Entrepreneurs are obsessed with buzzwords. From “crowdsourcing” to the “freemium model,” from “lean startup” to “pivoting,” there are certain words that make entrepreneurs’ eyes light up. One of the terms that has attracted the attention of entrepreneurs and professionals alike is “personal branding.” We’ve seen intelligent personal branding gurus, like Dan Schawbel, demonstrate that your personal brand matters, and we’ve come across dozens of personal websites with huge photos of their owners plastered on their home pages. While I think that personal branding is important, I’d like to introduce a new term. Let’s call it a soon-to-be-buzzword: professional branding.
The difference between personal and professional branding
Your personal brand is influenced by everything you do. Your personal brand can be comprised of your identities as a father, a husband, a golfer, and an entrepreneur. A professional brand definitely encompasses these aspects of your brand, but it focuses more purposefully on the professional side. Both types of branding include figuring out your unique value proposition and branding yourself accordingly, but your professional brand’s value proposition should be closely aligned with your professional goals. Think of it this way: Having a well-known personal brand helps your ego, while having a well-respected professional brand helps your career.
A professional brand as a hybrid
Everyone understands branding for companies, and individuals are starting to catch on to personal branding. Consider your professional brand a hybrid. Your professional brand is how you position your personal brand as a leader of a company, an employee within a company, or as a company in and of yourself. Companies should be encouraging employees to establish, and refine, their professional brands because the end goal is bringing value to the company.
The four pillars of professional branding
You can build your professional brand by making sure you are adding value through each of these pillars:
- Joining Organizations
- Winning Awards
Publishing can mean publishing a book or, more likely, publishing articles in reputable online publications that establish you as a thought leader. Speaking at conferences and events creates an audience to share your message with. Joining organizations enables you to network with the right people, and earning awards adds much-needed credibility to your brand.
Build your professional brand now
Don’t make excuses about how you’re too old or too young to worry about your professional brand. Don’t think that it takes too much time and won’t offer enough return. Don’t try to convince yourself that it’s a non-issue in your industry. If you’re serious about becoming the person whom others seek out and the person others want to do business with before they even meet you, then you need a professional brand. Identify opportunities to spotlight your professional brand through the four pillars of professional branding, and start taking action. It’s never too late to build a great professional brand to do the work for you.
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