Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You keep saying that you want to show up differently, gain authority in your industry, get booked on national TV, grow your business, speak on a big stage or confidently apply for that six-figure job. But as you’re reading this, does your online presence reflect that?
If you’ve ever tried to grow your personal brand from the ground up, you know that it can be intimidating, but right now and more than ever before, it is vital for women.
American working women took some major hits during the pandemic. Before 2020, they made up more than of the workforce, a percentage not expected to return until 2024. It was a rough year, to say the least, and we had to make some tough decisions. Many women saw their lives briskly transformed by stay-at-home orders, school closures and the onset of remote work. When child care centers closed, hundreds of thousands of working mothers lost their jobs, requiring an overwhelmingly larger number of women versus men to stay home and prioritize family needs.
Now that it’s time to return to the workforce, women must establish a personal brand. Whether you are looking to find a new job, get a promotion or create a competitive advantage, it’s imperative that you now represent the best version of who you are online — showcase what you do, what you stand for and what you do believe in.
What is personal branding anyway?
Put simply, this term refers to how you present your unique combination of skillsets, experience and personality, as well as your perspectives. Jeff Bezos famously quipped that personal branding is “…what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” That can be a paralyzing thought; what are the lasting feelings that people around you feel when you’re no longer in their presence?
We tend to associate the concept of a well-crafted brand with major corporations, but that can’t be further from the truth. In this digital age, where we are the product, it has become a critical ingredient to success — on both the personal and professional fronts.
Related: 10 Reasons Why Your Brand Needs to Be Online in 2022
The truth is, you have all of the power to design how the world sees you, and by extension your professional brand. You have everything you need, both visual and written, to usher new energy into whatever space you occupy (or want to occupy). Whether you’re an intrapreneur aiming for a six-figure promotion, the founder of a non-profit or a self-employed Etsy designer wanting to share genius with the world, crafting a strong and authentic personal brand is the differentiator — the key to securing more interviews, being considered for more opportunities and giving people around you a memorable sense of who you are. A personal brand puts you in control of your next career move and helps you attract the employer you want, not just the one who will have you back.
Why it’s crucial for female entrepreneurs
Before the pandemic hit, perhaps your career path was a little blurry or non-traditional. These times have changed everyone, including giving us time to reflect on values and passions. Struggles highlighted our strengths and what set us apart from others. For many, the pandemic provided clarity concerning which goals they wanted to continue to pursue, which ones to let go of and where a broader purpose might lie. All of the above make up who you are. This introspection will help you truly thrive, and is the key to crafting a personal brand story. When you weave it into branding, you alert others to what you desire and expect in your next career move, as well as what they can expect from you.
What is the story you want people to tell when you walk out of the room? That message you leave behind — that is your brand. Eventually, if done correctly, it becomes more than a career or a business; it becomes your legacy. Whether you’ve decided to return to the same field, start your own business or perhaps run for political office, creating a strong brand will help elevate all goals.
Related: How Women Are Key to Post-Pandemic Leadership
Building a personal brand post-pandemic
As lockdowns and other restrictions unfolded, the world became a little more savvy and dependent on technology. We all got a crash course in video chats, remote work or education and certainly increased online activity overall, including possibly Googling a few new people who crossed our social feeds. That same level of online curiosity will continue as people emerge from being homebound, seek out new relationships and try to reconnect with old ones.
According the Pew Research Center, 31% of U.S. adults report being online almost constantly now. So clearly, an online presence impacts our day-to-day lives, whether we are looking at the screen or producing content for others to find. What we each put out into the digital world makes an impact. By building a personal brand online, you attract the type of people, employers and relationships you desire, while also telling the world what you won’t stand for. It sets clear boundaries and expectations and lets the world know what your presence, ideologies and work ethic bring to the table.
Such a digital footprint is, in fact, the first impression most employers, future relationships and potential clients will see, so how you make it is more important than ever before.
People buy from people first, and that will never change, and they don’t connect with stories that don’t resonate. If they can’t connect with you, they will likely not care to purchase from you, either. Your personal brand is that connection.
Related: The 5 Vital Rules of Personal Branding
So, does your online brand reflect your inner brand? Have you created an online presence that you can be proud of? The better you present that unique you online, the more straightforward your path forward will be. When done right, it encompasses story, vision and purpose and keeps an audience loyal and committed, no matter where life takes you.