A personal brand is more than just a buzzword for marketing professionals. It is a cumulative image of what defines you as a person and a professional. That includes what skills you have developed in the workplace as well as your own personal background and story. Personal brands can help guide govies in their current positions as they explore new tasks and skills. They can also help govies as they network and look for new positions or employers.
Ginny Hill, Manager for the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Government Leadership, and Bernetta Reese, Digital Manager at the US Department of Agriculture, both have extensive experience helping professionals define their own personal brands to make the most of their careers. They were able to share a few key tips for during, “How to Define and Build Your Personal Brand,” a recent training in GovLoop’s Next Generation of Government Summit series.
For Hill, “The first step in building a personal brand is doing some soul searching to answer those key questions: Who am I, and what do I want to be known for?” One way to evaluate your likes and dislikes to think about what tasks you excel in at work, what topics really interest you and what you like to do in your free time.
Also, volunteering for new projects and assignments can help expose you to new skills to add to your personal brand while impressing your bosses with your initiative and commitment to the agency mission. Reese added that govies should also use their network of coworkers and bosses to understand their own strengths and weaknesses and practice articulating their brand.
Once you have determined what skills and positions you would like to explore, Hill stressed, “You have to work hard to develop your brand. It’s always a work in progress, and it doesn’t hinge on one or two jobs or skills.” Personal brands involve maximizing positive, transferrable qualities in every position such being known as a hard worker or a good public speaker and minimizing negative qualities such as complaining or unreliability.
According to Reese, being a good public speaker and communicator can be crucial to developing a personal brand because it allows you to effectively tell your story to new employers and peers when you network. She stressed, “Engage with people. They wont know you unless you engage with them. We all have a voice and a story to tell.”
In the 21st century, leveraging social media sites is another important aspect of networking and developing your brand. Both Reese and Hill recommended joining as many list serves and social media sites as possible. They key, however, is to use them in different contexts. For example, Facebook and Instagram can be used for more casual interactions and posts, but your LinkedIn profile or a personal website should include more professional content and connections. However it is still important to maintain a certain level of etiquette on any site because potential employers will be able to see all of it and form opinions about your character.
Although a social media presence is valuable, they agreed that it is not a substitute for making connections and projecting your personal brand at in-person events. Attending conferences, workshops or professional happy hours are all great ways to keep building a brand, practice your communication skills and meet new people in government.
By self-evaluating strengths and weaknesses, practicing communication skills, leveraging social media and networking in person, govies can develop strong personal brands that will help market themselves professionally. The process of building a personal brand can take a lot of work and soul searching, but it can help you explore new topics, form new skill sets and advance your career interests.
For more information on developing your personal brand, listen to the full GovLoop training here.