Personal branding is often touted as a critical career tool, especially for tech and engineering professionals. But, while the concept of personal branding has been around for decades, many of us leave the work of building a brand to the likes of politicians, celebrities, and social media influencers. Instead, to leverage our careers, we rely on traditional job search tools, like job boards, resumes, and networking.
What many don’t realize is that not only does our personal brand impact our careers, but that brand exists whether we control it or not. Everything we share online – emails, tweets, posts, blogs, our LinkedIn profiles – shapes the image that we project and the way that people perceive us, e.g,, our brand. We can let that brand develop organically through our actions or we can take control of it, actively building it to showcase our strengths and expertise.
A strong, well-developed personal brand can help in an active job search and can draw attention to you as a passive candidate. It can also attract like-minded associates and mentors into your network. This is particularly helpful in engineering, where it can be difficult to change jobs.
Defining Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand already exists and is apparent in your image and the way you project yourself to the world. It’s a combination of your internal beliefs and values, your skills, your experiences, and your personality. But you can actively build that brand, and it’s important to do so, to showcase certain strengths and ultimately shape how you’re perceived by others in your industry.
Think of your personal brand as a mission statement. Consider your strengths and what makes you unique. You can always ask your friends, peers, and coworkers for help with this. Consider questions like:
- What do others rely on your expertise for?
- What do you bring to the table that no one else does?
- Which projects that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?
- What are your values and how do you incorporate them into your work?
- What are you most passionate about?
- What do you most want to accomplish at work and in your life in general?
Once you’ve identified your values, strengths, and goals, think about which ones you want to showcase and how you want to use them to shape people’s perceptions of you. For instance, you may want to be known as the innovator or the master problem-solver on a team. Or, you may want to be known as an expert in your field. It’s important that the things you include in your brand be real and demonstrable.
Distill these key facets of your work persona into a mission statement and write it down. This is your brand identity and having it clearly defined will help leverage your career. As a terrific piece at LinkedIn explains, “it will help you stand out amongst other engineers during interviews or promotions. Your skills, strengths, and perspective give you a unique value that no other person can offer. Developing your personal brand will highlight your individuality and allow you to capitalize on your strengths.”
Building Your Personal Brand
Once you’ve defined your personal brand, it’s time to start actively building it and finding ways to share it with the world. In most cases, this comes down to creating content that reflects your brand. While much of that content will be shared online (including posts in relevant online groups, blogs, and your LinkedIn profile), it might also include speaking at conferences or other industry events. The key is to provide quality content on a consistent basis.
Shape Your Online Presence
You likely already have accounts on various online platforms where your brand is being shown organically. It’s time to take control of your content on those platforms so that it reflects the personal brand that you want to be known for.
For example, optimize your LinkedIn profile and make sure that it showcases the key aspects of your brand that you want to be known for. It’s important to flesh out your profile with information and examples that corroborate your brand identity. If you want to be known as an innovator, use your summary and/or experience sections to provide information about projects where you’ve clearly demonstrated innovation. If you want to be known as an expert in your field, list relevant publications that you’ve contributed to, industry events that you’ve participated in, professional development opportunities that you’ve pursued, and certifications that you’ve earned.
Be active on LinkedIn, creating posts and engaging with those who respond through liking, commenting, and sharing their own content. Write long-form LinkedIn articles that showcase the particular expertise and strengths that you want to be known for.
Other social media platforms can be helpful for building and establishing your brand as well. Make sure that anything you post personally aligns with the brand image that you want to convey. Join and actively participate in relevant professional groups on Facebook. Use X to tweet and retweet content that aligns with your brand.
Blogging and/or a professional website are also a terrific way to establish your brand online. Blogs and professional websites not only provide a place to share and establish your brand, but also a way to share your portfolio, demonstrate your progress (in your career and in your field), and hone soft skills that can boost your career opportunities, including your writing skills and your ability to effectively communicate complex topics.
Look For In-Person Opportunities To Share Your Brand
While the concept of personal branding is largely linked to your online presence, in-person events provide opportunities to further establish your brand and to enhance your network. Look for conferences, industry events, and events held by professional organizations that you belong to, as well as those held by your alumni association.
While the networking aspects of these types of events provide a terrific way to share your brand, demonstrating your expertise through presentations, talks, or panel discussions not only showcases your brand but allows you to develop more soft skills that can contribute to your career growth, including leadership, public speaking skills, and the ability to foster engagement.
Networking in-person and online is one of the most effective ways to share your brand and make connections with like-minded professionals who can help further your career. Even if you aren’t actively seeking work, your network can alert you to unadvertised opportunities that just might be what you’ve always dreamed about.
While you can (and should!) network online, in-person networking at industry events, expos, conferences, and events hosted by professional associations can provoke more spontaneous and meaningful conversations and connections.
Networking advice often centers around joining relevant events and groups. But it’s important to remember that you can create and host events yourself. Coffee meetups, dinners, and other in-person social events, as well as scheduled Zoom or other online chats, are great ways to bring new people into your network and to
deepen your relationships with those who you are already connected with.
Keep in mind also that networking holds mutual value. Just as your connections can help you on your career journey, so can you offer services, knowledge, and assistance to others in your network.
Consistency is key when it comes to building and establishing a personal brand. Your online and offline personas should align seamlessly, as should your personal and public personas. Your messaging should be consistent over time as well. You can’t build trust if your brand is publicly pitching ideals that are at odds with things you say privately or if your values seem to shift inexplicably from day to day.
Personal branding can be incredibly beneficial in furthering your career, especially in highly competitive fields like tech and engineering. A personal brand isn’t just a logo or a tagline; it’s a story that showcases your unique expertise and skills, builds credibility and trust, attracts the right opportunities, and ultimately propels you to success in your career journey.