Personal branding may sound a bit marketing-speak, but the reality is that you do a have a corporate personal brand; this is your reputation or how people perceive you in the workplace. This may or may not be in line with how you perceive yourself or would like to be perceived, particularly if you are trying to make a career change.
Contrary to the above picture, looks are not the most important part of your personal brand, although how you present yourself will impact on how you and your work are perceived. You will need to dress 'on-brand', once you work out what this is.
First thing to do? Stocktake your current image. Consider what others think of you at work. Are you the one with leadership ambition who takes control in meetings? Or the reliable one who works hard when the going gets tough without complaint or the need for acknowledgment? If you can, ask a few friends and colleagues what they think of you from a work perspective. You might be surprised.
Next step: Work out who you are and what is important to you. What are your values? Brainstorm them. How do you want to be perceived? Write it down. For example, you might realise that you really value flexibility and work that has a creative side, and you have decided to try and move into a more creative role following some extra study. Or you might be a middle-manager with big leadership ambitions but no-one knows that yet!
Next? Figure out who your target audience is. If you are self-employed it will be your customers. If you are an employee, it might be colleagues, your current employer and future employers. You will need to get your new personal brand out to your target audience and reference them in your personal brand statement (because you going to be helping your target audience solve a problem).
From all this brainstorming, you can define your 'brand' and how you want to differentiate yourself from the pack, and craft your personal brand statement. This statement will be similar to and become part of your professional profile on your CV. It should positively state who you are professionally and include an indication of your values, what problem you will fix and who you will help.
For example, 'A senior project manager specialising in international development, expertly managing multiple stakeholders and projects for government agencies through a personal and flexible approach.' You'll note that this incorporates the desired job/how they want to be perceived professionally, the problems that they solve plus a personal differentiation through the 'personal and flexible' statement.
Finally, in addition to your CV, your personal brand needs to be incorporated into any online presence that you have, such as your LinkedIn profile, personal or company website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or blog. Also incorporate it into any communications that you send out.
There is no point crafting a personal brand on your website with a modern and creative vibe if your LinkedIn profile is still super corporate. Your target audience will get confused! Ditto with any communications. If your vibe is 'personable', don't send overly formal emails and letters.
So once you work out your personal brand, you need ensure your brand is presented consistently across all communication channels.