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9 steps to build your personal brand (and your career)

Rich Hein | May 23, 2013
Competition in the tech jobs industry is fierce, so how do you differentiate yourself from the pack? Whether you're a job seeker or just looking to grow professionally, creating an impressive and meaningful brand is the best place to start.

Personal branding isn't a new topic. In fact, it's been around since roughly 1997 when Tom Peters coined the phrase, but as we slowly recover from the economic downturn and with the rise of new technology and an increase IT consulting, personal branding is becoming more prevalent and more important.

Regardless of your role in ITwhether you are a CIO, a developer or a helpdesk technician-developing and maintaining your personal brand should be a part of your long-term career strategy.

A personal brand is more than just maintaining your LinkedIn profile, according to the experts. "Good people put their head down and get caught up in their job and forget they have a whole career to manage," says Pamela Rucker, chairwoman of the CIO executive Council's Executive Women in IT.

So where should you start? spoke with career strategists, authors and industry experts to lay out a nine-step plan to help you build your personal brand from the ground up.

1. Figure out what you do best and what you are known for
"What are the top one or two selling points that make you unique? You have to know what value you bring to the table even if other people can't see that yet because you're trying to build a story for them," says Rucker.

Doing this allows you to be more honest in your brand promotion. The end-game is to get potential employers to say, "Ah, this person understands the industry, he understands the history, here's what he's done in the past and here is what he is doing now and why he is important."

Rucker offers this example: If you look at Starbucks as a standalone store it is known for its coffee. Even though it can be inside a Target or grocery store, you know what that brand is. You're going to get a great cup of coffee. "People need to find out what those one or two things are and then define themselves on that," says Rucker.

One quagmire Rucker says she commonly sees is senior IT folks who use the generic term industry leader. When asked how they are an industry leader, they have a difficult time explaining. That said, if you know what your capabilities are, you can create a personal brand statement with the very specific attributes and qualities you bring.

"Your brand has to be authentic while still being meaningful and compelling, says Stephen Van Vreede, career strategist and resume writer with ITTechExec.

"You need to be honest with yourself about what your strengths are. Once you figure out what you do best, put all your energy into it because your talents are what make you stand out," says Dan Schawbel, author of the upcoming book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.


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