Submitted by: Stephanie Gambone, Vice President, Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN)

The New Year is here and it’s time you revamp your personal brand! Essentially, your personal brand is your reputation.  What comes to mind when you think of strong brand? Apple immediately resonates with me.  The Apple brand is clear, consistent and focused on the customer experience. Apple has been a leader in its industry and has been able to stand the test of time among its peers and competitors (even with a few hiccups over the years). How can you stand out among your colleagues and peers? Why is it even important you have a strong brand? Your brand can position you as a leader in your field or as the “go to” person in your community. Your future success depends on developing and maintaining your personal brand!

Last year I had the opportunity to work with an Executive Coach and one of the areas of focus was managing my personal brand.  I learned so much about myself during the process. Most importantly, I learned my brand needed to be consistent and my view of myself needed to match up with how others perceived me. I have also had the opportunity to facilitate personal branding sessions with my colleagues, giving them the opportunity to thin not only about their individual brand, but also their department’s brand.

Here are a few things I learned that will hopefully help you manage your personal brand in 2012:

  • Make sure your brand message is consistent across all platforms. Everything you do contributes to your personal brand. You should be consistent with the way you speak on the phone, participate in meetings or write emails. Additionally, your “online” brand needs to match your “paper” brand. For example, your LinkedIn profile should be in sync with your resume. The information, description, and details should all align regardless of the platform. If you have more than one message, you run the risk of confusing people about what you represent.
  • Identify the image you intend to project. Many young professionals do not realize they project more than one image to their co-workers, friends and family. For example, if you want to be known as intelligent and passionate, are you projecting the same image in your personal and professional life? Decide how you want to be perceived and then incorporate that image into all aspects of your life.
  • Always dress for success. Create your personal style by selecting a wardrobe that best represents you and the image you want to project. For example, dress for the job you want, not the one you have. You do not want to miss an opportunity for a promotion or a new job.
  • Make your hobbies a visible part of your brand. Your hobbies are a great way to give your personal brand some life and help stand out from the crowd. For example, incorporate these passions into your social media presence. It will make you seem more genuine and more interesting, and it will give you a chance to bond with colleagues, clients or partners who have similar interests. Please be mindful of what image your hobbies project and make sure they align with how you want to be viewed.
  • Be authentic. Be honest about who you are. Most people can see through someone who is not being genuine.  Stay true to yourself. Do not try to be someone you are not.
  • Learn from others with solid brands Identify what makes you distinctive from the competition. What have you done recently to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest strength? The success of your brand depends on your visibility and consistency.  Also, it is important to learn from mistakes or misrepresentations of your brand.  For example, many well-known companies have experienced setbacks and the key to success to learn from those setbacks and use them as an opportunity to re-brand yourself.
  • Seek feedback and evaluate your brand. It’s critical to keep checking the value of your brand. This can be done by formal methods such as a 360 feedback assessment or informally by asking people around you for honest and constructive feedback. For example, my coach had me ask colleagues, family and friends a few questions: (1) If I were a car, what would I be? And why? (2) If I were a cereal, what would I be? And why? I was amazed by how much I learned about how people perceive me by asking these simple (and fun) questions. In addition, regularly ask yourself what’s your personal definition of success? As a young professional, you may not be aware of the image you are projecting and it is hard to figure out unless you ask. Once you have a better understanding of how you are perceived, you can develop a strong brand.

Be sure to also incorporate your personality into the brand you are seeking to build.  In other words, be yourself!  Not only does branding become more fun when you are being true to yourself, but your audience will be able to sense your brand is genuine and will pay more attention. Finally, your brand is only as strong as the time you put into developing it. I am not claiming to be an expert, but I have seen results by incorporating these strategies into my professional and personal life.  Personal branding is critical to your success –what will you do differently in 2012?

Stephanie Gambone, a Vice President at the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) is a true Philadelphian.  She has and continues to establish herself both as a leading business professional as well as a committed civic volunteer.  Gambone has deep roots in Philadelphia, including working at PYN for over 12 years.

The Philadelphia Youth Network’s vision is that all of our city’s young people take their rightful places as full and contributing members of a world-class workforce for the region. For more information, visit www.pyninc.org.

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