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What’s your personal brand?

As you start to dig into the nitty-gritty of getting into a career in finance, you will probably hear the term ‘personal brand’ being bandied about. Don’t underestimate the power of the personal brand on your way into your finance career and on your way up the ranks…

What does personal brand mean?

Your personal brand is all about your professional image. Of course, this includes looking the part, but the personal brand is about a lot more than the snappy suits. It’s going to take a bit more than a sartorial flair to win over your prospective employers!

Defining and developing your very own personal brand begins as quite an introspective exercise. In some ways it’s all a little bit zen. A personal brand is defined through how people see you. Think: how do you want to be perceived by work colleagues and clients?

Have a look at where you may want to be in a few years’ time. A top quantitative analyst? A successful accountant? What kinds of skills, knowledge and attributes do people in those roles display? And how can you go about setting yourself on the path to developing those skills?

At the starting line of leaving school or graduating from university, it can be very hard to show that you have this kind of knowledge. However, there are things you can do to actively convince employers that you're on your way to developing them.

So how do I develop my personal brand?

Identify your strengths

Some people make a feature of their soft skillset as part of their personal brand. Are you an exceptional communicator? A strong negotiator? A fair and effective leader? Our competencies section will give you an idea of the types of jobs that are suited to these particular skills too.

First ask yourself about your strengths. Then talk to your closest friends or family members who will be completely honest with you about what they think you’re good at, and if there's anything you could improve on (and don’t get in a huff about this if they do mention something—we all have our weak spots to work on!). Perhaps you’ll be surprised to find that people think you’re good at something you’ve never thought of before!

The beauty of the personal brand is that once you have an understanding of the demands of the career you’re aiming for and your own strengths and weaknesses, you can mould it appropriately.

Are there any further activities you could get involved with at school, college or university to help bolster your personal brand points? For example, if you are a great communicator or public speaker, are there any debating societies you could join? This will help you to provide clear cut evidence on paper and as discussion fodder in interviews to refer to.

Don’t forget to neglect actively pursuing an interest or two outside of finance too. Finance and professional firms and banks want academic excellence, but they want interesting folk to work for them too! So keep up your drama, sports teams, language learning, cooking, or volunteering—whatever it is you like to pursue in your free time which demonstrates another edge to your personality.

Commercial awareness

You don’t have to be an all-knowing fountain of business and finance knowledge quite yet as a school leaver or graduate, but you do have to get your commercial awareness off to a healthy start as an integral part of any finance professional’s personal brand. Work experience is a great way of doing this. For more information, you can check out this article. 

Work your personality

This might sound a bit cheesy, but embrace being you! Again, tap into your friends’ and family’s thoughts on the matter. (And again, no hissy fits about any more negative points that might crop up! This is all a constructive exercise, so suck it up!) What are the best things about your personality? Charming charisma? Sharp wit? Kindness and consideration for others?

Employers need to be able to picture you as a person who is comfortable within yourself and able to utilise your natural personality traits for business purposes, whether that’s in terms of winning over clients and keeping them happy, or simply being a jolly good person to work with.

Social media and networking

Social media isn’t just a channel for your personal brand; it’s another way of actually moulding it too! Think about how a Facebook or LinkedIn profile looks. You can see all of a person’s ‘likes’ and who and what they’re following…

Things like tailoring a LinkedIn profile can actively demonstrate your interests in a certain industry. Follow the movers and shakers in those areas and joining and engaging with relevant groups and forums. Listen carefully to what’s being said and if and when you contribute discussion, aim not to come across as a know-it-all, or likewise as a shrinking violet. Keen to learn is a vital quality at this stage (and actually throughout all) of your career.

Don’t be scared to get in touch with people you’ve met on work experience opportunities via email or LinkedIn for networking purposes either. Though people may be busy, there any many professionals out there who are more than willing to impart their advice if you ask politely for it (especially if you’ve already started to nail the initial elements of your personal brand in terms of an open personality!).

By Jos Weale