4 Areas to Build Your Personal Brand in an Increasingly Virtual World

(Master Sgt. Eric Amidon/U.S. Air Force photo)

Your personal brand is the way you intentionally and thoughtfully promote your values and offer to individuals you target. While it is beneficial to build rapport and relationship in person, online tools and other tactics are enabling us to create our brands and build reputation virtually.

In an article I wrote for Entrepreneur.com, I highlighted several of the important factors to consider when building reputation and brand online. From virtual meetings and serving as a resource for your network to showing vulnerability, the format has changed from in-person and across the table to online and via phone and email.

But the strategy hasn't changed: As you transition from the military to civilian sector, the focus should be on how you present yourself, your values and your offer to those employers, business partners, colleagues, investors, managers -- anyone you want to see you as relevant and compelling.

4 Aspects of Personal Branding

In building your personal brand, your strategy must include four qualities to be effective: It must be clear (to you and others), consistent (across all mediums), confident (in attitude) and credible (trustworthy). Let's look at how each of these aspects work:

1. Clarity

As you move through your career, who you are and what you stand for become increasingly important to you and to those around you. When you are clear on your values, goals, abilities and passions, you can communicate clearly to the people who need to find you relevant and compelling.

By contrast, if you aren't sure what you want, what you have to offer and who you want to work with (or serve), you make it hard for others to refer you, endorse you and support you.

The virtual scenario we all find ourselves in requires more clarity than before. The people you'll want to build your brand with -- prospective employers, colleagues at work, networking contacts and more -- are being bombarded with noise from online messages, competing causes to support and many unemployed friends and peers needing their help.

When you are clear and focused, you can cut through the noise and make it known what you need and how others can help you. Clarity starts with you.

2. Consistency

This might seem like the easiest aspect of building your brand: Just be the same person everywhere. Rarely, however, do we find this easy. We know that we need to act more professional on LinkedIn, we can be more casual and social on Facebook, and when we interview for a job on Zoom, we need to be responsive. But there is more to it.

Consistency means you share a constant narrative about who you are. It means that you aren't claiming to be passionate about a topic in a job interview and show no evidence of that online. It means that when three people are asked to describe what you value, they offer consistent responses.

Personal branding is not about perfection, but it is about consistency. Consistency builds trust. There's no way around that.

3. Confidence

Should you "fake it till you make it"? Maybe. I'm an advocate for authenticity, but there may be a time when you pursue an opportunity that's a bit of a stretch, or you're challenged in your commitment to your career, or you are nervous for an important job interview and don't want it to show.

Confidence comes from your belief in yourself and your value. When you are clear about who you are, you can confidently communicate that to others, giving them confidence in referring and endorsing you.

4. Credibility

Brands need to be credible to be trusted. To be credible, you must be 100% clear on your core values and then act accordingly. How you "walk the talk" defines your credibility. Living in accordance with what you believe, consistently promoting your values and showing proof in action is how brands become credible.

Similarly, it's important to communicate what you stand for. Simply doing good things and assuming people will notice and assign you value is not enough. You need to tell them what you believe in/stand for/advocate for and then show action that aligns.

There is a lot to building a personal brand. In a virtual world, with fewer face-to-face experiences, we are realizing the limitations. Hopefully soon, we can return to handshakes and in-person networking meetings. Until then, focus on building your personal brand in the aspects discussed here, to ensure you have continuity of reputation over the life of your career.

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