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Personal Branding – Telling the story of your experience.

If I asked if you have a personal brand, what would you say? Well, the answer is yes. We might not know it but we all have a person brand and often it comes down to this: what do people say about you when you’re not there? (In a professional context, of course- no gossiping here!) If I mentioned Mark Zuckerberg, you might think tech, media and entrepreneur. If we were discussing Malala Yousafzai, words like education, female empowerment and activism might come to mind. You do not need to be as popularly known as these people but the point still remains that we all have a story to tell. When your name is mentioned in a room, what do people think of?

After completing my first work experience placement ever in year 10 (I did this at my local youth centre), I realised that I really liked the idea of playing grown-up and visiting different offices. On a serious and honest note, it opened my eyes to various industries and opportunities. The fact that I could visit these places and get a taste of life there was like breaking …

Ideally, you want people to immediately think of the type of person you are (approachable, a good team player or someone who’s always punctual) and the values you stand for. Again, we all have these elements so grab a pen and piece of paper or your notes page and let’s go through our personal brands and how we can effectively communicate our experiences.

  1. Who do you want to be? In the workplace, what type of person do you want to be known as? If you’re someone who is incredibly organised with their time and work, you might want your organisation skills to shine through in every work space you enter. For me, punctuality is key. I’ve grown up with an intolerance for lateness because whenever I went out with my dad, he would ensure we arrived everywhere 30 minutes earlier. If I’m ever late to anything now, it takes me a while to get over it and I actively try to be punctual. Doing this exercise might also point out some areas where you’re not doing the best or you’ve let your good habits slip. If your organisation has recently left the room and you don’t want to be known for being disorganised, this lets you know exactly which personal attributes to work on.
  2. What are your values? These differ hugely for everyone but write down two to three things you stand for which you wouldn’t want to compromise on. It might be that you enjoy helping others and want to be in a role that allows you to have work directly with people.
  3. Lessons Learned Write down three to five memorable experiences from the past which have shaped you. It could be a volunteering role you really enjoyed or your favourite summer job or the school project you’re most proud of. What did those experiences teach you? Did they spark your interest in a particular sector or did they teach you the importance of actively participating in your community? Those unique and somewhat weird set of experiences you’ve had? Yes, they’re important and enough, You don’t need to have done work experience in the UN or anything fancy but you need to recognise how your personal and professional experiences have shaped your values and lessons.

So, here are 5 simple and practical tips for telling your story to create your personal brand:

  1. Be that person. That might have sounded weird but if you want to be known as an organised person, then be organised with your work in every team you work within. If you want to be known as punctual, turn up to your meetings on time. You don’t have to be working to practice these skills: be on time to your school lessons and the habit will most likely stick.
  2. Share your interests and passions with those around you. You don’t have to become popular for anything but do your friends, family or classmates know your interests and skills? For example, I have a friend who is an amazing artist. Whenever a friend or contact of mine wants a new painting or image, guess who I recommend to them? My friend who does art.
  3. If you’re comfortable to, start sharing your passions and skills with more people. LinkedIn is a great place to share the lessons you’re learning or what you’re working on with the world.
  4. Network! Speak to other young people who share your interests and passions and join community networks. If you’re trying to work on your passion for debating then maybe join your school’s debate team or club!
  5. Just a reminder: keep it unique. Go at your own pace and stay true to your values, imitating what everyone else is doing might feel easier but it certainly won’t build a personal brand! Building your personal brand is also a long-term process and you should be open to the idea that it might develop and grow as you do the same.

So… Why is this all important?

Understanding your story and personal brand is so key in today’s world- whether it’s for communicating your experiences on a cover letter or putting yourself forward for new opportunities or simply knowing when to say no because a role or opportunity doesn’t align with your values and vision.

As they say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything.”

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