Last night I watched the movie Iris, about Iris Apfel, the 94-year old fashion maven, businesswoman, and style icon. Part love story (she had been married for 67 years to her husband, Carl, who earlier this month passed away at 100), part fashion show, part Hoarders (she is always acquiring things and seems to save everything) and part anthem on being true to yourself, Iris has really gotten me thinking.
Throughout her life, she appears to have completely embraced her individuality. There are a number of compelling things she talks about during the movie -- only doing things you love, her dislike of "pretty" and her decision to not have children. She knew she wanted to work and to travel and she says - a woman cannot do it all. I wonder if she would have made that same choice today. Hopefully she would not have felt the need to choose. It is her style, though, and the way that translates -- intentionally or unintentionally -- into her personal brand, that really struck me.
Iris is instantly recognizable by her oversized black glasses. So much so that when the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art did a retrospective of her wardrobe, the only distinguishable feature the mannequins wore, aside from her clothes and jewelry were a pair of her glasses. The same thing when Bergdorf Goodman featured a retrospective of her clothing in their famed window displays. "After all," the window designer tells her, "with those glasses, they will know it is you."
Whatever career you have, at some point you have probably felt the need to differentiate yourself and stand out -- for people to know it is you. For a raise, a new job, to start a company -- there are so many reasons it is important. Whether you have something as physically distinctive as Iris's glasses or a specific view on the world, how do you stand out?
Here are 10 ways to build your personal brand:
1. Be Authentic: One of the biggest challenges people often have is trying to appear how they think they should be as opposed to how they actually are. Start by recognizing who you really are and what you believe in, what you are good at and like to do and what is important to you.
2. Know Your Brand: Being authentic is the beginning but then knowing and understanding what that translates into is key. You should be able to sum up what you do, what you are good at and some of your successes in several sentences.
3. Set Yourself Apart: This is easier or harder depending on what you do and what you believe in. But there is always a way. Here is where a distinctive signature look could also come into play. Iris's glasses do this for her. Of course, if your work is not strong it does not matter what you have on -- but as an addition to strong work -- it's a great way to stand out.
4. Decide Where You Want To Be: You don't have to be on every social media platform and at every event. But the ones that you do engage in, do it meaningfully.
5. Be Consistent: This is important across the board. Your brand should be the same when you are at a networking event as when you are in the office, on Twitter, on Instagram and Linkedin. Of course, tailor things to the platform or event but keep your messaging clear.
6. Think About How You Present Yourself: Are your clothes well tailored, are your nails maintained and your hair? It's not sticking to one style -- what is right for a lawyer is not the same as a graphic designer -- but whatever your style, people want to know they are working with someone who is pulled together and on top of things and that, in part, is conveyed by your look.
7. Maintain Your Integrity: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Don't compromise on what you believe in, don't join in on gossip, or negativity and stay true to what you know is right.
8. Consider Every Interaction Important: This goes for when you meet people, how you talk to people on the phone, how and when you return emails and how you interact online.
9. Be Creative: Yes, for most of us we must earn a living but hopefully this can be fun. Think of ways to be creative with everything from how you share on social media to how you are with challenges at work. Maybe you are a great photographer and you can express yourself best on Instagram. Or maybe you are a strong writer and you can share your pieces on Linkedin.
10. Don't Over-Network: A lot of people put pressure on themselves to network. To get out and meet people. In many cases this is a waste of time. Choose your events carefully. I have found that the most valuable connections are ones that I have kept and fostered over time as opposed to constantly looking for new ones. As my contacts careers and my career has grown -- we have been able to have genuine relationships and meaningful impact on each others careers.
Which seems a good place to end. Because no matter what you wear or how you look, being genuine is the real path to understanding and building your brand.