What’s the impression that others have after an interaction with you? That’s personal branding. Think of it as your own personal calling card, your trademark. In an ever-evolving workplace where competition is fierce, it’s why people will want to work with you, hire you, hear your ideas, support you. So before the ball drops and the champagne pops for the new year, try these seven expert-approved tips for branding yourself in 2016.
[Related: 3 No-Fail Ways To Build Your Personal Brand]
Now is the time to sit down and figure out what exactly it is you want to achieve over the next 12-plus months. Get clear about your goals, and about what you want for your business, your brand, and your own personal success. Write these intentions down. You don’t need to know exactly how you’re going to get there, just that you want to. Whether it’s an intention to score a promotion, get a batch of new clients, or launch a side business, clarity is key. When big decisions come up, or you get overwhelmed, the intentions you have for your brand are what will keep you on track.
Building a brand, especially one that truly resonates with people, is all about the story you tell. Who you are in the world, and who you want to be. That message needs to be clear and consistent. But most of all, authentic. It needs to be your own unique brand of whatever it is you are about. Maybe you are ridiculously stylish, or fantastically funny, or maybe your invention is going to change the world. Whatever it is, own that story. Talk about it with reverence, passion, and love. That enthusiasm, that uniqueness—that is what differentiates you, and it’s what people are going to notice.
The old adage about it’s not what you know, but who you know . . . it’s a total cliché, yes, but it’s also true. Relationships matter and brand building, personal or otherwise, is all about the connections you forge: strong, meaningful, heartfelt connections. Great business relationships are built on mutual respect and authenticity, but also by being gracious and generous with your time, resources, knowledge, and connections. Helping others get where they want to go is the most surefire way to have people help you in return. No one has ever done it alone.
To be the person who makes someone else’s job easier because you are buttoned up, responsive, and “on it”—there is no better way to garner respect and drive home your worth. Adding value to the work others do means adding value to your own brand. Every email you respond to, every call you take, do it with pride and do it well.
So much of brand building today is done via social media. It’s such a powerful tool, but you need to know how to use it, and use it wisely. Everything you post should reflect who you are, and the ethos of your own personal brand. Play to your strengths and take time to curate your online presence. You can’t be all things to everyone, but when it comes to an Instagram post or Twitter (anything on social media!) ask yourself first: Is this what I want to be saying? Is this post telling my story in the right way? Think of it as an opportunity to show the best version of yourself.
Go to networking events, get involved in organizations related to your industry, talk on panels. Mentor young, upcoming talent, and write articles for your favorite sites. You want to become a go-to person in your field—be it for a quote about holiday decor, or why an ad campaign is successful, or how to market yourself online. Whatever it is, empower others and establish your brand by sharing what you know.
You really do become who you spend time with, whether personally or professionally. So surround yourself at all times with people who inspire you, with people who are out there doing their thing in the best possible way. If you’re around powerful people who are pursuing their dreams, chances are you’ll want to do the same. As you grow up together and build successful careers, these are also the people you’ll likely end up working with, and forming partnerships with.
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.