By: Elizabeth Tuck, CCYP Youth Council
Everyone has a personal brand. It's how we intentionally shape our personal brand that impacts our ability to build trust, grow our networks and successfully steer our careers.
Personal branding. I had not heard of the idea of personal branding until I was well into my undergraduate degree. Even then, I didn’t understand exactly why or how I was supposed to go about navigating the creation of that ‘brand’.
Whether you’re familiar with the idea of a personal brand or not, there is always room for us as youth to intentionally influence our personal brand and reap the benefit of doing so in both our professional and personal lives.
What is a personal brand?
In his presentation for CCYP’s National Youth Summit, youth activist, volunteer, and mobilizer Leo Xu puts it simply: “Your personal brand is the feeling people get when your name is brought up”.
Your personal brand is made up of your interactions online, your social media posts, your in-person networking, and in general the ways you communicate about what is important to you.
How do you make a personal brand?
Well, the good news is that you’re not starting from scratch. Your personal brand is about how other people feel about you and what they view your strengths to be — this means that everyone already has a personal brand.
What we’re looking to do is make the shift to being intentional about influencing and building your personal brand so that you are able to reap the most benefits. Here are some tips on how to intentionally build your personal brand:
Social media is one of the easiest and most common ways to build your brand. If you’re focused on your professional brand specifically, LinkedIn is a great platform to be active on, but all social media can be used to connect with audiences and get your message across.
It’s All About Values
It’s important that your social media reflects the things that you actually care about. This might sound obvious, but can be more complex than you think! If you are passionate about youth employment (for example) then that should be clear on your social media.
That doesn’t mean youth employment is the only thing you should be posting about, but if you’re hoping to build your brand as someone who is passionate about this topic, it’s important that those values are reflected in your online presence.
Network, Network, Network
Another huge part of building your personal brand is networking with others who share your interests and passions and/or those who have experiences that you can learn from. Leo suggests reaching out to people who are 1-3 years out from where you want to be and those who are 5-10 years out from where you want to be.
Having these conversations helps to expand your network which in turn helps you along your professional journey and ultimately influences your personal brand (remember - your personal brand is how people feel about you!). LinkedIn is a great tool for finding and reaching out to people with shared interests.
Take It Slow But Be Consistent
Personal brands are incremental: you’re not going to build it overnight. Smaller acts more consistently will help you to build your brand in a more effective and genuine way.
This can include sharing an article on social media that you found interesting (and feel free to add your personal comments with that too!), commenting on other people’s posts, engaging in other ways with other people’s content, reaching out to connect with/add folks to your network, and more!
Also, remember that our personal brands change over time as we evolve, and that’s okay (and totally expected!).
Be Authentic — You Don’t Need to be an Expert!
At the end of the day, personal brands have to be just that — personal. Your brand is a reflection of your values and what you care about. By being authentic and contributing to things that genuinely excite you, you’re more likely to attract like-minded people who share your values and will want to collaborate with you.
It’s also important to remember that you might not be an expert, and that’s okay! It’s not about being the definitive voice on the topics you’re interested in, it’s about asking yourself ‘what do I want to add to this conversation.’
Leo also gave great advice for thinking about how you can authentically contribute: ask yourself what you wish you would have known about something.
Whether it’s a job, interview, application, team scenario, school project, an event you planned, or something else, sharing honest reflections about what you wish you would have known (or what you might do differently next time) is a great way to show you are a genuine person while also contributing useful information that could help someone else.
So what’s the point? If you’ve read this far I’m hoping that you’re starting to think more about your personal brand and how you communicate your values to the world. You might be wondering though why you would put in the work.
What's the payoff?
Developing a strong and authentic personal brand will help you in your personal and professional journey through growing a global community and your place within it, receiving recommendations for relevant job and internship opportunities, connecting with like-minded leaders and peers, and overall having a voice that people come to know and trust.
As Leo added in his presentation, “You already have a personal brand, it’s time to fine-tune and grow it”.
Need Help to Get Started?
Are you a youth who needs help to get started on a personal brand that could be used to support your professional journey? Not to worry! There are several employment support resources out there for youth experiencing challenges with how to develop a personal brand.
For example, The Neighbourhood Group offers a wide range of free employment programs, services, and resources for youth and St. Stephen’s Community House also has an array of free workshops and events for youth that could be used to help you develop your personal brand.
Many of the employment support resources offered by these Ontario-based organizations cater to youth job seekers that are out of school, unemployed, newcomer youth, and youth with disabilities. It is recommended that you consult your local employment services agency for programming that will suit your needs.