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I’m a 41-year-old personal branding coach and PR consultant with no degree and no formal training in my field of expertise. But from experience, I have been able to run a successful boutique PR agency that has worked with over 100 local and international brands for the last 12 years and created a profitable coaching business for the last three years.
As professionals, we sometimes put a lot of focus on qualifications, degrees, certifications and other educational results — and not enough focus on the unique journey and experience that can add additional value to support your education and ultimately your career choice. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe having proper qualifications can add significant value to your brand. But what I love about personal branding is that it is a combination of your passions, education, experience and expertise that will differentiate you from someone else in a similar career field.
Let’s think about it this way: If you were a part of the graduating class where 100 of your classmates just graduated with the same degree and 50% of you go to apply for the same job, what would make you the candidate of choice during the interview if you all have the same qualifications on paper? That’s where the personal brand comes in.
I find that we focus a lot on where we want to go and the things we need to accomplish without giving enough attention to what we have already done and how we can leverage this as we go along our career path. Journey mapping helps you get clarity on the supporting elements of your personal brand that can help you stand out when an opportunity arises.
Reverse road trip
Take a look back at your personal and professional journey to this moment. Look at key experiences and make a note of skills learned along the way. You can break it down by:
- education (including trainings and workshops)
- personal experience
- on-the-job experience
- any career highlights
- personal development
Think about the different people that have come along for the ride on your personal journey and how this may have impacted your career. They could be family members, friends, mentors, teachers or co-workers. They could even be people that have shaped your journey through books, webinars and even social media. For example, my entire life changed in 2017 after I read The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. It’s what lead me to write a book, which then led me to become an international speaker. Who are the people that have impacted you and have added significant value to the way you do what you do?
Roadblocks and detours
Life happens! Things happen in your life that you may not have planned for in both your personal and professional life that makes you have to press the brakes and stop or change the course of your direction. In the moment, it can sometimes feel pretty daunting, but looking back you can identify how a roadblock or detour actually put you exactly where you needed to be in that moment. What were some of the roadblocks that you experienced that led you to become a better professional in your field? What were some of the challenges that you had to overcome?
Change can sometimes be scary. Changing jobs, changing location, changing careers — they can all come with their unique set of challenges. However, with change comes the opportunity to learn new things, meet new people and have new experiences. How have changes in your professional journey added value to your area of expertise?
Calculating a new route
Starting over can be difficult, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. You don’t know where the new journey will take you, but if you look at it as an opportunity to learn, to grow and to become more aligned with who you are meant to be, then it will all be worth it and you can use it to further enhance your personal brand.
Doing this simple exercise can help you to look at where you have been, where you are trying to go and what else you may need to do in between to get to your final destination. Think of the personal brand as a journey, and take all the experiences along the way to become the person and the professional that you needed to be today.
Remember: There may be several people with your job title and qualifications, but only one person has your exact experience — and that’s you. Don’t be afraid to use this as a tool when positioning your personal brand.