Having worked for large corporations, small businesses, and now, myself, I’ve had the unique opportunity to see how organizations of all different sizes market and brand themselves.
I’ve written about some of the lessons I think corporations can learn from how humans innately communicate and connect with one another. But there are also some important personal branding lessons that you can learn from those big companies.
Here are four of my favorites.
1. Define Yourself
One of the first brand exercises a company will ever do is define its messaging—who it is, what it does, and why it exists. Because if the people in the company don’t know their who, what, where, why, and how, they’ll never be able to answer those questions for their clients and investors.
In the same way, when it comes to building your personal brand, you need to know how to talk about who you are and what you do, whether you’re speaking with a potential employer or new business partner.
To help you do that, consider these questions: How do you define yourself as a person? What makes you unique? What work do you want to do? What types of people do you want to work with? What do you want to be known for?
2. Reputation Is Everything
Corporations take their reputations extremely seriously—and for good reason. You see, companies can have an “off” day on the stock market or introduce a product that flops and, most likely, still survive. But that might not be the case if the integrity of the company comes into question and investors, partners, and customers start to doubt what the company stands for.
When it comes to your personal brand, remember that you represent yourself all day, every day. You may think there’s a “work” you and “real life” you—but everyone else sees the full package.
You don’t have to turn into a stick in the mud. But remember that employers, clients, and everyone in between will associate your brand with what you say, how you act, and what you tweet. If you do or say anything that brings your reputation into question—at work or in your personal life—your brand may suffer.
3. Be Willing to Iterate
Corporations understand that in order to stay competitive, they need to be able to quickly recognize when something’s not working—like when an advertising campaign gets bad reviews in a test group or only 20% of invitees RSVP for an upcoming event—and be willing to change their approach and try something different.
When it comes to your own life or business, it’s often difficult to let go of whatever isn’t working and figure out a new, better way forward. But to succeed, it’s essential. So, for example, if you bombed that last interview, don’t wallow too long. Figure out what went wrong, change up your approach, and get back on the horse.
4. Invest in Yourself
One of the things I always appreciated about working in a big corporation was the amount of resources the company dedicated to developing its staff. I traveled to events, workshops, and Lunch and Learns. I spent three days with a business coach and took classes—all subsidized by the company. This professional development helped me master my craft, and I was able to better support the business with the tools and skills I learned.
You should invest in your personal brand the same way. What would you love to know how to do? What skills do you want to hone? What experiences would make you better at your job and improve your life? Check out conferences, local meetups, and in-person or online classes.
Yes, it’s an expense out of your own pocket, but the more you make your personal development a priority, the easier the investments will feel. And in my experience, those investments have bettered both my life and business in ways my car, clothes, and kitchen appliances never could.
If there’s one thing you can learn from corporations, it’s this: Your personal brand is not a suit you put on in the morning and take off at night. Your personal brand is who you are when you interact with both your family and colleagues, in business meetings and at boozy brunches, when you’re calm and collected, and when you’re losing every ounce of your cool. Through these four lessons, you can get to know yourself better—so that the rest of us can get to know you, too.