6 ways to build your personal brand

Amanda Gicharu-Kemoli

Personal branding is that mythical thing where you decide you want to be famous and have a reality TV show with your family, right? Umm…not exactly. Simply put, it’s the perception that people have about you after your interactions on a regular basis – be it a business meeting, social gathering or from your online presence. After other people form their perception, the question for you is what they observe about you, what you want them to remember?

If the answer is no or you’re not sure, here are a couple of tips to help you build a personal brand that you can be proud of.

1. Define your brand

The first step is to know who you are, your personal goals, mission and what you want to be known for. We all have different passions and ambitions so having a personal brand isn’t exclusively for public figures.

If you want to be computer programmer, what are the unique skills you want to be known for? If you want to become a popular stylist, what style and approach do you bring to your clients so that they remember you?

Once you define that, develop a personal mission statement that summarizes who you are, what you do, who do you do it for, and how do you deliver value in a way that no one else does.

2. Start Building Your Reputation

Once you’ve developed your personal mission statement, now is the time to let people know about it. Take time out to network, go to forums within your industry, and find opportunities to interact with different people both socially and in business.

Personally, I always set a target each month of people I would like to interact with. I also create a target list of the business workshops or events in my area of expertise that I want to attend in order to build my skills and meet new people. This way, I get to grow and represent my brand as well.

3. Get Advice

Amid all this networking and building visibility, it can be easy to get carried away and forget to find potential mentors or advisors. Mentors can help you focus all those ideas you have running through your mind, and hopefully share advice that can keep you from making common mistakes.

Not all mentors need to come from your area of expertise. It can be good to find someone with a totally different background than you who can give you an external point of view and general leadership advice.

4. Know Your Stuff

If you are going to start claiming to be an expert in an area, then you should definitely be an expert in an area. That doesn’t mean you can’t continue to learn and grow, but you should have a good idea of where your talents lie and how you’re going to build upon them.

Get to know your weaknesses, identify your strengths and work to become the best person in that area. Your goal is to become the first person people think of when they have a problem they want to solve or are looking for an expert, so make sure you’re ready for the opportunity when they come calling.

5. Maintain Your Connections

After you do all of the hard work to start to build a reputation and connect with relevant people in your industry, you also have to put in the effort to keep up with your brand new contacts.

Use social media and blogging to keep your brand in the right places and the right publications. Set up a system where you’re sending follow up emails to every business card you collect or person you meet at conferences.

As you maintain your connections, then they’ll be more likely to recommend you for new opportunities or open up their network further.

6. Keep Learning and Improving Your Skills

Have you noticed a common pattern here? Just because you decide to become an expert in something and build your personal brand around it doesn’t mean your job is finished.

If you want to maintain relevance in the market and stand out for the long term then you need to make sure you’re always on top of relevant trends and continue to add new skills to your toolkit.

In conclusion, becoming well known in one area of expertise is so important for Motherland Moguls today. When you can’t rely on a job to employ you forever, we all have to be masters of our fate and keep our options open.

Hope these tips gave you a good road map to starting building your personal brand and showing the world all you have to offer.

The mentorship advantage

She Hive Accra

Sugar. Spice. And everything nice.

What do you need to be a successful entrepreneur? More than it takes to make the Powerpuff Girls. Some say passion, commitment, and willpower are top of the list —all very true. I believe to be a successful entrepreneur you need a viable business model and a good mentor.

What is the role of a mentor?

One of my favorite books on this topic is, “Expect to win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace” by Carla A. Harris. She defines a mentor as “someone you rely upon to give you good, tailored developmental advice”.

According to Futurpreneur Canada, the advantages of having a mentor are described in six points.

A mentor helps you:

  • Gain insights and perspective by having someone to bounce your ideas off of
  • Focus on and strategically work towards your business vision
  • Shorten your learning curve
  • Identify opportunities and risk by learning with someone experienced
  • Grow and enhance your business network and acumen
  • Build confidence knowing you have someone in your corner

Key traits of mentors

As I write this, I think of all my mentors and the two key traits they all share:

  • Expertise and integrity: Find a mentor you believe to be brilliant, knowledgeable and trust worthy. You want your mentor to be someone you will listen to because you trust their expertise
  • Genuine interest in my development: This is what I call the mentor/mentee chemistry. Choose a mentor who is genuinely interested in who you are, understands your strengths and weakness and wants to help you develop and grow. Mentorship is a deep and personal relationship and for the relationship to be truly useful, you both must feel safe sharing the “good, bad and ugly”

How to be a good mentee

Having discussed the importance of mentorship and what to look for in a mentor, how do you become a good mentee?

  • Listen
  • Consider the advice you get and apply when relevant (This is why your mentor has to be someone you can trust)
  • Set SMART goals and hold yourself accountable
  • Ask for feedback and provide feedback in return
  • Be honest and communicate openly with your mentor
  • Invest time and effort in your relationship
  • Most importantly, as a mentee, remember to pay it forward

Peer mentorship is a form of mentorship that is often neglected but I find very valuable especially in my professional and business life. Keep in mind; your mentor must have some expertise and be genuinely interested in who you are and your development from a point of low self-interest. Many times, you can find these qualities in a peer.

To my mentors:

Thank you for teaching me to be positive and fiercely myself. Reminding me I have all I need, to be who I want to be—a healthy mind and body. Thank you for demanding I think big. Because, why the heck not.

My mentor helped me learn my worth & start my business

It was the worst of times–I was jobless, broke, and in despair. Then I met a woman who told me to own my skills and know my worth, in that order. She is now one of my amazing mentors, and an inspiration for my organization, The Fairy Godsister, Inc.

Mentorship is significant to career success and personal advancement. Mentoring is a relationship between two individuals, in which a more experienced person imparts insight, wisdom, and guidance that can be leveraged to help a less experienced person progress in their professional, personal, or academic development.

