How to Develop Your Personal Brand

first-5-icon-07“So, tell me about yourself.”

It should be the easiest question in any job interview. But surprisingly, many of us completely fumble our answers. Maybe it’s because we’re young and just starting out in our professional journeys, so there isn’t much to tell yet. Or maybe it’s because we really don’t know how we define ourselves. Regardless of the reason, I’ve heard from many professional veterans that mastering your personal brand is critical to moving up in the job world.

Why should you build your personal brand?
First, it’s important because it represents your promise of value to your next employer and sets you apart from the rest. You want your future employers to associate your personal brand with something they need on their team. Creating a vision for your future and being able to succinctly relay that vision can lead to a better job, better contacts for your agency, and recognition in the public service realm.

So how do you build your brand?
You might think it’s as easy as mastering that 30-second “elevator speech.” Actually, there’s a lot more thought and preparation that should go into brainstorming, defining, and mastering how you deliver your personal brand.

The Personal Branding for Dummies Cheat Sheet advises that you first spend time figuring out who you are and what you want from your life. This self-analysis can often be the hardest part but it’s critical to helping you define your values, which will take you a long way in the public service realm. When doing this introspective work, it’s important to consider your:

  • Values: What are your core principles that give meaning to your life? This is a set of standards that determine your attitudes, choices, and actions.
  • Interests and Passions: Identify what motivates you and how you want to spend your time. Maybe your passion lies in causes like combatting poverty or human trafficking.
  • Vision: How do you see yourself making the world a better place? If you’re at entry level, think about where you want to be in the next 5-10 years in terms of career and issues you want to focus on.
  • Strengths: Look at certain abilities that you’ve mastered and identify what you’re really good at. Are you a strong communicator? Writer? Manager? You’ll want to incorporate these into how you plan to achieve your mission and vision.
  • Freak Factor: Think about a unique quality that makes you different and unusual. Maybe problem-solving comes naturally to you or maybe you have a sense of humor that engages people easily and helps you to unify teams. Your freak factor is especially important because it sets you apart from others and leaves that lasting impression on potential employers. But don’t mistake freak factor as including a crazy fun fact like, “I make the best casserole you’ll ever taste and that’s why I get along with everybody.” You want to keep it professional.

Additional questions that are important to consider are:

  • What differentiates you from your competition for your next job? What do you have to offer that no one else does? Your answers may be similar to what you identified as your “freak factor.” But this could also be about skills you apply particularly well compared to others.
  • Who is your target audience? One of the biggest mistakes you can make in personal branding is trying to appeal to everyone. Remember, you have a unique vision, set of strengths, and values that set you apart. That means, however, you have to be targeted in how you sell yourself and to whom you sell yourself.

For example, someone who is passionate about counterterrorism should focus on audiences that deal with those issues rather than trying to appeal to those at an agency like the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Once you consider these factors and answers to your questions, you’ll want to succinctly relay them in 2-5 sentences. Make sure you highlight what’s most important, and don’t dwell on unnecessary details. Once you’ve written down what you feel like is a good start to a personal brand statement, show it to supervisors or mentors to get their opinions. Then, once you really feel comfortable with it, start practicing how you deliver your personal brand.

What does your brand look like?
The self-analysis and compilation of a personal brand statement can be a lot of hard work. If you’re still stuck, here’s an example of what a personal brand statement should look like:

A focused and determined leader, I offer the innovative stamina and wisdom to drive bottom line growth, inspire employees to peak performance, and cultivate profitable organizational relationships based on respect, loyalty, and trust. My easy-going sense of humor has been a defining management strategy to bring out the best in everyone, instill pride, and mobilize them to make their agency better in serving the public.”

They can also look something like:

“Through my natural enthusiasm and empathy for others, I work to develop research on relevant socioeconomic issues affecting those in the lowest income categories. My mission in life is to serve the public by bringing awareness and resources to the poorest families in the country.”

“As an HR professional, I help individuals and companies make the most of talent. I work as part of the team. I am a straight shooter who isn’t afraid to have tough conversations. I also believe that people are more capable and valuable than they often give/get credit for. My method marries the sublime with the systematic, allowing for creativity and change with a strong focus on foundation and implementation.”

Whether you’re delivering your personal brand statement at a job interview or at a networking event, you want to leave a lasting impression and make sure that person remembers you even after you walk away. Take the time now to think about who you are and where you want to go in life, and you’ll be more likely to advance in your professional journey. So when someone asks you that tricky question, “Tell me about yourself,” you’ll be ready.


For more tips on creating your personal brand, check out these GovLoop resources.

For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial

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