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The Ultimate Guide to Personal Branding

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You’ve heard it a few thousand times (at least), and chances are, you’re already well on your way to defining one of the single most important tools in your career arsenal: personal branding.

How you present yourself—and how you’re perceived by others—is critically important to securing the kind of experiences you need to create the impact you really want. You want to be remembered, you want to stand out from the pack—and you want to make sure potential employers or customers can clearly see what makes you different, valuable, and, of course, completely awesome.

Want to make sure your brand is as polished as possible? Here are three make-‘em-stand-up-and-pay-attention steps to ensure your image shines a little brighter, especially when it comes to showcasing it in places like your resume, your online presence, your communications, and even in our new Levo Profile feature.

1. Nail your elevator pitch.

Don’t just phone it in…an elevator pitch is the quickest way to communicate your purpose, your talents, and the mark you’d like to make on the world.

Compelling and to the point, elevator pitches aim to pique someone’s interest and entice them to want to learn more about you. A good place to start is by writing your pitch in the format suggested in our Levo Profile: authentic, straightforward, cool, and super succinct (we’re talking around 160 characters).

Don’t think of your pitch as a place to simply list former job roles. Talk about the impact you want to make, and then describe how your professional accomplishments and your unique talents have moved you toward that goal. Need some examples? Check these:

  • I want it all to be green—literally. For 5 years, I’ve developed thriving community gardens to show city dwellers how to grow healthy, cost-effective food options.
  • The play’s my thing! Recognized for my mentorship talent and love of ideas, I help theater companies create award-winning writing programs for young playwrights. 
  • In this princess planet, my mission is to help girls see themselves as heroes. For 3 years, I’ve drawn successful cartoons that realistically define “superwomen.”

Ready to expand your 160 characters to a sixty-second pitch and vocalize it for potential employers or at career fairs and networking events? Start with these tips.

2. Have a visual strategy.

Just like your go-to interview outfit, the aesthetic of your brand serves as your first impression. It’s important to think about the overall image a potential employer sees when they get their initial glimpse at your personal brand. So what should you keep in mind while you’re refining it? Your color palette, along with any photos and videos you select to represent who you are.

COLOR PALETTE

Color is the very first thing that communicates your brand to your audience. Right off the bat, it sets the tone and the energy level. A personal brand represented by deep navy, white, and slate gray, for example, might be sophisticated, serious, and elegant; small pops of electric yellow next to tangerine and pink might convey someone who is bold and fun with a slight sense of humor.

A smart rule of thumb when choosing your palette is to stick to two key colors and one accent color (and try not to use more than five colors overall). Keep it simple, and do keep your audience in mind. If you work in law or the financial industry, for example, you might want to be more conservative: this might not be the place to bust out that neon orange you love.

Not sure where to start? Look around your home—you may already have your signature colors right in front of you. What hues emerge as themes? What colors do you wear often? If nothing stands out, search “color palette” or “color scheme” on Pinterest (bonanza of choices!). You can also scour blogs and magazines—especially those that are decor and fashion focused—and sort through Instagram, the websites of brands you like, and even the granddaddy of color itself: Pantone.

Still no luck? Try some of these combos as a bouncing-off point.

  • Classic & Preppy: Navy and slate gray with coral accents
  • Modern & Sophisticated: Smokey gray and rose with coffee accents
  • Cheerful & Fresh: Gold and teal with berry accents
  • Soft & Feminine: Mint green and antique gold with pale pink accents

PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

Like color, images convey emotion. The color and tone of the photos and videos you use are part of your brand—all black and white pics offer a different feel than, say, photos saturated in jewel tones. And oftentimes, even better than words, photos can help tell and illustrate your story. It’s smart to write that your purpose is to inspire the elderly to keep active; it’s meaningful to show yourself living out that purpose and demonstrating its impact.

The best place to begin when thinking about images for personal branding is at its heart: photos and videos of you. Start with the below tips, and then check out these ideas for more.

If you can spring for a professional photographer, do it.

Use photos that actually look like you. And, naturally, be yourself at your best: buttoned-up, friendly, smiling, and approachable. Don’t be too stiff, don’t be too silly, and please don’t pose like it’s for a cheerleading pic for the yearbook.

Make sure images aren’t too far away (or too up close, for that matter). Note that a good headshot zooms in on your face, framing you just above the head and halfway down your neck.

When it comes to what to wear, think about your brand’s palette. You don’t need to be matchy-matchy, but consider tones that flatter you and your color scheme. And it doesn’t have to come through in clothing—think of jewelry, lipstick, and accessories that can make things feel purposeful.

Opt to leave out pets, kids, and significant others. And use common sense: don’t overdo your makeup and don’t show alcohol (unless you’re a sommelier or a beer maker by trade, of course).

When it comes to video, use the above tips, but also think about the additional elements involved. If the background music doesn’t match your brand, for example, or if the sound or picture quality is off, consider other options.

3. Be consistent.

For a personal brand to be powerful, there needs to be constant reinforcement everywhere that brand appears. Emphasize what’s great with these ideas.

  • Celebrate that color scheme. Don’t let it live alone on a profile or website. Incorporate it into your business cards, emails, invoices, and Instagram feed. (Bonus points for your phone background, wardrobe, and home décor.)
  • Use the same headshot in professional arenas. Place your best pic anywhere a potential employer or client might search for you: profiles, article bylines, and conferences or networking events.
  • Keep your communications in the same voice. Try sticking to the tone you used for your elevator pitch. It’s also helpful to choose four to five adjectives that describe your purpose and values, and then make sure they appear in everything from profiles and resumes to emails, posts, quotes you highlight, and yes, even the occasional hashtag.
  • Always ask, “Is this on brand?” When it’s time to make decisions about new images for a profile, the tone of an email, the font for your website, or, hey, even your next job move, default back to questioning if you’re being true your brand and to what it represents. It will make the decision-making process easier every time, and will always reinforce what you do best: you.

Photo: Steve Debenport / Getty Images

# #personal-branding #‍ 

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