Have you heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, but who knows you, that makes the difference”?
Your personal brand is the reputation you have earned, and the way people feel about you – positive or negative. How others perceive you directly correlates to their desire to promote, endorse, advance, or refer you to key opportunities.
As you transition from a military to civilian career, it is important to understand what your brand is and how to manage it throughout your career. Strong and effective personal brands are defined, intentional and genuine, and they help individuals influence and impact others around them.
What is a personal brand?
Everyone has a personal brand - it is your reputation and how others assign you value and relevance. Your personal brand answers: Do people around you feel you are someone who can be trusted with confidential information? Do the people you work with know what is important to you?
Your personal brand already exists in the minds of colleagues, friends and people with whom you served. Your behavior, words, and actions over time earned you a reputation – good or bad. For some of you, your reputation is not how you want to be seen, and you might find yourself limited in personal and professional growth.
Business professionals live in the world of differentiation, value propositions and competitive advantage. At all levels of the civilian work environment, individuals are embracing the power of personal branding to intentionally build a reputation for themselves that attracts opportunities to them.
Your personal brand
Personal branding begins by understanding what you are passionate about, what you value, and how you are living an authentic life. Uncovering your values is tricky: Your values will likely be intertwined with military values through your years of military service.
However, as you think about your values, consider: What do you fundamentally believe in? What is so core to who you are as an individual that you wouldn’t be you if that value wasn’t present? Examples of values include honesty, gratitude, service, integrity, respect, and so on. The personal branding process starts with you and your values. Next, explore your passions by looking at what you’ve committed time and effort towards: What led you to a military career? What passions did you bring forward in your service that are relevant as you transition to a civilian career? What makes you unique in the minds of your colleagues?
Understanding your audience
Then, you need to understand your target audience and their needs. In personal branding the goal is to be relevant and compelling to a specific target audience: Those potential employers, clients and customers who will find you relevant and compelling. Your goal is to understand everything they need, desire and fear. The more you can understand your target audience, the better you can position yourself to meet their needs.
Creating a powerful reputation
The key to personal branding and reputation management is consistency. No one is perfect, but over time the impression you form in the minds of your target audience creates a perception of your value. Instead of trying to please everyone or acting like someone you’re not, focus on the highest value you have to offer and target a specific audience with the lowest resistance to your offer.
Taking back control
You can begin to develop your personal brand right now. In every action you take -- from posting online, to preparing your resume, participating at a networking event, or dressing for a presentation -- consider how others could perceive you. What impression do you want others to have of you? Act consistently with the impression you seek to make, and the value you want to contribute.
Also, consider the words you choose to describe yourself and the people you associate with. These also create a perception of who you are and what you value. You can manage how you want to be perceived and the reputation you want in the world, by intentionally creating a path in that direction. Remain authentic and focused and you will attract ideal opportunities.