As BN360, the young professional development and engagement program of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership continues its 2019 Spotlight Professional series, I had the opportunity to talk with Claire Petrie, our Spotlight Professional for February. If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Claire or connecting with her via social media, it is no secret that she is a personal branding pro.
Claire started her professional journey in 2012. Like many young professionals, she was completely focused on developing, growing, and succeeding in her career. Work became a big part of Claire’s self-identity and consequently, her personal brand. It wasn’t long before an opportunity arose to transition from a team member to a team leader. As a department of one, with a lot of responsibility, Claire quickly realized she needed some help and direction. She decided to throw a question out to her social network with a simple “#HR.” Little did she know, this was the first step in shaping not only her personal brand but her future success.
Q: Claire, tell me about your first experience with social media as a professional resource.
Making the transition to leadership can be difficult. It’s overwhelming when you realize that while school was incredibly beneficial and informative, you didn’t necessarily learn everything you need to succeed. You need to use the resources available to you, both in your organization and in your network!
With that thought in mind, I decided to pose a question with a “#HR.” What then transpired was not only help with that question, but a relationship with other HR professionals that has developed into a friendship and an incredible resource. It was the first time I had thought of using social media in a professional capacity, but I learned what an incredible and powerful resource and tool social media can be. That experience introduced me to the Society of Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) group chat on Twitter, #NextChat.
This was a defining moment for me professionally. By 2017, I had immersed myself in #NextChat, not just on a regional or even national level, but really in an international capacity. I was able to build out a serious network where people could not only connect socially but could also serve as resources and assets for further professional development. For the first time, I began to realize that I had an identity that surpassed my job title and my own idea of my personal brand began to take shape. I had knowledge and experience to share, and I wanted to share in and exchange that same knowledge and experience with others.
Big takeaway: You need to learn to stretch yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and be willing to take a chance. Utilize the resources available to you and be creative in doing so. Everything is a learning experience, both the good and the not-so-good. You begin to learn and understand where your strengths lie and where you have room for growth. Your personal brand begins to take shape.
Q: How do you define personal branding?
I think of personal branding as what people think when they hear your name. Similar to thinking of any major brand, like “Apple” or “Starbucks.” When you think of one of these brands, what comes to mind? How do you perceive the product/service? When it comes to personal branding, it is all about how you want people to think of you, both personally and professionally.
Secondly, I think personal branding also comes down to how your brand stands on its own. Meaning, when you are not around, or when you don’t directly know someone, how do you come across? Perceptions are not limited to a single person’s experience but speak to the experience someone has had with people who know you or know of you.
For me, being personally and professionally successful comes down to the brand I create and emulate. I want people to think of me as trustworthy, as a team player, as someone who builds and fosters relationships. That is crucial to my work.
Q: How has personal branding shaped your career?
When it comes to recruitment, you need to ask yourself, “what do you want to be for other people?” Generally speaking, though, it depends on what your goals are. For me it comes down to being yourself and being genuine, helpful, and friendly. My work is my passion, and it depends upon me making and developing strong, trusting relationships. That is the personal brand I work to create and portray—both in-person and online. The digital presence is where my true passion lies.
The hard part about personal branding is that you have to be willing to put yourself out there. People have to know you and know about you in order for there to be a valuable relationship and an exchange of useful resources. Once people know you, they know what content and information to share with you. This is incredibly valuable.
A large part in how I came to be where I am is thanks to a willingness to put myself out there digitally and establish a professional and personal brand. Long story short, my current boss reached out to me online with an opportunity to join a Women in Networking Leadership Group, which ultimately opened a door for me to be where I am today. But that door would never have been opened if my boss didn’t recognize this interest based on my digital personal brand.
Q: Do you follow/utilize any good resources that other young professionals should know about?
Feedly. I just found out about it 6 months ago. Basically, it is a resource that curates all your blog content. Utilize it for your industry/passion areas. Make a free account, type direct link to the blogs you want to follow. It’s a great learning tool! I check it daily, follow HR Pros.
Also, LinkedIn. The biggest thing for me on LinkedIn is how important it is to build your network strategically. Don’t connect or accept connections just because. Your newsfeed is a branding tool. You should be using it to learn and as a resource. Conversely, this is another way for you to show your expertise. Post content your audience is interested in and will find valuable. Think before you post.
Q: What is the most important piece of advice you could give a young professional regarding personal branding?
It is never too late to create the best version of yourself. Make a plan and use your personal brand to get to where you want to go. It can be overwhelming at first but have a starting point. Take advantage of online tools to become and showcase the best version of yourself.
You have to find your passion and really love what you’re doing. It is possible and it is never to late to start on creating and sharing your best self. Don’t just live it, share it.
BN360 is the young professional development and engagement program of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. BN360 is presented by Alliance Advisory Group. The 2019 Spotlight Professionals series sponsor is Alpine Films.