How to make your professional brand stand out

Copy of Lessons from my Resistance.jpg

So many times when I go to networking events, I meet young talented professionals who have a resume of achievements and when I asked them about who they are- they give a lackluster response. Why do many of us feel proud of our accomplishments yet shy away from talking about what makes your brand unique? Yes, I said it- your brand.

Not to put a superficial title on it, but we all have a personal brand that combines our unique gifts with where we want to take our careers (whether in a small business or working in a particular industry). Knowing what your brand is and learning how to communicate that to an audience can help you stand out from the crowd and connect faster with opportunities and connections that you’re looking for. One of my clients described her challenge with branding as knowing where to start- she wanted to reframe and create a new brand to help her with her approach for finding a new job. At first, she described it as superficial, but as she learned more during our session, she began to see that it’s really being about your truth, and learning more about who you really are.

Why does branding matter?

Have you ever been to a networking event and the person you are talking with starts to drift off from your conversation? Maybe they look around the room (as if looking for their long lost friend), and it seems difficult to hold their attention - you aren’t imagining things, it’s their attention span. In a city like Washington D.C. (or another metropolitan area) people are constantly distracted even when they are in a conversation- their phone is buzzing with alerts, the room is loud, other people are walking around, t.v.’s are on, and there’s a lot of items on the to-do list! In order to engage someone quickly and effectively, using a branding statement can help you stay on that person’s mind long after your conversation ends. Branding in and of itself is catchy and interesting, so it’s about taking your achievements and ambitions and packaging that into a bite size sentence or two that can help you communicate with ease.

What is a personal brand?

Everyone has a brand - it’s what makes up our professional career and our unique talents. What we don’t do is clarify this brand and use it to our advantage. Many people get the impression that a brand is something superficial, or reserved for people in the media/communications industry. This simply isn’t the truth- anyone in any industry can craft a brand that clarifies their message and invites people to learn more about you and stay connected with you.

The clearer your brand, the more connections you gain.

What kind of brands are there?

Small, big, short, long, brand can encompass any length or scope of resume and interest area of just about anyone! The limits that you create for your particular industry/sector or interest area can be broken down into the following:

You either have a Tesla or a Yaris brand.

What in the world do I mean by that? It means that across every type of job, interest area, level of experience, knowledge, it all boils down to being flavored or plain. Every person has the ability to create an engaging branding statement that shows off their unique abilities and their personality. The reason I use this reference is simple: Tesla and Yaris are two completely legitimate cars that serve basically the same principle- they help you get from point A to point B. The similarities, however, stop there.

From a branding perspective, Tesla stands aside as a specific niche car for certain types of customers. The brand itself relies on its niche market- it is successful because it is only marketed and branded towards specific individuals. Their target audience is defined narrowly, and no matter who they are talking to- you know how Tesla is marketed and branded, regardless of whether or not you actually want to purchase the car.

That’s the advantage of the flavored brand- it doesn’t care if the intended audience is always reached, it intends that when someone who IS their target audience hears it- they will know how, when, and where to buy the car.

On the other end, your brand can also be plain, or a Yaris (no judgment to the Yaris!) it is a car that’s marketed and branded as an everyday car with a very little monetary entry point that almost anyone can buy. Without the special flair and niche branding, those who buy the Yaris are buying it simply for the convenience and the price. There aren’t long lines of people looking to reserve a car before it comes out- they are widely available, online and in stores. The plain branding of the car makes it attractive for those who prioritize the key attributes that the Yaris has- but it isn’t sold as exclusive.

What makes your brand flavored, similar to the Tesla, is to not shy away from describing who you really are- and what you do. Whether it’s moving into a new interesting career, or boosting your brand to be more exciting, look at Tesla as an example of how to market yourself at events. Exclusivity, confidence, and passion are the key traits of a flavored brand.

So how do I bring your brand to a networking event?

The next time you are out networking, remember your unique Tesla brand:

  1. Don’t be afraid to use exciting words when you talk about yourself

  2. Be sure to include both a professional reference as well as a personal one

  3. Less is more- leave room when you are talking for the other person to ask you questions, get them involved in the conversation

  4. Practice your branding statement- write out what’s unique and interesting about you and say it over and over and over and over again. And then again :)

  5. Don’t shy away from your unique traits and personality quirks- these are relatable, interesting, and help connect you to like-minded authentic people- focus on the quality of your connections rather than the quantity

The next time you are out and about, pay attention to those networkers who are rocking the room, listen to what they say, how they engage, and especially listen for their brand. Those who are building successful networks will have an engaging and unique branding statements. Continue to build on yours using your own truth and share it with me on social media and look for upcoming workshops where I talk about all things career branding and networking using @berryccdc.

To your branding success!