In my career, I have had an opportunity to meet wonderful women who have empowered me to accomplish great things. As such, I have always enjoyed networking as a fantastic way to expand the cache of individuals in my rolodex. But simply increasing your number of acquaintances is not enough.

 

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Join a Network

There are networks whose primary purpose is to help match you with a mentor that is the right fit for your goals and ambitions. Do some research, and identify a few that are of interest to you. Then, reach out!

Here’s a tip: Before you begin your search, define a few goals that you would like a mentor to help you accomplish. This exercise will enable you to quickly filter out organizations that do not provide mentors that speak to your needs.

Affiliate networks

If you already work at a company, find out if there is an affinity network for women. If so, join one or five, and engage with the members in the network. Find someone who is more senior than you, whose position you may one day like to have, and ask that individual out for coffee to discuss their experiences.

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This is an organic approach to developing an advocacy relationship with someone at your workplace.

Leverage your network

The good thing about networking is meeting people; the bad thing is not following up. To avoid the pitfalls of this, make it a goal to find one potential mentor at every opportunity where you meet people. Set relationship building as a priority and find individuals from whom you can learn.Image result I have developed relationships with individuals simply because I reached out to follow up with an email to ask for a phone call or coffee after an event or upon reading their  LinkedIn profiles. A coffee, two dinners, and a Facebook/LinkedIn later, you now have a healthy relationship with someone who you will learn from and can leverage to your advantage.

Final tip

Mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship, so before you reach out to someone, consider how you may be able to assist them as well. In our organization, we have found that many of the mentors report great benefits from their roles.

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They learn things about themselves through their relationships with their mentees. So, when considering finding a mentor, be prepared to be a teacher as well as a student.

In conclusion, the relationships that are built through networking opportunities are seldom maintained beyond a few follow-up emails, resulting in a wasted resource. You need to build relationships, and most importantly, identify an advocate who will become a mentor.

Yet, I know that finding the right mentor is not always easy.

In fact, studies indicate that historically, women have reported greater challenges in finding mentors than men. This has led to the development of a number of networks and programs who aim to connect women with female mentors. The Mentoring Women’s Network, and The Fairy Godsister  are two such groups.

 

Building networking relationships that last

I don’t remember ever feeling comfortable in networking situations and when I had to introduce myself to a group of strangers. 

But the thing is, these nerve-wracking conversations could lead to critical personal and professional opportunities. Think about it! You are probably where you are in your career or as an enlightened person due to communal effort. The contribution of those around us in our individual advancement cannot be downplayed.

Your network is your net worth…

And we’re always one or two persons away from getting what we need. All we have to do is reach out to people we know. Mildred Apenyo, an entrepreneur and the founder of FitcliqueAfrica, was able to secure space for her women’s only gym through her network, for example. One of the trainers she worked with connected her to a family that owns a hotel and they agreed to let her turn one of their conference rooms into a fitness space. This saved her a lot of time and the resources that would have gone into searching for a usable space throughout her city.

Whatever you do, don’t network just for the sake of it. Most of us are consumed with attending all the events out there and collecting as many business cards possible. Post ‘networking’ binge, we always find ourselves stuck in a rut, wondering if it was all even worth it. The key is to be deliberate about the events you attend. Show up ready to mingle. Once you get the contact information you need, don’t let it sit there gathering dust. Take action. Remember that networking is a process that requires on to be proactive.

What keeps us from taking action?

The fear of rejection

There’s always a chance that our attempts at fostering relationships will be rejected. It’s only natural for us to avoid instances where rejection is a possibility. The thing about life however, is that nothing is certain, so you might as well try. The worst that could happen is that they’ll say ‘no.’ But remember, with every ‘no’ you are one step closer to a YES!

Being stuck in our comfort zones

Networking takes time, effort, energy and resources – things that a lot of us unfortunately see as ‘doing too much.’ “They have my contact information, if they are interested they will reach out,” we say. “Why should I follow up with an email or a call?” we wonder. We think that just attending the event and putting in face time is enough. It is not, unfortunately. You have to nurture the relationships. Make initial contact, follow up with in-person meetings and grow from there.

Getting things done

As Martha C. White outlines in TIME, it’s increasingly becoming clear that for networking to work, we have to shift from the ‘What’s in it for me?’ mindset. It is imperative to understand that there is a mutual exchange in this process. Networking is not just about accumulating a list of contacts that you can reach out to when the need arises. It is more about building real relationships that involve active participation of give and take between both parties.

Depending on your situation, you need to first identify the people you would like to connect with. It could be someone you want to learn from professionally or an investor who you think might be interested in your business concept. Once the individual has been identified, the first step you take in approaching them could either seal the deal or break it. You might be tempted to bombard them with information about yourself or your potential business, but it is not about you. Remember?

Your first introduction should be about connecting with that person. Show them that you are genuinely interested in what they do and what they have to say. Create an atmosphere that compels them to talk about themselves. Ask thoughtful questions and actively listen to their responses. This will build a good rapport that will seamlessly lead to a conversation about you.

You have connected, what’s next?

At this point, there’s only one thing left. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up! The sooner you hit the ground running, the better. Business etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore asserts relationships take time to be built. In order for you to build a strong professional network, mastering the art of the follow up is necessary.

A quick email post the event will do. It doesn’t have to be long but it should contain the fundamentals. Begin by thanking the person for their time. If you had a very nice conversation about a particular topic, this could be the starting point to setting up the next meeting. Apart from that, it is also important to keep in mind a few details about the conversation you had. What were the other parties’ needs and how can you be involved in meeting those. Always seek out ways you can help your new contact without expecting anything in return. The level of trust will build over time if you do this.