It’s practically cool to talk about how busy we are nowadays. As the Director of Talent at Bowery Capital, I have a full workload managing the creation of teams in our portfolio, so the idea of personal branding seemed tedious when I was first challenged to be more proactive about building my brand.
After a year of focusing on creating more content, hosting podcasts and speaking on panels, I now realize that I could not have been more wrong. Cultivating a personal brand is not only beneficial to you as an individual, it’s immensely advantageous to your company’s brand, and if done correctly, will benefit your entire network.
What is a personal brand?
Put simply, your personal brand is defined by the way you’re remembered in your ecosystem. In my role, I work directly with our founders to build their revenue-generating teams, so it makes sense for me to establish myself as an expert in talent acquisition as it relates specifically to Sales, Marketing and Customer Success. Because of my unique insight into the startup landscape both from my time at Bowery and previously in an agency setting working with hundreds of startups around the country, I have knowledge that I can share with the entire industry, and help advance Bowery Capital’s brand in the process.
Beyond your professional personal brand, I also firmly believe that your personal brand starts with everything you touch: how you treat the cab driver on your way to work, how you introduce yourself to new business contacts, even what you “Like” on social media.
I’m the first to admit that before my time at Bowery, I was shy to the idea of putting out content and personal branding was not something that I thought of on a daily basis, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to identify your expertise, play your strengths, and translate that into a brand. I’m grateful that I work for a company that takes personal growth very seriously and encouraged me to put myself out there more, but I acknowledge that most companies aren’t as focused on pushing their employees to brand themselves outside of the company umbrella. For those out there who are looking for ways to improve their personal brand, here are five steps I recommend to kick off the process:
1. Ask yourself “Why?” before tackling “How?”
Authenticity is crucial for an effective personal brand. To determine what your brand will look like, you need to delve deep into your own personal preferences and talents. Be honest with yourself: Is what I’m putting out there going to add value to someone else’s day?
There’s oftentimes a fine line between personal branding and self-promotion. We’ve all seen the LinkedIn statuses that go on for days but don’t add much value to the reader. Avoid being this person. Share your expertise with a target audience who can benefit from your knowledge by being clear, succinct and informative. Leave the reader with action items and takeaways that can be implemented immediately. Walk the line of personal promotion and personal branding carefully by making sure that your opinions are anchored with examples of times that you’ve seen success (or failure), how you handled the situation, and overall lessons learned.
2. Play to your strengths
Try to avoid being a Jack of All Trades, Master of None when it comes to building your personal brand. Don’t be afraid to focus on niche expertise, while being self aware of the areas where you can continue to grow and develop. For example, I know that my experience lends itself well to being an expert in finding and hiring the best Sales, Marketing and Customer Success talent for early-stage software companies, so I would never claim to be a top tier engineering recruiter or a go-to-HR-expert for companies with thousands of employees.
Beyond just thinking about the content that you’re putting out, decide how you want to deliver your message. If you’re not confident in your writing, consider a podcast or speaking engagements. If you are active on Twitter, share your thoughts and ideas in 280 characters. One of our founders, Allen Gannett of TrackMaven, has a Vlog with casual, 30-second interviews featuring industry leaders and public figures on LinkedIn. He’s even snagged time with Kobe Bryant and Mark Cuban in passing!
3. The Rule of 3
Paralysis by analysis can be a very real thing when you’re deciding what content to put out into the universe. When I was first started writing blogs around talent, I would mull over topics trying to figure out what to write, but I soon realized that people were telling me what they wanted to learn about every single day. Founders at our portfolio companies were constantly asking me the same question in different ways, and it was just a matter of connecting the dots before I realized that they were providing topics left and right.
I now have a “Rule of 3” for content topics. If someone asks me a question 3 times or more, I will put out content or make an internal playbook about the situation. For example, The SDR Interview Step You’re Overlooking and The Best Start Date in Sales: The Monday After Thanksgiving were both inspired by conversations that I’d had with founders about specific frustrations they were having with interviewing and hiring.
4. Think long-term and stay committed
Personal branding is a process, and there is likely no real “destination,” so be sure that you’re regularly adapting and assessing the content that is being digested. Track your likes, clicks, and pageviews to see what garners the best audience. But beyond the metrics, don’t forget to ask for feedback! Have trusted people in your network and ask them to give you open and honest feedback about your content. One thing that I’ve found success with is to send my post to a few people in my network before posting and say, “Read this once and as soon as you’re finished, tell me what your main takeaways were.” If their feedback is vague or they don’t have specific, tangible points that connected with them after reading the blog, I know that I need to go back in and make edits.
In addition to having a trusted network of people who can give you feedback, make sure that you hold yourself accountable. The easiest way to do this is by setting a calendar at the beginning of every month or quarter with your personal branding goals. Set reminders a week in advance so you don’t get to posting day without having anything drafted. Another great trick is to also put the posting dates on a peer’s calendar so they can also hold you accountable. I’m still actively working on devoting time to my personal brand, so my manager and I have added speaking engagements and certain OKR goals around personal branding to my quarterly metrics for success. This makes it nearly impossible for me to push off personal branding or ignore the calendar invites when they come up.
5. Stay adaptable and don’t get comfortable
Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Make an effort to think one step ahead and keep an eye out for gaps in your brand. I’m embarrassed to admit that despite being the Token Millennial at Bowery Capital, I didn’t have a Twitter until January of this year. It wasn’t something that I had prioritized, and the idea of even getting started felt daunting and uncomfortable because I was so late to the game (and also hugely ironic considering I am now writing about personal branding), but at the end of the day, everyone has to start somewhere. I now have a Twitter handle, @AFAdamson, and am working on growing my network there.
Investing in your personal brand is an investment in your career. We will all work for many companies, we will all have different roles and responsibilities and be expected to exceed new goals, but your personal brand will follow you wherever you go… So be authentic, play to your strengths, find answers by listening to those around you, stay committed and never settle.
Alex is the Executive Director and mentor at Women in Sales Everywhere. She was previously the Director of Talent at Bowery Capital, a venture capital investor focused on founders looking to modernize business through technology.