Build Your Personal Brand: LinkedIn's Lauren Saunders Shares Tips

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek October 19, 2021
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Oprah brand

​Oprah. Rihanna. Morgan Freeman. These names spring to mind when thinking of people whose unique and consistent bodies of work have created strong personal brands, said Lauren Saunders, head of talent attraction at LinkedIn.

"These are people who are powerhouses [in their industries]. We know just by their name what they stand for, what they're known for," she said during a recent annual conference hosted by New York City-based Fairygodboss, an online career community for women.

"We know what their 'lane' is and what they're going to offer us when we interact with them—whether that's interacting with their music, watching them on TV, reading their book," Saunders said. "It's the same thing when you think of your personal brand."

Know Yourself and What You Offer

Your brand should reflect your authentic self, and developing it takes self-reflection, Saunders said. "Trying to be everything to everyone can be diluting to your brand," she cautioned.

She said part of her brand is being someone who actively seeks diversity of thought. An attendee who is an event planner defined her brand as someone who creates memorable experiences to set people up for success, such as through recruitment events. Another attendee described her brand as someone who can be counted on to "do what's right, not what's popular. I speak my mind and say what needs to be said."

Creating your brand should be done intentionally, by being precise in how you represent yourself through your actions and words, Saunders noted.

"I think too many of us often rely on [our brand] happening organically, and sometimes [that] can result in a personal brand that isn't exactly where we want it to be or moves us in a direction that isn't as deliberate as we'd like."

How a person behaves with others is a part of his or her brand, and sharing personal experiences is a way to communicate that brand.

"That story that you tell combined with those everyday interactions ultimately defines your personal brand and the trajectory for your career and the opportunities that may be ahead of you," Saunders said. "When you tell people about being an ally, or [your experiences] learning how to be an inclusive manager, those are very personal stories and are ones that, rightly, should be told upfront and often with as much honesty on a personal level."

Intersectionality with the Employer Brand

"Often, we think of the employer brand as owned by organizations," rather than by those working for the organization, Saunders said, but "how you partner with people in your team creates an influence around your brand. We have this role to play as an ambassador for our employer's brand."

Amplify your personal brand with these actions:

  1. Find a trusted mentor, someone who can tell you what someone says about you when you are not in the room. "What is the 'leave behind?' " Saunders asked.
  2. Strategically build an online presence, and find ways to interact with others at external events such as conferences. Saunders noted that her passion for advancing women in the workplace and LinkedIn's brand as a business and employment-oriented online service intersected nicely with her participation as a speaker at Fairygodboss's conference, which focused on advocating for change that supports women and diverse groups of employees in the workplace.
  3. Be mindful of your actions and the networks you build. These actions "are a powerful part of who we are and our personal and employer brand," according to Saunders.
  4. Become comfortable with self-promotion. That includes publicly documenting your skills, projects and other achievements—including employer awards—on social media platforms.

Women in general are uncomfortable with self-promotion, Saunders noted, and tend to see themselves as more collaborative. They are concerned self-promotion will be viewed negatively. However, not letting others know of your accomplishments can backfire professionally. One attendee noted in the session's chat room that she lost out on a job opportunity because she said "we" too many times in an interview rather than taking credit for her own accomplishments.

Session moderator Casey Coffman, operations manager on the customer marketing team at Fairygodboss, uses an Excel sheet to keep track of her achievements.

"Then when you need to brag on yourself, like in a performance review, you can say 'I did this and this and this,' " Coffman said, and it becomes more about sharing personal metrics.

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