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Career Launch: Create Your Personal Brand

​Chances are, when you think of a brand, you might think of a company or organization and how it interacts with its customers. You might also consider how the company values influence buying decisions.  

Just like a business, you need a brand that represents you, your career goals and areas of interests, so that you may easily connect with the individuals who can help you achieve your goals.

A personal brand helps people get to know you, discover what is important to you and see your strengths. A personal brand should also build trust. Trust leads to recommendations and introductions that may take you from job search to landing your dream job. Defining a personal brand helps you meet the right people so you can spend less time networking and more time deepening relationships and gaining additional skills and expertise.

Creating a personal brand can feel overwhelming, especially as you transition from college to career.

Let this toolkit be your guide to get started on building a personal brand today. And revisit it in the future, as you navigate ever-changing career waters.

What is a personal brand?

A personal brand is an authentic representation of your true self. Developing it takes self-reflection. Today's professionals are often bombarded with invitations to connect virtually or in person, so it's critical to make a memorable first impression.

Recruiters, hiring managers and others in your network will judge you on results rather than promises. Those judgments are made on more than what you say. They include:

  • Presence: Your posture, body language and dress.
  • Character: Your mindset, actions and communication.  
  • Skills: Your education, training and lived experiences. 
  • Distinction: Your ability to distinguish yourself from others through interests, hobbies, volunteerism, etc.

Why does personal branding matter?

A well-defined brand opens up the doors to new opportunities—even when you're not necessarily looking for a new position. It can also help to think about it in terms of the job-search process. 

Consider this: How likely are you to apply for a position at an organization with negative reviews from previous or current employees? Chances are, less likely than those with more positive comments about the workplace. 

Hiring managers and recruiters consider similar feedback, for example, when screening candidates for an open position or when risking a relationship by making a referral. Help them feel confident in supporting your career goals by paying attention to how you "show up" in casual and formal settings. 

Creating a strong personal brand will make you the person that is remembered, so be sure it is the impression you desire. As your career advances, a personal brand may even help you negotiate a higher salary.


Think of a personal brand as the story you tell others about yourself, including your strengths, skills, passions and goals—personally and professionally. Branding applies to many elements, ranging from how you interact with other professionals to items such as job applications, resumes, and social media profiles. 

A personal brand also extends to what others share about you when talking with their peers. This may be just the connection necessary to land the job you want. Combining these elements helps you create authority, or an area of expertise, so that people think of you first.

To do that, you must define what you want to accomplish.

Start by answering these questions:

  • Who is it you want your brand to connect with?
  • What main points do you want those people to know about you?
  • What unique characteristics differentiate you from other job seekers?
  • What do you want others to know and remember about you?


Building Your Brand 

Before you can create a brand, you must know what you think of yourself and how you are perceived. Spend time on self-reflection and ask for outside input.

Look Inward

Set aside time to write a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself:

  • What inspires me?
  • What energizes me?
  • What drains me?
  • What types of work can I spend hours on without realizing how much time has passed?
  • Which traits have others praised me for?
  • What project types do I repeatedly struggle with?

Knowing your personality traits will help you decide how to define and share them. Your personal brand will change throughout your career. Select an area to focus on now and allow it to evolve alongside your career development.

Consider What Others Say About You When You're Not In The Room

Understanding yourself and what you want to be known for starts with introspection. But it's only part of the equation—sometimes it isn't easy to see all your strengths, and we often undervalue the talents that come most naturally to us. You may view certain traits, such as your strong communication skills or creativity, as nice but nonessential.

When you detect patterns in other people's responses, you can better understand the key characteristics that make you unique. In turn, this may lead you to re-evaluate which aspects of yourself you'd like to build your brand around. Friends, family, mentors, co-workers, or a boss can provide additional insights that could be essential to your brand.

Ultimately, you want to learn what someone says about you when you are not in the room.

Try this exercise to gain an understanding of how others see you: 

  • Brainstorm a list of five to seven individuals from different aspects of your life who you trust to offer honest feedback.
  • Frame your "ask." For example, "I'm working on building my professional brand and respect our relationship. What three words would you use when you think of me or my work?"
  • Send the request via e-mail or arrange a time to meet in person.
  • Compile all the words or phrases shared.
  • Compare the feedback to the list you created. What was missing? What fits and what doesn't?
  • Save the list and revisit it periodically.
  • Invite others to share their feedback as your career advances so that your brand evolves along with you.

Four Creative Exercises To Define Your Brand

There are many different methods you can use to define your personal brand. Try one or more of these creative exercises to enhance what you discovered through self-reflection and hearing from others.

