Create Your Personal Brand

Originally published in The Fauquier Times Democrat, May 2009

Your personal brand is an attractive package of your skills and professional experience. In addition to your work history, the package includes both your physical presence and the emotional effect you have on others. How you carry yourself, how you speak, how you present yourself, and how you write are important components of this package. This package also includes marketing materials, primarily your resume and cover letter.

Brands are used to attract customers and sell products and services. Successful brands show consistent reliable performance over time and are immediately recognizable. For example, Toyota, Kellogg’s, and Roto Rooter are household names; these brands have excellent reputations earned over many years.

A personal brand is also created and used to attract customers and sell products and services, in this case, your skills and talents. Top-notch branding agencies are constantly reviewing their client’s brands to ensure relevance and maximize exposure. You must do the same with your personal brand.

Think of Yourself as a Highly Prized Product or Service

Companies spend millions to attract us to buy their product or service. They hire teams of marketing strategists, designers, and psychologists to create a look and feel and emotional experience. For example, even with all of the troubles in the auto industry, the advertisements for automobiles are creative, strong and compelling. In a highly competitive job market, we need to start thinking along those lines as well.

Your 10-Second Message

So, to supplement your written marketing materials, your personal brand should include a 10-second message that you can use at any point to market your qualifications. The 10-second rule is used throughout the business world to market products and services. It’s premised on the assumption that busy managers only have 10 seconds at the most to hear a pitch before they loose interest and move on. Use the same concept to develop your 10-second message. Your message should answer the questions, What do I want to do? and How am I qualified to do it? in 10 seconds.

The 10-second message is the set-up to a more lengthy conversation. If someone wants to hear more, you can either speak to them right then if time permits, or ask to schedule time on their calendar. The latter gives you more time to prepare if you are not comfortable having a conversation on the spur of the moment. Be careful though, sometimes you only get one opportunity and it may be right then. You should be prepared for anything.

How to Create Your 10-Second Message

To create your 10-second message, use the following steps.

  1. Count up the number of years that you have worked in a relevant field.
  2. Summarize your best accomplishments.
  3. Create one sentence that can be customized for whomever you meet.
  4. Summarize your responses to steps 1-3 into 3 or 4 sentences.
  5. Rework the summary until you can recite it clearly with confidence without sounding rehearsed.

Example: For over 5 years, I was the leading salesperson for Mishkin’s Super Phones generating over $10 million in revenue. I can confidently close a sale for any product line or service. I am interested in sharing my expertise with you to increase [company’s name] bottom line.

Here’s how the message breaks out:

1st sentence – summarizes your background and years of experience
2nd sentence – why a company should hire you
3rd sentence – identifies your interest in a specific company. This sentence can be customized for any company.

Depending on the situation, you may need to re-order the placement of the sentences, but the basic message should not change. You can add more specifics if the person you are speaking with seems interested.

Evaluate Yourself First

Before you run out and start sharing your 10-second message, do a little self-evaluation to make sure the less tangible parts of your brand are in place. Check your attitude. No one wants to be around a downtrodden complainer. Leave the whining behind and think positively even if things are not going well. Your perception will create your reality so allow good thoughts to flow.

Think about how you are perceived. How do people see you? Ask friends and family how they would describe you in three words. Think about how you want to be perceived. As a supervisor, I advise staff to act and behave at the professional level they want to achieve. So, if you have a job, observe staff members you respect and admire. Are they managers, directors, or vice-presidents? Can you tell the difference? Are they doing the things that you want to do? How do they interact with other employees? Are they serious? Do they smile? How do they dress? If you’re an entry level employee, watch your boss, other co-workers, or other managers you admire. The most successful professionals are consistently respectful and respected.

If you do not have a job, take a little time to people watch. Bring a pen and paper (or laptop for the paperless generation!) and record your observations. You can do this any place you go, the mall, a community function, a restaurant, or the doctor’s office. What is your first impression of each person? That is the type of impression that resonates. This is why your first impression is so important. It is part of your brand. How do you want to be? This is your life and you can design it however you’d like. You are the main focus so take the time to design “you” properly.

One of the most important components of your personal brand is honesty. Your brand must be based upon the real you and reflect your genuine interest, care and skill. This is the “authentic you” and is the core of your brand. There is no faking authenticity. So, make sure your brand fits you and use it to package your best strengths and talents.

Watch yourself in a mirror, videotape yourself while reciting your 10-second message or practicing interview questions and carefully watch your responses. You need to understand what people see when they look at you. A tidy professional appearance exudes confidence and care. Check your wardrobe and hair. Are you still wearing those tired old pants from 10 years ago? Does your hair need a trim? Maybe you just need to shine those dress shoes or get a heel replaced. Try second-hand stores and discount stores to save money. Explore options for a fresh look. You will feel great.

Check your posture. Sitting and standing with good posture shows confidence and enhances breathing; avoid slumping, stand tall and be proud! Get comfortable with who you are and who you want to be. Be responsible for your own care. Only you can make yourself the best you can be. It takes commitment and hard work and is worth every moment.

Shari Jaeger Goodwin owns Jaeger2, a strategic planning and coaching firm. Jaeger2 offers seminars and individual sessions on job coaching, leadership, business management, conflict resolution, and setting and meeting personal and professional goals. She can be reached at