When you’re being weighed against dozens of other candidates for a job, your personal brand can be the thing that sets you apart. But what even is a personal brand, and how do you establish yours?
A personal brand is a cultivated presence and public image that illustrates who you are and what you can do. For people who work in tech, your personal brand typically includes your LinkedIn, GitHub, website, and portfolio, but it can also include social platforms like Twitter and Facebook. You don’t have to be an influencer or concoct a persona to have a personal brand — all it takes is identifying what you care about and finding ways to communicate it to the world.
Put another way: A personal brand is about much more than just self-promotion. “If you’re upfront about your values and build your brand around them, those who resonate with them are more likely to reach out to you,” says Tiffany Dedeaux, Career Coach and founder of Sacred Time.
Personal branding is a great way to stand out from the crowd and give people a sense of your personality, interests, and skillset. As you build your brand throughout your career, you’ll be able to identify the skills, projects, and experiences that really provide meaning.
Of course, having a strong personal brand can give you an edge when you’re looking for a job. Not only can it help you make an impression with recruiters and hiring managers, but it can also help you tailor your search to companies that share your values. Plus, it can give you material to highlight in your resume and during interviews, Tiffany explains.
Ahead, we’ll take a closer look at personal branding and how you can leverage the power of storytelling to build your own.
How to build a personal brand
We all have unique personal narratives, but sometimes it can be hard to package all your lived experience into a tidy “brand.” A great first step towards creating a personal brand is identifying your passions and values and thinking about how they can blend with your strengths and accolades, suggests Carolyn Lai Moore, Career Strategist and Founder of Wildlight. “How do you reframe your story and skills to fit into a narrative a company will really vibe with?” she says.
Ask yourself: What accomplishments are you the most proud of? What obstacles have you overcome, and how can you help others do the same? How does your work align with your personal philosophy or point of view? Consider using these prompts to write a professional bio that captures your experience and future goals.
Your personal brand can be an internal compass as you navigate your career. It’s also a good idea to think about how you outwardly market yourself and your skills to potential employers. For example, social media can be an excellent way to get your name out there, connect with others in the industry, and find professional opportunities. Try updating your social profiles to reflect your current (or desired) role, and linking them all together to create a cohesive image. Showcase work that reflects your skills and interests, like unique projects you built during your coursework or contributions to open-source projects (like Codecademy Docs).
And remember to stay consistent across platforms. Be conscientious of what and who you engage with; branding can open the door to tons of networking opportunities as you meet and connect with likeminded people.
The power of storytelling
Being able to clearly and effectively tell your story as a developer is about more than just selling yourself; it’s also a way to build confidence and self esteem, Tiffany says. “Stories can change the way you see yourself, how you present yourself, and how others see you,” she says. “Branding is a story; you want to tell the story of what you’re looking for, and that’s going to help lead you in that direction.”
Lots of career switchers struggle with feelings of impostor syndrome — even if they have the right skills, they feel insecure about their lack of professional experience. Building a personal brand is one step that can help you claim your new identity. For example, say you currently work in marketing, but you’re learning to code because you want to become a UX Designer. Sharing highlights and unique insights from your past work experience, like how your knowledge of buyer personas carries over into user research, can help you feel more confident in your capabilities and expertise.
Talking about yourself and knowing how to tell your own story is great practice for interviews as you’ll get into the habit of picking out the parts that are the most relevant and important. You’ll also want to start and finish strong — the beginning and ending of a story tend to be the most memorable, Tiffany says.
And remember to stay positive. Studies show that negativity tends to stick out in our minds, so when you discuss any problems or obstacles you’ve overcome, try focusing on the solution. For example, instead of harping on how you don’t have professional experience in tech, discuss how you’ve contributed to Docs and are comfortable collaborating in GitHub.
Showcase your personality (professionally)
Your personal brand gives you the chance to show more personality than you’d typically include in your resume or portfolio, but remember to be mindful of professionalism. What’s considered “professional” can vary greatly depending on your industry or workplace, so use your judgment. That’s not to say you can’t have a little fun or that you can only post work-related content, but keep it relevant.
For example, if you’re a web developer, posting about your cat Fluffy on LinkedIn every day (while cute) might not give off the right impression to potential clients or employers who find you on the professional networking platform. But if you used pictures of Fluffy in a website you built about rescue animals, that’s a relevant project that gives you an opportunity to talk about your passion for animal welfare.
If you’re looking for new stories to tell and projects to show off as you build your personal brand, check out our library of coding projects for some inspo. You can also contribute to Codecademy Docs to help build credibility and reinforce your knowledge. And if you need more help branding yourself and finding jobs online, here are some tips for building a personal website and going freelance.