1. Create An Avatar 

Do you have a graphic identity that you use to represent yourself in a chat, instant messaging or video game? Other users recognize you by your avatar—by the hairstyle, the clothes and the accessories you've chosen to represent you.

One way to create a personal brand is to think of it like an avatar. This is where you put an identity around who you are and how you want to serve others through your HR career. Dig deeper than physical appearance or graphic representations and think about what you want and value, and about the other people you feel most drawn to work with.

Since there are only so many hours in the day, defining your avatar can help you determine who you want to attract and who you want to avoid.

Write down all of the attributes that describe you.  For example: avid reader, early riser, night owl, committed to professional development, animal lover, volunteer (include specific causes you're passionate about), self-motivated, motivated by others, etc.

2. Think Like A Superhero

Superheroes save the day. Using superheroes is another way to think about your personal brand. Knowing your superpowers can help hiring managers and others in your network see why they should invest in hiring you and assist with your development. 

Envision an original superhero who embodies the impact you want to have in your career. This will help to crystalize your unique talents. 

Here are several examples to get you started: Queen Commonsense, Captain Awesome, Fair Man, The Friendly Enabler.

3. Fill Out A Name Tag

Imagine that you've been asked to fill out a blank name tag that expresses your professional essence without using your name. What words, images, or phrases would you use to describe yourself?

Here are a couple examples to get the create juices flowing:

Set a timer for 20 minutes and jot down a list of words and phrases that you feel capture your personal brand and could fit on a name tag.

4. Branding By Badge

Industry-recognized certifications show that you have taken the initiative to enroll in programs designed to augment your current skill set. Moreover, completing these training modules demonstrates, even more than general education, your readiness for jobs requiring those skills.

Each badge is embedded with evidence of where, when, how and why the professional certification was earned. You can add a digital badge to any virtual media, including:

  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or other social media profiles.
  • Blogs or personal websites.
  • E-mail signatures.
  • Digital resumes.

Clicking on the badge reveals data that validates your achievement. Employers, licensing boards and colleagues can view this data. 

Suppose you have earned a SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP credential. In that case, the Society for Human Resource Management's digital badges provide an easy way to verify and promote your brand online as a certified HR professional. For more information, visit

SHRM specialty credentials focus on specific learning objectives. Completing these can help you develop expertise aligned with your personal brand. Remember, it is not re-certified; rather, it is re-issued following completion of the updated specialty credential learning program appropriate to it. For more information, visit the SHRM specialty credentials page.

Putting It All Together

Each of these steps can help you develop a personal brand, identify who you DO NOT want to work with, and pinpoint a potential future area of expertise.

Once you've identified how you would like to be remembered, craft an "elevator pitch" or "whiplash statement." These quick messages capture who you are and your career goals, ideally within the time it would take to share an elevator ride. Include your strengths, your "why" and even your personal vision or mission. 

Effective brand statements are one-to-three sentences and catchy but also crafted to include compelling information that highlights your value and personality. Here are a couple examples:

  • "Making recruiting content look like Disneyland for work," Marie Benigno Ablaza
  • "Creating innovative and strategic HR solutions that build successful places to work," Lyle Hanna, SHRM-SCP

Taking the time to create a strong personal brand allows you to advertise, promote and build your platform in the right places for the right people. It also enables you to execute your strategy, monitor and adapt; you will learn more about what is working and what is not. 

Creating your brand should be done intentionally by being precise in representing yourself through your actions and words. So often, we think of the employer brand as owned by organizations rather than those working for the organization. But how you partner with people in your team creates an influence around your brand, and you also have a role as an ambassador for your employer's brand.


You want to make sure you have a diverse, compelling online footprint for sharing your brand. If you are not somewhat active on the Internet, then hiring managers may never find you. More than three-quarters (77%) of organizations reported using social networking sites to recruit potential job candidates, an increase from 56% in 2011 and 34% in 2008.

Many recruiters and hiring managers use social networking sites for screening, and a large majority (92%) use LinkedIn. This is followed by Facebook (58%), Twitter (31%), Google Plus (25%), and professional or association social networking sites other than SHRMConnect (14%). Less than 10% of organizations use other sites such as YouTube and Pinterest.

Review your posts on TikTok, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms you use. Then, think about how a potential employer may respond to those posts. If there is content you would not want them or colleagues to find, then remove it or set the account to private. If you decide to make an account private, then you can create a second account that reflects your professional brand.

