What’s Your Brand?

Establishing your personal brand in a sea of competition

Today, you’ll find Rebecca Anderson helping students and working professionals find firm footing into a career that they are passionate about—even if that career isn’t what they had originally intended. And she should know a thing or two about changing careers: For many years, she worked in the environmental health and safety field before discovering her passion in helping others make a career change.

As she describes, “The career landscape is continually changing and presenting new opportunities for meaningful work. Careers often are not linear, but have twists and turns that require innumerable decisions in shaping your path.”

Now director of Career Services at UC Berkeley Information School, Rebecca has presented a suite of workshops for mid-career professionals and career changers. In this edition, she offers advice on finding your personal brand: how others perceive you and how you can make a difference in the lives of others. Developing your personal brand is a multistep process that starts with finding your narrative.

So let’s dig in.

Focus on your Values, Passions and Strengths, and Then Find the Patterns Within Them

It may sound counterintuitive, but you shouldn’t try to be better than the competition. You will only wear yourself out because you can’t be better than someone else at being them. Instead, figure out what you’re good at and double down on that.

To find your unique difference, think about the values you’re willing to stand up for. What are you willing to argue about at dinner parties? Write these values down and think about how they relate to your career. Look for patterns and see what they tell you. Think about who needs the unique differences that you bring and where they would play out in the world.

Next, look at your strengths: What are you really good at? What puts you in a flow state, where you’re so engaged that you don’t look up from your work for hours, and suddenly it’s 5 pm?

Think about your passions: What do you love? What drives you in your life? Think about where and how you want these passions to show up in your work.

This is not the same as saying you should follow your passion. Don’t quit your job to go back to school for these interests without carefully thinking it through—sometimes what you love is not what you want to make money at. For example, few people know that politician Condoleeza Rice was a classically trained pianist; she decided that music was a passion to share with her friends and family, but wouldn’t necessarily be her choice of career.

Finally, what drains you? These are the activities that find you constantly looking at the clock or getting up for a snack. What do you never want to do again?

Craft Your Brand Statement.

You must make your brand personal and memorable so it will stick out in the hiring manager or recruiter’s mind. You need some personality to make it memorable, but don’t fall into the trap of sharing irrelevant personal hobbies. Use your best judgment here.

To make it concrete and personal, start with a brand statement. Take all those things you identified as your passions, values, strengths and dislikes, and then filter those through what the target audience really needs and wants, what is in the market, what they are feeling and looking for.

You can do this by looking at job descriptions. Get inspired by looking at LinkedIn profiles for people holding jobs you aspire to—not just the jobs you want now, but the ones you want five or 10 years from now. Save or print them out, and use them to discover what the target audience needs and wants, and how you do and don’t fit into that.

Depending on where you use it, your bio will look different. In certain contexts, the standard guideline of using the third person may come across as old-fashioned. Instead, think about how you're going to pivot yourself.

Rebecca Anderson's favorite example is a former student of hers, an elementary school teacher who went on to get the top UX job that year at Salesforce. On her portfolio page, she spelled out her transferable skills: “As an elementary school teacher, I was good at creating engaging, beautiful lesson plans, which would translate to creating engaging, beautiful presentations.” Apply this model to your own bio: “I was good at X because I had X skills, or passion or energy.”

As a job-changer, add a sentence about new skills you're learning or certificates you’re picking up. Spell it out for the reader. There’s always going to be a question mark when you’re a career-changer, and you need to get through the first filter. If they’re looking for a salesperson and see that you’ve never done sales, the reader would generally stop there. You have to lay out the answer to the question, “Why would I hire you?” You need to answer the question before they even ask.

Stay tuned: Learn how to create a résumé that reflects your new brand statement.