Your personal brand is one of your most important assets for your long-term career development. Frankly, it can make all the difference in short-term job searches as well.
So what kind of personal brand words should you use to describe yourself? We’ve put them into three core buckets that you can mix and match to craft a professional image that actually fits your personality.
You can use these across your portfolio website, your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and while networking.
Personal brand words can’t replace your strategic message
First it is important to understand that you want to convey powerful ideas—the words themselves are just a means to that end, so don’t stress out over finding a single perfect word or phrase to describe you.
That’s why you get a summary and an entire “about” section on LinkedIn to craft a personal brand statement. You can use more than just a handful of words to describe yourself, and you should. Having a professional philosophy and a solid professional track record are more effective than calling yourself “results-oriented” or something similarly canned.
That’s why it’s important not to confuse your message with your personal brand words. It’s a subtle difference that most people miss.
The four aspects of personal brand words
Words can’t create a personal brand for you, but they can definitely support it. This is especially helpful for recent graduates who need a professional edge in lieu of “years of experience.”
With that in mind, consider describing yourself with words that correlate to these four aspects to help build your personal brand:
- Skills, competence, and expertise
- Your personality and character
- Your motivation and internal drive
- Achievements experience
Only a small number of people can legitimately use their achievements to fuel their personal brands—tastefully, anyway. It’s advanced, so I’d recommend focusing on the first three aspects of your personal brand: skills, personality, and motivation.
Think about these brand words that describe your expertise:
Consider these words to describe your personality or character:
- Culture champion
- Teaching (e.g. “career whisperer”)
- Builder (e.g. “community builder”
- Reliable, dependable
Choose something to describe your motivation or drive, too:
- Turned (e.g. “Writer turned speaker”)
If you’re careful, you can use these words to highlight your achievements or community roles, too.
- Community advocate
- Side hustle
Word to the wise: there’s a fine line between letting your achievements speak for themselves and boasting. If you want to put your projects front and center, then you can make it seem more sincere by pairing it with personal brand concepts that denote some humility, like curiosity or self-improvement.
Check out these personal branding examples to see how other people pull this off successfully!
Should you use personal brand adjectives?
A lot of powerful words for your profiles come in the form of adjectives that we use to describe ourselves. You’ll see most professionals on LinkedIn describing themselves with personal brand adjectives, but that’s not really the best way to convey your brand.
Here’s the worst-kept secret in the world of writing: verbs work better than adjectives.
You can plaster self-praise all over your portfolio website, your resume, and your LinkedIn profile, but it runs the risk of appearing tacky at best—or disingenuous and self-serving, at worst.
That’s where verbs come in: they do a better job of demonstrating your brand rather than just advertising it. It shows that you’re focused on doing something instead of just talking about it.
Verbs convey authenticity.
Use personal brand adjectives sparingly and in conjunction with verbs to craft your professional image without coming across as arrogant or desperate.
How to use descriptive words for your personal brand
Using descriptive words for your personal brand can come across as inauthentic and self-serving, so you need to use them sparingly. You might even want to speak with a personal branding consultant to strike the right balance.
If you’ve ever cringed a little at someone’s LinkedIn profile then you know what I’m talking about. Take a look at this example in which someone calls herself an “influencer of change.”
That’s a pretty lofty title, and it’s a lot like buying a mug for yourself that says “world’s best boss.” I guarantee this person in the example isn’t even close to being widely known enough to make a claim like that.
Next up is “the builder of things and communities,” pictured anonymously below.
It sounds like a clever angle for a personal brand at first, and the phrase “builder” certainly appeals to me… but it really just comes across as a humblebrag, or even a little delusional. You’re a “builder of communities” with your weekly newsletter, really? Once again it’s an example of what not to say about yourself.
LinkedIn profiles have reference sections where people can say nice things about you. You can even quote them in your headline, as long as it’s an honest quote—but using titles and descriptive personal brand words on yourself that fly too close to the sun will leave you
Lastly we have a good example of how to use descriptive personal brand words. This person describes herself by what she loves to do:
“Writer, Designer, Researcher: Sr. Content Strategist.”
That’s not bad. It isn’t evocative, but it works. In particular it does a good job of telling potential hiring managers what she does, how she does it, and how she thrives.
That’s the long and short of it. Use those personal brand words to start crafting your own brand. From there you can start thinking about your portfolio site, how to revamp your resume, and the points you want to communicate in interviews.