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Dozens of CFA Society Chicago members gathered at The Vault on February 22nd, 2023, to learn about personal branding from Megan Walls, CPC, PCC, ELI-MP.  Walls is a nationally renowned job coach and author. She is the founder Walls Career Coaching and co-founder of Jump-Start the Job Search.  Walls led the group through a high-level personal brand overview, covering what a personal brand is, why you need one, and what the major components of a personal brand statement are.  She gave several examples of personal brand statements and answered questions from the engaged audience.

Walls began with a fun exercise of analyzing six popular brands: Apple, Southwest, Cartier, Nike, Volvo, and Disney.  These companies have all spent time, money, and effort on their brand to establish a certain reputation.  Their brands are recognizable, and consumers immediately know what they stand for.  The CFA Society Members split into small groups to discuss attributes associated with each brand – Cartier evokes feelings of luxury and expensive taste, while the Southwest brand (although historically associated with thrift and efficiency) currently brings to mind the recent IT meltdown and systems debacle over the holidays.

Walls defined the main attributes of a brand.  It is a key tool to differentiate a company or a person from the competition.  It is a promise to clients.  And, as Elizabeth Smithson noted, it is “a marketing practice to identify your products and services and distinguish them from the competition.”  Walls then invited the audience to think of a brand not just as a tool for companies or products, but for individual people as well; you are the head marketer of your company – “brand you.”  And the target audience includes employers, hiring managers, and anyone in your network.

Walls proceeded to enumerate the benefits of having a personal brand.  It clarifies who you are, differentiates you from the competition, and establishes your reputation and credibility.  It helps you manage you career, and job searches because it provides a helpful guidepost when setting goals and enables you to be more focused and targeted in selecting opportunities.  And it also boosts your confidence and helps you live into your brand.  Without a brand, you run the risk of not standing out.

Walls defined the key elements of a personal branding statement.  It consists of 2-3 sentences that speak to your value.  It is specific, memorable, and easy to understand.  It should be consistent and directed to a target audience.  And it should be benefit-driven and credible.  Once a person creates a personal branding statement, it can be used in a variety of ways – as a summary statement on a resume, as an elevator pitch, and as a LinkedIn summary.

Walls concluded by going through several real-world examples of personal branding statements that she had worked to create with her clients.  These examples came from a variety of industries and helped illuminate the key concepts that she had discussed during her presentation.  By discussing the specific examples, the audience was able to contextualize the information they had learned during the session and will hopefully be able to create and use their own personal branding statements.