The word “smartphone” is always associated with either Apple or Samsung. Despite being mired in so much controversy over the years, these two companies have enjoyed dominance in their industries. Why? Branding.
Branding governs our daily lives, whether it’s establishing an identity for the companies we work for, or buying into our favorite branded merchandise. As obsessed as we are with brands, we often forget the single most important brand we should be cultivating—ourselves.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just starting out, personal branding is crucial to your success in life inside and outside of work.
Being a software engineer makes this a more complex ordeal than with an average Joe. Balancing software development and brand cultivation isn’t simple, as what you do already takes up so much of your time. But it’s not that difficult. In fact, doing your job is already the first step to creating a name for yourself.
Build your portfolio.
As obvious as this should be, a lot of people forgo collating their own body of work in an appreciable medium. A few lines of text in your resume won’t do. It’s better to compile them in a form that employers and colleagues can easily rift through.
Much like other content creators, the best method is to create your own blog, website, or Github account. It doesn’t have to be flashy, but it should be readable. Collect all the projects that you’ve worked on. Affix a short description with each and include links of where to find and download them, if possible.
If you’re just starting out, now’s the best time to invest in a few personal side projects, if you haven’t already. Even if your portfolio wasn’t for profit, employers will know that you can back up your skills in a concrete fashion.
Focus on your strengths, but keep learning.
Remember what you’re good at, but be open to learning more. Excellence is derived from being a constant work in progress. A jack of all trades can be an asset, but mastery makes you invaluable.
If you were in HR, which would you hire—the guy who can do anything you tell him to or an absolute master in Java/C++/Python? Pushing your boundaries in one or two aspects puts forth an image that you’re a priceless linchpin they’d be remiss to ignore.
At the same time, never stop learning. If you already know Java and C++, take some of your extra time to learn Python (or any other language for that matter).
Already got your programming down pat? Learn a bit of design. You don’t have to be a master in them, but knowing your way around multiple systems helps you coordinate around projects. It’s not about being a master in every field. It’s about building your foundational rock and branching out from there.
Develop your personality.
There’s only so much of your personality that you can broadcast with your work. Employers want to put a face on the person behind the development. In the end, your greatest asset in personal branding is who you are as a person. Two things work especially well here: social media and face-to-face conversations.
Social media can both harm and work for you.
In a world where geographic boundaries no longer exist, what you post publicly online may be the only way for employers to get a grasp of who you are. The golden rule is always: if it’s something you’re ashamed to show your mom, don’t post it.
Facebook isn’t a repository for your Friday #drunk photos. Your social media blunders can affect both your career and personal life. That doesn’t mean that you should stop posting cute cat videos on your feed. It means that what you post online may leave an indelible mark on public perception of you forever.
Finally, engage in face-to-face conversations.
With Facebook, Skype, and email, it’s easy to communicate with other people within the confines of a chat window. Ease, however, sacrifices the deeper connection a face-to-face conversation can instil in both participants.
Communication skills get your point across, but body language tells a much deeper story about you as a person. Just from looking at you, a person can tell you how confident, friendly, happy, modest, well-kept you are and so much more.
Branding is the most valuable asset you can ever wield in life. Apps come and go every single day, but a great first impression lasts a lifetime. Don’t underestimate its power.
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