Understand what your online footprint looks like. Google yourself. Look at what does and does not pop up. A search that returns few or no results means you may be passed over for someone with a more visible online presence. A Google search might reveal that multiple people share your name. If this is the case, then consider adding a middle initial or another variation that will set you apart online.

Boost your visibility online with these seven tips: 

  1. Create a blog and write about topics you would like to be known for having expertise in. For example, share information about books read, conferences attended, advice from a networking experience, etc. 
  2. Publish articles on LinkedIn. Write about topics that demonstrate your subject matter expertise and thought leadership. Be careful not to offer advice early in your career before having the experience. Instead, share reflections, reactions and thoughts around topics you've read or learned about.
    The posts become part of your profile and are shared with your connections and followers, and with out-of-network members who opt to receive them. They are searchable both on and off LinkedIn.
    Look for this feature: "write article" in the share box near the top of your homepage. 
  3. Write reviews of relevant books on Amazon or other well-known sites. Reviews can become additional powerful search results that support your expertise. At the same time, reading the right books can improve your breadth of knowledge and strengthen your skill set.
  4. Join professional groups on social media. For example, there are many HR-focused groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to help members under age 30 establish a foundation in the field by providing resources and educational opportunities. 
  5. Find your local SHRM chapter group and join the conversation.
  6. Look at HR groups offered within LinkedIn. For example, a quick search for HR reveals a group just for HR and recruitment within the oil, energy and construction segment, and one simply named "HR Jobs." 
    Type "HR Groups" into the search bar on the platform(s) you use most. You'll quickly find groups such as HR Coffee Talk, a closed regional group of HR professionals looking to collaborate and share knowledge. 
  7. Search HR Slack channels for those that help individuals build their networks, connect with recruiting firms, and get insight from each other about the best companies to work with.

The purpose of these groups is to create relationships and support each other's career development, but they also often become a place where job openings are shared.

Tips For Creating A Linkedin Profile

Since nearly all (92%) recruiters and hiring managers rely on LinkedIn to screen applicants, it's essential to devote time to showcasing your personal brand. Think of LinkedIn as your digital business card.

LinkedIn is the largest business platform in the world, with more than 66.8 million U.S. users. Recruiters, hiring managers, or colleagues will visit your profile. When they get there, will they be captivated or unimpressed?  

With these tips, you can create a LinkedIn profile that captures the essence of your brand.

Header: The rectangular box behind your profile picture is prime real estate—avoid leaving it blank! Choose an image representing your "brand" or aspirations for your HR career. Create an image using simple copy-and-paste tools or free versions of design software such as Canva and others to develop a unique image that captures your brand.

Profile Picture: Choose a photo that reflects your desired professional image. One option is a professional headshot. 

If the photos are clear and appropriate, then a DIY approach can be a budget-friendly option. Take a look at the profile photos of HR professionals who you find inspirational. Take note of the background, distance, angles and lighting. For other clues, visit some corporate websites and take a look at photos of the management team.

Choose a background with minimal distractions. You can also showcase your personality with an image that shows you outdoors or in a more relaxed setting. Just remember that it should not be blurry or too casual. For the best results, select a photo that shows you looking into the viewers' eyes with a smile, inviting them to learn more about your experience and how you'll be the best person for the job.

Headline: Your profile headline and job titles are crucial to being searchable. LinkedIn's search algorithms weigh these two pieces heavily. By default, your current job title will show as your headline. 

If it is awkward, then rewrite the title. For example, if unemployed, use the title you're seeking. Be specific, using standard titles that are typically found on a job search site. In the headline, also note the industry you are interested in and any specialties or certifications you possess. The proper way to list these is to use a vertical line between the keyword phrases. For example: 

Jane Smith, SHRM-SCP l HR Employee Relations l Human Resources Program Manager l HR experience in health care and education

John Smith, SHRM-SCP l Human Resources Leader l HR experience in recruitment 

Job titles: If your formal title isn't clear, then state the most accurate name for what you do to clarify for readers. For example, "HR III" might be the internal title, but "benefits specialist" is your actual work, so you would want to use that instead. 

Work experience: Recruiters and hiring managers want to know your impact on your role, not the generic duties and responsibilities listed on a job description: highlight quantifiable results and a few accomplishments. For example, distinguish how you reduced costs, created something new, added to revenue, enhanced productivity, or made any process, system or organizational improvements.  

Use action words: Start each sentence with an action verb such as "directed," "created," "drove," "headed," "implemented," etc. Here is a great formula to use as you develop your sentences: actions = results. Specify what your actions were and conclude with the results achieved. 

