4 Steps to Building a Winning Personal Brand

The image you project through your words, actions and appearance can pave the way to success or set up obstacles in your path. Learn the secrets of developing a unique and compelling brand.

Good judgment and organizational skills are obvious contributors to success in your role, but just as important is the way you present yourself to your boss, colleagues and other professional contacts. Building a strong personal brand can lead to higher-profile job responsibilities and create opportunities for career advancement.

Your personal brand is, in a nutshell, the experience that others have interacting with you, says Julie Perrine, founder and CEO of All Things Admin, an online resource for administrative professionals. Your words, actions and unique traits and skills all contribute. Building and managing your brand shows a commitment to self-improvement, and it can help you earn respect.

Perrine explains how administrative professionals can develop this valuable asset.

1. Understand Your Current Brand

Ask yourself what skills, talents and personality traits set you apart from others. If you were to pose the question to your colleagues, manager and others, what would they tell you? Maybe you’re known for always being upbeat and trying to lift morale. Or, perhaps you have a reputation as being shy and hesitant to share your opinions. If you’re not sure how you’re perceived, look back on your past performance reviews or talk with a few trusted colleagues. Or, Perrine suggests, you might use a 360-degree feedback tool that lets you gather anonymous email feedback from people both within and outside of your work sphere.

“The better you understand how others perceive you, the better equipped you’ll be to build and improve your brand,” she says.

2. Decide What You Want Your Brand to Be

Once you understand how others see you, determine whether and how you want to change that perception.

“Ask yourself, ‘What do I want associated with my name when others think of me?’” Perrine says. If that includes skills or traits that aren’t part of your current brand identity, think about what needs to change. For example, if you are seen as reserved and hesitant to take on new challenges, you might make a point of volunteering for a high-profile project. If you want to be known for your budget management skills but lack experience now, seek out opportunities to grow in that area.

Building the image you want will take time, but others will notice the adjustments, Perrine says. “A new brand doesn’t happen overnight, but you may not have to wait long to start seeing results.”

3. Promote Your Brand with Care

Check the wording in your LinkedIn profile and résumé to be sure it reflects the image you want to project. For example, if you want to be known for using your problem-solving and organizational skills to keep the office running smoothly, provide examples of how you’ve done this in your current and past roles. Highlight new skills and accomplishments that support your brand identity as you attain them. Calling attention to these is important for brand-building, and it’s something that many administrative professionals don’t do enough of, Perrine says. Just be careful not to go overboard.

“You should also be sharing knowledge and resources that have helped you grow professionally,” she says. That generosity will help to enhance your image.

Be sure your photos on LinkedIn and other professionally focused websites also reinforce your brand. “I’m a big proponent of professional headshots — all professionals owe it to themselves to get one,” Perrine says. “It’s not that expensive, and you can use it everywhere online. It makes such a difference in the impression someone has of you, especially in the digital age.”

4. Protect Your Brand

Be wary of pitfalls that could tarnish your brand, such as participating in gossip or complaining. Use the same discretion if you participate in professional groups online.

“There can be a degree of familiarity in online groups that makes people feel less inhibited,” Perrine says. “As a result, people might share things that don’t reflect very well on them, such as a negative comment about how they’ve handled a situation at work. Managing your brand means thinking carefully about how those types of comments come across.”

Whatever you decide you want your brand to be, it should be authentic to you, Perrine says. “For example, don’t promote yourself as an event-planning rock star if you don’t have the experience yet,” she says. “People will see through that. If you want to become something, work on becoming it. Others will notice your progress.”