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Do you remember the last time you saw a job or a project posted on LinkedIn? Do you remember how many people wrote the magic word “ interested”? You probably wrote that as well, just to see hundreds, if not thousands, of other people do the same thing within days. As you get more and more notifications about the post, you realize that your comment was buried within the mountain of other interested individuals. As an entrepreneur the MENA region, you are no longer competing with just your local companies in your city, country, or even region. You are competing with professionals from all over the world, and the only way to stand out, stay competitive and relevant, and not turn into another nameless number is by developing your personal brand.
You might think you don’t have a brand, but you actually do have one- you just haven’t realized it yet. Your brand or reputation is based on the impressions you leave with others. In marketing, “perception is reality,” and people’s perception of you and who you are becomes your reality and reputation. However, these perceptions or impressions may not be the type you want to leave people with. Being strategic and purposeful when developing and managing a brand that defines your best characteristics and differentiates you from others in a clear and positive light is key to achieving your career and business goals and aspirations.
Creating a strong brand establishes you as a thought leader, making people look up to you, and respect your opinions in your industry. Such a calculated image management exposes you to new and unique opportunities that would otherwise not find you. Here are some of the tips I focus on when discussing the benefits of developing a personal brand, as I coach and consult professionals and businesses in and out of the MENA region.
1. Elevate your self-awareness Your personal brand is the sum of experiences any person or organization has when dealing with you. In 2010, a study conducted by the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations that examined 72 executives in public and private companies concluded that high self-awareness is the biggest predictor of overall success in business. This is always the hardest part any professional faces when building a personal brand because it requires a lot of thinking and reflecting. It involves clearly stating your strengths, weakness, why people are drawn to you, what are you passionate about, and values that guide your life. After defining these topics, you need to think about how to display them in your work and interaction with others.
2. Understand how others see you When developing a personal brand, it’s important to ask people that know you and have dealt with you in a personal or professional setting as to how they describe you. Then you need to compare their description of you with how you see yourself, and if there is a difference between them. The information you gather will help you determine if outside perceptions aligns with what you ideally want your personal brand to be. Their feedback will always help you tailor your message and actions to match your vision and goal for your brand.
3. Personal branding is not self-promotion Personal branding is all about delivering value to others in your industry and people that follow you. Helping them grow and share important topics and information among each other. This is very different than constantly promoting how great you are and your achievements. Yes, a part of branding is promoting yourself, but the way it’s done and how it’s managed needs to be authentic and relevant to people and not a constant push to sell yourself. Your personal brand is an important asset that must be strategically managed with the intention of helping and engaging others in your industry.
Setting a personal brand and being intentional about it is confusing at first and requires a lot of thinking, but once you start seeing yourself as a brand, you will become more conscious when dealing with others. After all, personal branding is a leadership requirement in the current job market, and it’s what will help you stand out and showcase your true talent.