The two most important 21st century skills one can develop are cultural competency and personal branding and that is because of the world we live in today. I have talked a lot about cultural competency in previous posts like the ones about MLK, Diversity & Inclusion, Mandela and on the As Told By Nomads Podcast.
So today, I want to focus more on the other important skill to have in the 21st century: personal branding. Why is your personal brand so important today? It is important because globalization and social media have made the world smaller by providing more options for visibility. With all these options for visibility, competition rises and so if you don't know how to stand out, you WILL get left behind. This goes for whether you want to advance in your career, be a better leader or start a movement.
Having a strong personal brand is your calling card to use your DIFFERENCE to make a DIFFERENCE.
So what are some things you can do in order to build a strong personal brand?
When I say be aware, I am referring to two types of awareness: situational awareness and self awareness. These two forms of awarenesses are two sides of the same coin. With situational awareness, you are taking in the external environment in your field and with self awareness, you understand the role that you can play in the environment and how to leverage your strengths to stand out.
I'd recommend starting with yourself first. Take inventory of what people say that you're good at. What are you known for? What are your nicknames? Why do people call you what they call you. Also, ask yourself the following questions: What makes me different? Unique? Special?
If you don't know the answer to this question, ask your friends, colleagues, and family members and observe the reoccurring themes and patterns.
Another thing you can do is to take personality tests like my business partner and I recently did here. It's a great way for you to figure out how to continue to leverage your strengths.
Raise your level of awareness and it will change your life.
Discover your why
Once you've gotten a good sense of who you are, go into your purpose. What is it that you can do with your strengths to solve today's problems. It will take time and repetition to find your place and identify your uniqueness. It might even be painful and frustrating but it is well worth the effort because it will lead you to your why and how. Your why will become the foundation of everything you do and it will be personal guide to HOW you can make a difference.
Most people fall into a couple of traps that leads to a lot of frustration and a lack of fulfillment:
They don’t get started because they don’t feel clear about their niche, programs, and services.
They take fast action without putting any thought whatsoever into creating or maintaining a consistent brand image.
So make sure you have a deeper mission for why you do what you do. Do you believe that it matters? If you have a deep connection for your mission, you'll find that it drives your work. Otherwise, you're building your house on sand.
When I got started, I asked myself these questions. If you're stuck, try these:
- What are your strongest attributes? List three to five.
- What am I passionate about?
- What motivates me?
- What are my personal values?
- How would I like to see the world?
- What contribution would I like to make?
Develop a plan
I talked about the "why" leading to "how". Now, I want to dive into the how quickly. Without a plan, your brand is like a house build on sand. You need a good game plan and you need to firm up your foundation so you become attractive for others to hire you. Be firm with your vision but flexible with your strategy getting there. Understand that your vision will drive you but you will probably hit a few bumps along the way. Those bumps will provide teaching lessons for your next steps.
What is your plan of action to get your message across?
Cultivate a Community and Share Your Work
As you start to create content, make sure you invite people from your intended target audience to interact with your work. You could create Facebook groups, a YouTube channel, a newsletter, offer free ebooks or guides. Ultimately, you want to provide value and share it to the world. If it is great, then your community will share your work. See personal branding as an education opportunity not a means to show off. Invite your audience to participate. Engagement is the key to inclusion so make your audience feel included.
YOU should be your most important investment so why not devote the time to become the best version of yourself. Developing your personal brand is no longer an extracurricular activity or a means to a side gig. It's a necessary skill to have and develop. It's your key to influence, opportunities, promotions, growth so why not start now?
Till next time, use your DIFFERENCE to make A DIFFERENCE.