Growing and building your personal brand

As part of our Women in Insurance series, we were privileged to welcome leading careers expert Aimee Bateman, founder and CEO of careercake.com, to our Manchester office where we hosted a seminar on Growing and Building your Personal Brand.

In an inspiring and engaging session, Aimee provided valuable and practical advice on networking, building relationships and how to build and grow your personal brand through social media.

Successful networking

Networking is the art and science behind building quality, lasting and authentic relationships. Appreciating that many people, even extroverts, can find networking events daunting, Aimee offered practical tips and guidance on how to get the most from these events:

  • Research your targets before an event – consider the attendee list and identify those people you might be interested in meeting at the event: is there anyone you who could introduce you to this person? Could you connect with them in advance on social media to let them know you are interested in meeting them?
  • Understand what your ‘target’ does: who are their key customers/competitors, have there been any recent developments in their industry? A little research goes a long way towards sparking meaningful interaction and demonstrates a real interest;
  • Warm up: Don’t dive straight in to a conversation with your target- make use of others in the room to ‘warm up’ before approaching the key individual(s) with whom you wish to speak;
  • Follow up with new contacts… but be tactful and patient: immediate business proposals are neither appropriate nor (usually) welcome. Meaningful relationships take time to develop; they do not happen overnight!
  • Keep in touch days: devote time to ‘check in’ with key/ new contacts- remember and acknowledge personal events such as birthdays and achievements;
  • Whilst contact via LinkedIn and Twitter is generally considered acceptable business behaviour, Facebook was not;
  • Aimee’s key conclusion was that, in order to initiate and grow business relationships, we must be prepared to (i) invest time, and (ii) ‘give, give, give’.

Build your personal brand using social media

Turning to creating a strategy for building professional relationships online, Aimee’s focus was on LinkedIn.

Whilst confirming that a professional LinkedIn profile should include those things that we would assume important- such as photograph, background image, headline, summary, experience, projects, volunteering, awards and recommendations- her clear message was to ‘be distinctive’ and to ‘stand out’. Aimee suggested that one way of achieving this was to identify your ‘authentic personal brand’. You can do this by, for example, choosing three words you would like to be known for. Aimee suggested asking a colleague how they would describe you in three words: an interesting test of how others see us compared to how we see ourselves!

Aimee discussed the importance of brand: use your profile to let others know about your unique offering– your brand statement should be no more than 1-2 sentences, focussing on what you are best at (your value), who you serve (your audience) and how you do it uniquely (your USP).

Aimee recognised that people change and evolve and so too will their personal brand, so it is important to ‘check in’ with yourself every so often to reassess your attributes, values, and in turn, revamp your personal brand as/ if required.

Commenting on your choice of profile picture, Aimee acknowledged that this is a key influencer in helping people decide whether they want to work with you! Aimee showed us an edited photograph of her looking stern and unapproachable; some people may be drawn to that depending on the scenario e.g. if they needed a shrewd defence lawyer, but many will have been put off. This photo was in stark contrast to the next where she was smiling and conveyed genuine openness and approachability. Aimee reassured us that smiling in profile pictures is perfectly acceptable and you can still look professional.

Aimee’s final ‘takeaway’ on personal brand was to be brave: don’t be afraid to ask people for recommendations; if you convey that the person’s feedback is valuable to you, not only are they more likely to give it, but will be pleased to have been asked!

Creating an effective elevator pitch

We have all been asked “what do you do?” at some point in our careers. In the final part to the event, Aimee offered invaluable advice on how to engage with this question confidently and in a way that will captures people’s interest, leaving a positive and lasting impression.

Aimee stressed the importance of showing how good you are at what you do by, for example, mentioning your achievements in your pitch. Aimee’s personal pitch was a far cry from “I am a careers professional”. Rather, she offered an insight into how her services could really make a difference to a person’s life by making them feel valued, confident and happy in their careers. Aimee explained that making someone happy in their career, rather than simply finding them employment, would impact every part of their life: this is Aimee’s USP and her authentic way of adding value to her services.

Reiterating the message given by Simon Sinek, Author and Motivational Speaker; “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it,” Aimee identified WHY she is a careers professional and what makes her passionate about her work. She loves being able to help people by improving their careers, by helping them to become happier mums, dads, daughters, sons… she helps people to “truly like themselves”. We can clearly understand WHY Aimee does what she does. We need to emulate this- we need to help people understand why we are passionate about what we do; and to do this, we need to understand ourselves.

So, in opening a conversation with a ‘target’, how do we capture their interest? Aimee suggested that the best way to be remembered is not to provide a rehearsed speech about ourselves, rather to open up a dialogue with the other person by asking about them. Making them feel “seen, heard and valued” - whilst gently promoting your value and services with passion and enthusiasm- is sure to leave a lasting footprint.

A hugely successful event- well attended with fabulous feedback- the next Women in Insurance event will be hosted in Autumn 2018.