Shape your personal brand

Personal branding matters because it can help you stand out professionally. Here’s how to build an effective one.

Most of us are used to thinking about branding in terms of businesses and products, but may struggle when asked to articulate our own personal brand. Simply put, your personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make up who you are. When used and expressed well, it becomes not only the means by which others remember you, but also the most effective way for you to stand out in your area of influence.

Knowing how to communicate your personal brand well is as important as having one. Michelle Koh, Executive Director at Pure Search, has over a decade of recruitment experience and currently heads the Singapore office, where she recruits finance and legal professionals. She shares some tips on how to define your own brand. 

How important is having a strong personal brand?

Ms Koh: Your personal brand is the “perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you”, according to marketers David McNally and Karl Speak, who were the first to use the term “personal brand”. For this reason, when your personal brand is strong, a company will find it easier to decide if you would fit in with their organisation. 

That being said, you should not expect to have a personal brand that everyone would love. Sometimes, your brand would be the right fit for certain companies or roles, but at others, it simply may not be. 

 

Let’s take LinkedIn as an example, what are the qualities of a good LinkedIn profile? What should candidates have on their profiles and what should they avoid?

Ms Koh: Firstly, they should not leave it bare. I have seen candidates with a LinkedIn profile that contains just their name, company and job title. You should take this opportunity to showcase yourself — list your achievements and core responsibilities in each of the roles you’ve undertaken. If you’re excited about a professional photo of you where your personality shines through, use it. Plus, sharing insightful articles about the industry you’re in or topics you’re passionate about can also help increase your visibility and personal brand. You should also try to connect with peers in your industry.

Offline, when it comes to CVs, I usually advise against trying too hard to be too “original” when it comes to choice of word. We’ve seen some work descriptions come off confusing or, worse, stand out for the wrong reasons.

"Your personal brand is the perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you”

What do you look for in candidates when recruiting for the legal and finance industries?

Ms Koh: In the legal and finance industry, personal brands should centre on a candidate’s technical know-hows, reputation in the market, industry standings, etc.

 

If a candidate has a diverse portfolio, how can they best present themselves professionally?

Ms Koh: Focus on building your brand on your core values instead of positioning yourself as a “who’s who” in a particular sector. It’s okay to fine-tune your brand as you go along, but avoid “over-packaging” yourself, as you might end up alienating others.

 

Any other tips on how to start building your personal brand?

Ms Koh: My suggestion is to come up with a short, five-word description of what reflects your authentic self, and keep building on this. You may find this hard at first — unlike products and goods, human beings are much more complex — but doing so gives you focus and helps you create a stronger brand.

It’s okay to start defining yourself in broad terms, but don’t just end there. Avoid generics like the word “nice”, as it’s hard to make an impression, let alone an impact, with terms like these. Dig deeper to discover what makes you nice. A hard life in your earlier years? Realising your privilege and therefore wishing to help the deprived? Are you nice to animals, the aged or sick, or do you have a soft spot for children? Asking yourself these questions will help you reflect more on what makes you you.