In the ever-evolving landscape of job hunting, standing out from the crowd in a sea of high-calibre professionals is more challenging than ever. A personal brand is not just a buzzword; it’s a powerful tool that helps define your unique professional identity and sets you apart from your peers. But what exactly is a "personal brand," and how does it differ from your "reputation"? And why, do you ask, is it important?

In this blog I’m going to explore these questions, illustrating the benefits of a strong personal brand, and I’ll give you actionable steps to start building yours.

There are many reasons why you might want to consider taking steps to build your personal brand (some of which I’ll touch on later), but I’m going to focus on the benefits to your career…

What is a 'personal brand'?

A personal brand is a unique combination of skills, experiences, and values that you consistently communicate to the world, distinctly shaping how you present yourself. Unlike reputation, which is the perception others have of you based on past interactions, your personal brand is actively crafted and controlled by you, projecting the professional image you choose to portray.

It is defined as “The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their field, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, widen their circle of influence and have a larger impact.”

Sounds good right?

But isn’t that your reputation?

Nope!

We often confuse our reputation with our personal brand. Everyone has a reputation; the first impressions you make, the relationships you form with managers and peers, and how you communicate – all of these impact how others see you. Your personal brand however, is much more intentional. It’s how you WANT people to see you. Reputation is made up of the options and beliefs people form about you based on your actions and behaviours.

So why do I want to do this and what are the benefits?

Enhanced job opportunities

In a competitive job market, a robust personal brand makes you more visible and attractive to potential employers. Not only that, people like me (head hunters) are more likely to approach you (so long as your brand and reputation are aligned).

Authority and credibility

Being known for your expertise in specific areas of accountancy can turn you into a go-to expert, increasing your value within professional circles. Not only does this factor into hiring decisions (back to that comment above on being head hunter), it also makes you visible to those looking for thought-leaders to speak at events, or to write opinion pieces; which is great if that’s part of your master plan.

Networking leverage

Now, if like me your heart sinks and your stomach lurches at the thought of stepping into a room full of people with name badges, this one might be something you’re initially inclined to side step. However, a strong personal brand facilitates better networking opportunities, connecting you with like-minded professionals and potential mentors. So, avoid the automatic “no”. As your personal brand develops, so too will your confidence, and these things go hand in hand when it comes to networking. Trust me, it might seem scary at first but it’s worth it.

You’ll be thinking “but I’m not in a BD/sales role” or “but I don’t need to build a network to be good at my job” and I hear ya!

But networking is crucial in most industry sectors. A personal brand strengthens your efforts by ensuring you are remembered and taken seriously. When people know what you stand for and what you’re good at, they’re more likely to refer opportunities your way and seek your expertise in future. Win win.

And if nothing else, there’s usually a decent spread put on at these things!

Sounds good, but where do I start?

Building a personal brand takes time, but here are some steps to get you started:

Define what makes you unique

Identify what sets you apart from other accountancy professionals. Is it your expertise in tax, your forensic accounting skills, your skill in AI, or your knack for interim consulting? Perhaps you are a master at communicating complex financial information to a range of non-financially literate stakeholders? You get the idea; what makes you unique?


Figure out what drives you

What motivates you to get up and go to work, what skills are you keen to build and what subjects interest you?

Align your values

Look at companies and people who share your goals and values. Look at ways to interact with them, whether that’s physically (networking) or virtually (online etc).

Think about your goals and aspirations

Both personally and professionally - what’s the end game here?

Now you have this pinned down…what do you ‘do’?

Networking

Engage with your relevant community. As discussed above there’s power in attending face to face events. If this is new to you, you may want to engage in local and/or online accountancy forums, seminars, and workshops first. Engagement increases your visibility and helps you stay up to date with industry trends. It also allows you time to find your feet; what works for you, what doesn’t, and time to tweak things before you physically step into a room full of people and have to stick/pin on that name badge!!

Leverage LinkedIn

Using professional platforms like LinkedIn to share your insights and to join discussions is a great way to build your personal brand. But, unlike me (it’s on the ever-growing to do list!!!) try not to simply dip in and out. If you’re going to make LinkedIn part of your personal marketing mix, consistency is key. Consistency in communication not only reinforces your brand, it widens your circle and can accelerate the end goal.

For a good example of this, take a look at Andrew’s LinkedIn page. For over 10 years, he has consistently posted, shared articles, and commented on posts. He ensures he follows relevant people and groups, and he actively makes time each day to interact with his network. I know that’s a bit too daunting. So, start small, go slow, and gradually build things up organically.

It’s also important to get the mix right. You should be thinking about sharing content, connecting with peers (or those companies you admire so much) and participating in discussions relevant to accountancy/your area of expertise. Let’s face it, there are LOTS of people on LinkedIn who just post their thoughts without actually engaging with the people who take the time to like/comment etc, and it just comes off as a bit, well…one sided.

Now while I could go on and on about this because there are so many hints and tips and tricks to optimise your profile on LinkedIn, start with the basics – a professional photo, compelling summary and showcase your accomplishments (oh and if you want someone to cast an eye over it, I’m your girl, just drop me a note).

Active Participation in Committees and Professional Bodies

There are many benefits to joining accounting committees or boards, including visibility and credibility in your field. It gives you the opportunity to continue learning, whilst reinforcing everything you’re already doing online (LinkedIn etc) to build and solidify your personal brand. When it comes to engagement, it’s important to contribute and actively participate if you decide to enter this space – otherwise, you’ll be known as the person who just comes along and doesn’t speak to anyone (which does zilch for that brand you’re trying to build).

So..."Who Are You?*" And how far do you want to take this?

What ARE your goals and aspirations?

Do you want to become a leading authority in a certain topic? Do you eventually want to run your own business or be a freelancer? Do you want to truly immerse yourself in your profession and be viewed in a certain way? Or do you just simply want to make it easier when you’re job hunting/to be headhunted?

For many of you, the answer might be “I’m not really sure”. Well, we can help you with this. In fact, we love helping people to define what they really want!

As a professional recruiter who has assisted thousands of individuals in navigating their careers (while building a business and their own personal brand) I know how daunting it can be. If you're ready to elevate your professional presence and open doors to new opportunities, we’re here to help.

Whether you're just starting out or looking to refine your existing brand, don't hesitate to reach out. Together, we can ensure your personal brand not only reflects your professional goals but also propels you towards them!

Becca

*"who who, who who..."