Keywords: LinkedIn operates like a search engine. In order to make yourself visible to recruiters and hiring managers, it is essential to use keywords. Review current job postings and identify words, phrases, important job tasks or critical skills used most often. Strategically sprinkle these keywords into each section of your profile to increase your chances of appearing in a search.

About section: LinkedIn recommends that the About section be written in first person and in a way that portrays your personality. Think of it as if you were networking in person and what you might say about yourself. Discuss why you like your field or job, what kind of work you do, what you think you are good at and the type of work tasks you enjoy. Keep it all genuine and authentic.

Recommendations: These mini-references are powerfully effective. Ask former bosses, clients, and colleagues to write one about you. When you make the request, offer a few sentences on what you would like them to write, which makes it easier for your connection and increases the probability they will do it. 

Avoid these 6 common mistakes:

Mistake #1: Being too humble. Many HR professionals are careful to refrain from bragging. Unfortunately, as a result being too humble, they often fail to include top accomplishments and their most impressive business results. 

Pro Tip: Include awards, honors, certifications and accomplishments from school, work, or volunteering roles.

Mistake #2: Focusing only on job descriptions. Copying and pasting your job description into your profile doesn't truly show your contributions.

Pro Tip: Highlight your professional successes, expertise, professional interests, and your impact on the role.

Mistake #3: Omitting or downplaying a role believed to be irrelevant

Pro Tip: Add roles you may view as insignificant. You may think they need to be more professional, but employers see valuable competencies in roles that showcase soft life skills, such as work done in college, volunteerism and community service.

Mistake #4: Posting unprofessional content.

Pro Tip: Carefully check grammar and spelling before posting. Use an authentic voice in your messages but keep the tone more professional than that used with friends and family. Be careful about your posts and avoid speaking negatively about past employers.

Mistake #5: Leaving a profile incomplete.

Pro Tip: Complete your entire profile, including work experience details, certifications, education, volunteer work and skills.

Mistake #6: Failing to update your profile.

Pro Tip: Your brand evolves as you land jobs, transition to new roles and define your specialty area. Updating your profile to showcase these evolutions is critical to maintaining your brand.

Personal Social Meets Professional Social

Social networks, especially Twitter, provide a place to show that your brand extends beyond what you do from 9 to 5.

Consider how the following HR professionals crafted Twitter bios that showcase different sides of who they are:

  • Claire Stroh Petrie, SHRM-CP (She/Her) (@_strclaire) Talent Acquisition & #HR pro, tech recruiter, career coach, encourager, SHRM EPAC, 1:1 coaching, blog & more, #ClaireShares #HRCommunity
  • Kelli S., SHRM-CP (@HrMillennial) #Floridaliving #mom #Law&OrderGeek #Vegan and completely devoted to #disruptHR !! #HR #HRTribe #SHRM
  • Craig Frazier, SHRM-SCP (@craig_frazier) VP of #HR & Marketing, Lucky Husband, Proud Dad, Small Business Advocate & Culture Leader #Gamer #Runner #Crypto #HRPositive #SHRMSCP
  • Lorena Pabon, MHSA, SHRM-CP (@lpabonhr)Puerto Rican| HR Geek |@GOSHRM Board Member |Foodie | I tweet in English, Spanish & Spanglish #wine #hrpro
  • Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP (@sbrownehr): Strategic HR professional, proud OU Bobcat, lover of all Rock music, and confessed HR Radical!!

Conduct your own search for more ideas. In the Twitter search bar, type "SHRM" and select "people" for a quick search for inspiration.


Posting and sharing on social platforms is only one way to leverage your personal brand. Networking is essential to promoting your skills, interests and goals. 

This means learning how to be an active listener, asking thought-provoking questions, wanting to learn more about the other person and sharing articles/blogs/videos that the other person may enjoy.

Networking also isn't just about knowing people. The value lies in who those people are, what you hope to gain from a relationship with them and what you intend to offer them in return. No matter how early it might be in your career, decide how you want your career to progress, then work backwards to identify the stepping stones you'll need to achieve that goal.

You'll want to build networks of:

  • People who hold the same job title as you. You want connections with the same degree of experience as you, plus people with more and less experience; they are all valuable.
  • People who hold job titles one, two and three levels above you because these are the people likely to have the authority to hire you.
  • People with different job titles and perhaps in different departments, with whom you interact on a regular basis, because they too are likely to know of openings.
  • Any corporate recruiters or headhunters who work in your field.

