Whether you have a growing side project, want to take the next step in your career, or are leading your own entrepreneurial venture, your personal brand can have a huge impact on your success. After all, your personal brand portrays who you are and how you add value to the world. But it can also hold you back if it’s not developed with intention and care.
At a recent Squad Talks event, Founder and CEO of Squad Isa Watson moderated a discussion between Kristina Budelis, Co-Founder & President of KitSplit and Forbes 30 under 30, Darren Harris, Co-Founder & CEO of PANNtv and VP at Goldman Sachs, and Prerna Singh, VP of Product at CoEdition and Co-Lead of Women in Product NYC, about the ins and outs of building your personal brand—even when you work at a company.
Truth is, brands happen whether you like it or not. According to Darren, “everyone has their own personal brand. Everyone’s going to think about you in some perspective.” Because of this inevitability, it’s crucial to be intentional with what you put out to the world.
Similarly, Kristina has become increasingly deliberate with her brand as her career has evolved from a video producer at The New Yorker to an entrepreneur in the electronics marketplace. She said,
Early on in my career, I think I had a LinkedIn because you’re supposed to, but I didn’t think that much, for example, about my different online presences and how important they could be. Over the years, I’ve realized they can have a big impact on how people perceive you—and the opportunities that are available.
The first step in cultivating your personal brand? Knowing the principles you want to project. One exercise that Darren does every year is to write out the resume he wants want to have in twenty years and then to think about his brand within that framework. Even if your goals eventually shift, having a destination in mind will help chart an initial course for your brand and navigate the steps in between.
Once you’ve decided on your core values, building a personal brand relies on a foundation of consistency. Prerna’s suggestion: pick a platform and show up. She added,
For me, I realized quickly that I struggle to publish my writing—I have a graveyard of Medium draft posts. But where I feel really authentic is in person, doing the on-the-ground community work. And so I focused myself doing events for Women in Product and a number of other organizations that I am a part of.
From there, building a personal brand is about compounding wins over time. She said, “It’s not about having to make this heroic effort to build your brand, it’s about every small thing that you do and that adds up over time.”
Want some help in being consistent? If your platform is online, there are a lot of tools you can use. Isa mentioned some of our favorites: “On Twitter, I’ll schedule my tweets on Sunday for a week or two through Hootsuite when I feel like I’m in the mindset to do it. On Instagram, I actually have my pictures scheduled out for the next month on this app called Planoly. When it comes to consistency, sometimes it’s easier to work in batches than to hold yourself accountable throughout the week.”
Kristina also suggested creating a personal website. “Everyone Googles you, it’s just a fact. So it’s nice to have a result that you have more control over.” And if you’re looking to differentiate your brand within a larger corporation, Darren suggested becoming an expert in something: “we spread ourselves very thin, but if you become an expert in something, you can build personal relationships and become known as someone people can go to.”
Fundamentally, your personal brand is all about connecting with others and opening new opportunities for connection. This naturally ties into authenticity and vulnerability—if you aren’t bringing yourself to your brand, you can’t expect others to relate in a meaningful way.
Part of the evolution of Kristina’s personal brand has been around becoming more authentic. She said, “I think, starting in journalism, I was a little scared about putting certain things out there. Now I think I’m more confident in walking that line. I’ve become more comfortable sharing like funnier, personal things in a deliberate way.”
Unsure how much to share? Prerna added,
I struggled with this a lot too when I was first starting off at Women in Product. I had to go back and find my values and what are the things that I’m comfortable sharing—and what are the things that I’m not.
For her, writing down both what is important to her and her level of comfort was crucial in helping her feel confident in what she shares.
No matter where you’re at with your brand, one thing our panelists agreed on was that our online selves don’t have to be perfect. In fact, finding ways to be vulnerable and express the full range of your experience can resonate with and be inspiring to a lot of people. Your personal brand is yours—so own it.