In the 21st century, everyone has a personal brand; if they don’t, they want one or are told they need one. From TikTok stars to athletes, the brand seems to be the thing. However, many of us — nurses and healthcare professionals included — have no idea what that means for us.

As a nurse, do you need a brand? Do you already have one and don’t know it? If you have one, what is it? And how do you get one if you don’t have one? And if you truly don’t want one, can you skip it altogether?

What is a Brand? 

When we think of brands, most of us will come up with images — specifically logos —like Nike, Coke, Colonel Sanders, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. We may also think of entertainers like Oprah, Britney Spears, or Taylor Swift — do they have brands? They live their brands at every moment.

But what is a brand? Sure, a logo is part of it, but smart people and companies think of it as a feeling generated in others. This means that the brand is born of the experience that someone has when interacting with that person, product, or company.

What’s the experience of trying on your new Nikes for the first time? How do those Nikes make you feel? And what is your relationship with the Nike brand? It may make you feel stylish, happy, powerful, athletic, strong, or just cool.

When your pre-teen interacts with Taylor Swift’s brand, the music, the image, and the merchandise have a lot to do with it, but it’s the feeling they have when interacting with Swift’s universe.

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So, for a working healthcare professional, what does this mean for you?

Your Brand Has Meaning

Your personal/professional brand is made up of everything about you as a nurse and healthcare professional, including:

  • Your “hard” clinical skills
  • Your “soft” skills (e.g., communication, emotional and relational intelligence, etc.)
  • How patients and colleagues feel in your presence and how you impact them directly and indirectly
  • The ways you move in and interact with the world (your resume, cover letters, emails, conversations, relationships, and general way of being)

If your brand is about how people feel around you and your impact on the world, there’s no escaping it — you have one. You don’t have to consider it a brand — perhaps you’d prefer to think of it as your professional persona. And if that persona gets you hired, elevates you into leadership, and opens the doors of opportunity, then it may be worth paying attention to.

Identifying Your Brand or Persona

If you want to identify your brand’s core, your core beliefs and values are the first place to look. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I believe about the world around me?
  • What motivates me to do the work I do and be the person I am?
  • How do I interact with the world, and what does that say about me?
  • If I asked my friends, family, and colleagues to describe me, what would they say?

The Barrett Values Center offers an affordable online values assessment that provides an overview of your core values. Other organizations offer similar surveys.

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You can also use career coaching, psychotherapy, mental health counseling, or conversations with a faith leader or mentor to identify your motivations and aspirations.

Finding the words to describe who you are and how you impact the world is crucial in identifying your brand. Your authentic self is the center of your brand — who is that person?

Build Your Brand

Building your brand doesn’t have to be a chore — it just takes conscious awareness. Since you’re building it through your every action, relationship, and conversation, your awareness of how you go about your daily life will help build a brand that will take you far.

To build your brand, you can:

  • Be conscientious in your work
  • Thoughtfully tend to your work relationships
  • Increase your emotional and relational intelligence
  • Sharpen your communication skills, especially listening
  • Consider having a positive presence on LinkedIn, the premier website where professionals network
  • Increase your knowledge, skill, and expertise, whether through education, certification, or independent study
  • Join professional organizations to network with like-minded colleagues
  • Find a mentor who can help you grow and evolve
  • Make sure your resume/CV represents you accurately
  • Consistently find ways to grow as a nurse and as a person
  • Be yourself

Be Yourself, and Your Brand Will Follow

If you can focus on being yourself, cultivating relationships, and growing as a professional in the ways that hold meaning for you, then your brand will largely take care of itself.

Being aware of how your actions and words affect others is paramount since how other people feel about their interactions with you and your work is one of the core aspects of your brand or professional persona.

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Identifying and cultivating your brand doesn’t need to take a lot of time and work. What it truly takes is awareness, and if you can maintain that positive awareness and focus on being the best version of yourself every day, then your brand will truly represent the wonderful person and nurse you are.

Keith Carlson
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