping it. You should have a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses, your skills and what you are known for, your personality and how it strikes others. You also need to understand that being honest with yourself and objectively facing your flaws is imperative, so man up and get down to it, even if it brings you face to face with your negative traits that you’ve always pretended don't exist!

Why knowing yourself? Because personal branding, unlike corporate marketing, needs to be based on true assets and qualifications. If corporate marketing is about fabrication to manipulate the client base, personal branding is about marketing what you really have, so a good way to start is by establishing what your entourage thinks of you and what you think of yourself.

Maybe in the past people could be mathematicians, scientists, architects, philosophers and priests at the same time, but today, you have to focus on one thing and work on enhancing it.

If you are good at coding, for example, put all your energy into this field. You are a bullsh*tter, sharpen it up so that it gets you what you want. You are a geek, don’t be ashamed of it. Harness your natural talents to set you apart in your chosen work sector!

Work smart, not hard!

You understand what your strengths are and your friends have expressed your strengths -- Now starts the important part of personal branding. This entails focusing on how to improve your skills and in what direction you want to take your future. You might be a good speaker, but if you’re planning on becoming an entrepreneur, don’t use your tongue to come up as a pimp, sweet-talking ladies all around!

Use your speaking abilities at getting yourself into entrepreneurial settings, like dinners and get-togethers, or by learning how to give convincing talks and presentations to investors and venture capitalists. Skills can be applicable to various fields, but always narrow down your interest to a single sector and shape your qualifications to match it.

It's all about getting the word around that you are the best at what you’re doing, so that when people think about the key terms “entrepreneur,” “artist,” or “marketer,” the first name to pop in someone's mind is yours!

Social media you say?

This is not news, everyone understands and speaks all the time about the importance of social media, so I cannot stress enough the fact that you should use various outlets extensively to promote your image. Be sure to share content that links back to the industry you want to be associated with, but don’t make the mistake of turning into a zombie whose job is to share every article he finds about entrepreneurship or technology.

Try to be at the source of content, not at its end! If you like to be remembered as a reference in your industry, write about it. Start a blog, launch Facebook groups or pages, and make videos. You will be able to establish a brand for yourself if, by just looking at your Facebook page or reading your blog, someone can easily say, “Damn this guy knows his sh*t!”.

On another note, don’t use social media exclusively as a springboard, but also as a tool to track your brand image and the industry change. Like pages that fit in your interest on Facebook and you will always be updated on what’s the latest going on. Why? It is all about the famous quote “Adapt. React. Re-Adapt. Act” by Michael Scott.

If you can’t understand the latest developments, along with the new needs and gaps in your industry of interest, you’ll be left in the dust because you couldn’t keep up with the quickly developing world we live in. An example would be: if you’re into finance and you want everyone to know you as the "Wall Street guy," then checking CNN Money, CNBC, Forbes and the like, knowing and talking about the updates would surely position you as the guy to go to if I want to talk stocks, bonds and NASDAQ!

The brand is there, how about its management?

What hurts your personal brand the most? Ask Britney Spears how hard her coke scandals hit her image! The moral is not that using coke is an unwise choice when wanting to establish a good brand (not in this context), but that once you have the image out there, keeping it clean becomes your job. That goes for your social presence as well as your offline interactions.

Sounding like a dumbass on Facebook and then attending a startup's dinner is not the best approach to take because everyone will have a prejudice against you! Align your life with your brand's message. Whether we are talking about getting pictures on Facebook, tweeting, hanging out with certain people, speaking a certain way or dressing in a certain manner, you have to continually assess how your actions impact your image and brand.

At the end, it’s all worth it because once you are seen and known the way you want, you become a reference that stands out immediately and, surprise, great stuff starts coming your way! People coming to you asking for advice, for help or for someone to join their latest project and be part of it, this is plainly and simply success and opportunities running after you, rather than having it the other way around!