Someone who simply works in your profession may generally be a good contact, but the contacts who hold more value are those people who work in either your particular area of responsibility or an area of expertise that your job interacts with on a regular basis.

Furthermore, the best potential networking colleagues are people who work in your specialty or one closely related to it and who hold job titles one, two or three levels above yours. These are the people most likely to be involved in hiring someone like you.

You can meet all these people by getting involved in your college or university SHRM student chapter. This can provide you with opportunities to connect with other aspiring HR professionals who could one day become professional contacts. SHRM student chapters are also a great way to meet established HR professionals. Joining the local SHRM chapter and attending the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo early in your career can support your networking efforts.

Another way to meet individuals who align with your networking goals is to send a personal e-mail expressing your interest after reading an article they wrote or hearing them speak.


Subject Line: Loved what you said at the SHRM meeting last week


Hi Susan,

Last week I heard you speak at our local SHRM chapter about the importance of coaching in HR to support increased employee engagement efforts to boost retention. I am just beginning my HR career, and this is an area that I'm particularly interested in. I'd love to hear your thoughts on a few questions I had after the session. Would you be open to a 20-minute virtual coffee to discuss?

When you show a sincere interest in the industry and the individual, it can help open doors to opportunities. With this approach, you can highlight your own strengths without appearing as if you're only interested in your own advancement.

The 80/20 Rule

You've likely heard of the 80/20 rule.

But what exactly is it?

The "80/20" rule is formally known as the Pareto Principle. The idea is that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of inputs.

How does this relate to your personal brand and networking?

Nearly 80% of your goals will be supported/achieved through 20% of the connections you make. Spend time creating a list of five to 10 people you intentionally want to get to know. Choose those people to focus your energy on connecting with both virtually and in person. Investing in that relationship can repay dividends in unexpected ways and for years to come.

Employing the 80/20 rule in networking conversations is equally powerful. It's human nature to talk about ourselves, especially after working on defining our personal brand. However, when the conversation is 80% focused on the person you're talking to and 20% on self-promotion, you'll boost the impact of your personal brand.

Make It Easy To Be Contacted

Set up an e-mail account you can use professionally. Keep it simple by using your first and last name @ the provider you choose. You don't need to give up an e-mail account with a fun name like smileyface366 or signergirl245 that you created in high school or college—reserve conversations on those accounts for family and friends.

Don't be surprised if your name is already taken—many parents are establishing e-mail accounts for newborns to guarantee they'll have access to them later in life.

Try a combination that includes a middle initial, periods, hyphens, or abbreviations to get as close as possible.

  • Example: jane.m.smith@
  • Example: JJones@
  • Example: billtbrown@
  • Example: jmmd@
  • Example: karen-smith@
Avoid using an underscore, such as mary_jones@. This is because links are automatically underlined when presented digitally, making it easy for viewers to miss the _.

This all makes sense in the short term, but what about the long term? By joining professional associations like SHRM, you'll meet the best-connected and most-committed professionals in your area. Dedicate time to attend your local SHRM chapter meetings and get to know and be known by the inner circle of your profession. Joining HR groups on LinkedIn similarly empowers you to reach out and connect with other members. When you make a connection, you may have access to that person's contacts as well, which extends your network considerably.


Creating a memorable personal brand—that is authentic to you and your goals—takes work. The first step to building a brand is consistency. This means ensuring that every place you showcase yourself carries the same message—from your elevator pitch to your social media platforms, resume, interview, and networking conversations.

The second step is staying current on industry trends. Follow breaking news within the HR field, share the resources, and initiate conversations with other HR professionals to demonstrate that you are engaged and committed to the field.

Developing confidence can feel like the most challenging part of creating a brand. Young and emerging professionals often feel that they lack workplace "skills." Recognizing the life experiences, especially in soft skills developed through volunteering, college leadership, internships and other jobs, can be as valuable for landing an entry-level job as on-the-job experience.

The next time someone asks you about you're experience, avoid saying:

"I just worked at a fast-food restaurant."

The word "just" minimizes the impact of the message. Instead, find ways to bring a positive spin to the role and showcase the skills it took to complete the job.


"I was a food service team member and routinely interacted with customers to deliver their requested order and find solutions if they were dissatisfied with the service or their meal."

Be Prepared For Rejection, But Remain Persistent

Chances are you'll be applying and interviewing for positions you really want. On paper, it seemed like the ideal opportunity. But then you're (potentially) ghosted or receive the disappointing call that another candidate was selected. Think of rejection as redirection. Refocus on your goals and keep searching. Most importantly, stay optimistic and use your resources to your advantage.