Harnessing Personal Branding: The Power of Authenticity in a Digital World

From Building in Public to Influencing Micro-communities: Crafting Your Unique Professional Identity

Co.Lab Team
December 22, 2023

Did you know that 50% of millennials trust product recommendations from influencers? It drops to 38% if it’s from celebrities.

This is a pretty good example of how current trends rewire our behavior. Take note: it’s not just limited to commercial products. Today, more people are herded into micro-communities because social media platforms try to mimic genuine relationship-building.

While influencers gain more trust among millennials than some celebrities, a new trend emerges that isn’t solely tied to commercial endeavors: Personal Branding.

As we phase out paper CVs and knocking on office doors asking for a job (this is a 90’s thing, please don’t do this anymore), there are newer and more effective ways to get employed. Gone are the days when a spray-and-pray approach works. Today, it’s all about increasing your visibility and getting warm introductions. With the rise of massive impersonal platforms, authenticity is worth its weight in gold.

The art of personal branding stands at the forefront of this digital revolution, intertwining with our innate desire for genuine relationships and transparency. As job-seeking methods from decades past grow obsolete, modern professionals face the exciting challenge of amplifying their visibility and solidifying their online identity.

Dive in to understand how personal branding can elevate your professional journey in this interconnected world.

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What is Personal Branding?

Personal branding is essentially self-packaging your professional identity. One of the biggest mistakes of professionals early in their careers is waiting for someone to notice them. The harsh truth is that: hard work and skills alone are not enough to get you promoted.

It’s easy to hunker down and wait for someone to validate your efforts. Unfortunately, all this does is put you in a position where your worth is dependent on someone’s observation of you.

Their observations ≠ How you view yourself

As with anything, packaging matters a lot. Even in establishing a career. It’s crucial that you know how to market yourself as a premium employee / contractor / consultant / business owner.

Medal surrounded by traits that make an effective brand

This is where personal branding comes in - and it’s not the same as reputation! ‘Whereas reputation is about credibility, your personal brand is about visibility and the values that you outwardly represent’. It means taking the reins and being in charge of your own narrative. If you want to maximize your social capital, you need to market yourself so you’d get better business and social opportunities in the future.

Building Yourself in Public

Personal branding comes hand-in-hand with Building in Public. It’s a term most often used in bootstrapping a startup, but it’s something that can be aptly used in this context as well. In a nutshell, Building in Public means sharing the behind-the-scenes to a public audience.

Entrepreneurs are usually building a solution for certain communities. Building in public allows them to market their product in an organic way. By sharing their journeys, they are able to relate to their audience (customers) in a more intimate way.

The same is true with building your personal branding. By showing your progress to your network, you are able to be evaluated beyond your one-page CV. It gives potential recruiters and co-workers a window on how your thought processes operate and what kind of personal values you have align with theirs. You get to be considered for a job even before a role vacancy opens.

Handshake with words 'TRUST' above it

If a company wants to evoke a sense of trust, they speak to customers. It’s the way with personal branding. You show the public that you’re not a cut-and-dry seat warmer. You’re a human being with your own aspirations and valuable ideas. That you’re someone who can meaningfully contribute if given the chance.

Laying down the Foundations

Alright. You’ve decided to start building your personal brand. Great! But .. how does that exactly work?

Here’s a step-by-step process:

Find your platform. Everything starts with finding a platform that works for you. Depending on which you choose, your content style, posting cadence, and a lot of other things will have to be optimized with your choice. The best places are LinkedIn and Twitter because they already have rich communities and professional development is encouraged.

Choose your niche. Ironically, the best way to stand out is to not stand with others at all. It’s recommended to pick a non-saturated niche. Be as hyper-specific as possible. Instead of simply being a Product Manager creator, be an e-commerce growth product manager in a startup.

Identify your content & brand image. Next step is to figure out what kind of information you’d like to share and in what kind of messaging you’re comfortable with. The trick is choosing something that is authentically you. Writing content is hard. Drop the pretenses and just share what comes naturally to you. Do you want informative content? How about a self-journal vibe?

Plan your posting cadence. This depends on how much time you’d like to invest in personal branding. Remember that building a brand takes time. You need to give it weeks to incubate before it can mature into anything meaningful.

Evaluate and revise. One caveat though is that things often won’t work out. Sometimes you fail to be consistent. Sometimes you make bad estimates. Don’t feel caged with what you’ve already set up. If you’re not getting the traction you want or your plan doesn’t bloom into what you envision it to be - that’s ok! You can make multiple attempts and see what sticks.

Even if you fail, you can always try again. Your stories are worth telling. Keep going.

Ultimately, personal branding is really simple. It’s being true to yourself and showing it to others - with all the baggage and judgment.

Along the way, some won’t appreciate what you’re doing. However, given time, you are able to attract like-minded people and they will gravitate towards you. They will be invested in your success because they read about you every Friday. That’s what’s important.

It will be hard .. but always remember — embarrassment is the cost of entry. Showing your vulnerabilities and authentic you, for all others to see and judge, is incredibly courageous. And people will notice.

Recapping our Personal Branding Learnings

The journey of personal branding, at its core, is an exploration of self in the vast landscape of the digital realm. It's not about being loud or boastful but being unapologetically authentic.

As we move forward in this ever-evolving age, remember that it's not the masses you need to appeal to, but the right, like-minded individuals who resonate with your values and aspirations.

The endeavor might be daunting, filled with moments of doubt and uncertainty, but the reward—genuine connections, unbreakable trust, and opportunities galore—is immeasurable. Embrace your story, vulnerabilities and all, and watch as the world responds in kind.

Are you an aspiring Product Manager? The Co.Lab program is the perfect place to gain real-world, cross-functional experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

If you want to shift to tech, especially from a non-tech background, you need to either have good domain knowledge, lots of transferrable skills, or have something to bridge the skillset you have currently and the requirements of the roles that you are looking for.

One of the programs that provide those is Co.Lab's 8-week Product Management Bootcamp, where you can get real-life work experience by building a live product of your own with a cross-functional team in an agile environment. Learn how to build your tech skills with a supportive community and pre-vetted industry mentors to carefully guide you along your tech journey.

Want to test out the waters first? Dip your toes into Product by joining the 4-week Product Management Sprint instead.

It may be difficult to make the shift into tech, but that’s precisely why you don’t have to do it alone. Be part of the community! Follow us on on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the latest updates.

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