Workshop 6: Developing Your Personal Brand

Catherine Dang; Kate Cooper; Louisa Smith; and Technical Editor: Nicholas Yip


Previous workshops have led us to reflect on our personal values, informing us of what type of leaders we should aspire to be. They have also discussed what leadership might look like or entail in the profession of Engineering. In this final workshop, Developing Your Personal Brand, the GEL Team and the Lang School of Business will be discussing how to develop these ideas and values into a career, seeking out opportunities which align with your personal identity.


LEARNING OBJECTIVES                                                                                                   

Following this workshop, students should be able to:

  1. Understand what a Personal Brand is
  2. Recognize the importance of developing your Personal Brand
  3. Be able to utilize tools to promote your Personal Brand, such as Elevator Pitches
  4. Recognize pathways to the improvement of Personal Branding


PERSONAL BRANDING                                                                                                       

What Is Personal Branding

Personal Branding is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for. It is all about how you present yourself to others, so it gives you some control over what you want others to think of you, and also affords you the opportunity to ask yourself “Where do I want to go?”. Utilizing the understanding of your personal values and beliefs, a strong personal brand can help you to strategically make informed career decisions, planning ahead to search for jobs that align with them, rather than reactively taking opportunities presented to you.


What Does Personal Branding Entail

Think of any well-renowned company, establishment or entity that you appreciate. Thinking of these ‘brands’, even without seeing them or being in their location, brings to mind specific memories or associations. Many of these brands have withstood the passage of time, even with some missteps, as they can always fall back on the strong values associated with their specific image.

Much like these companies, your values are an important, somewhat constant element in your professional life. When being interviewed for a position at a company, the interviewer is just as curious as to your technical qualifications, as they are about whether or not they would want to work with you for several hours every day. Thus your personal brand, how you appear to others, is just as important as any hard skill you acquire in your engineering journey.


ELEVATOR PITCH                                                                                                                

What is an Elevator Pitch

A lot of your personal branding will usually start with an Elevator Pitch. It is, in essence, a brief summary of who you are, what you do, and what makes you unique. They serve as a launching point for further conversation, opening up the door for the employer to ask questions about things that they might be interested in. As such, an Elevator Pitch is a great tool for communicating with potential employers you are interested in working with, regardless of whether or not there is an ongoing job listing. Keep in mind, however, that the purpose of the Elevator Pitch is to try to engage with the other person, so non-verbal cues are equally as important as the contents of your conversation.

Important Notes For Virtual Conversations


  • Should be professional and clutter-free
  • The location must be appropriate


  • Have lighting behind your camera
  • Ensure you are framed appropriately – Mid-torso up is generally good
  • Gesture with your hands as you speak


ACTIVITY 1: Speaking About Yourself                                                                              

The goal of this activity is to get you used to speaking, and to see areas you could potentially improve on by utilizing a tool such as an elevator pitch. In practicing these skills, peers are a great resource, so it would be helpful to find someone who you can talk to for a few minutes, and who also wishes to improve their speaking abilities. In this conversation, just try to talk about what makes you unique or stand out without coming across as bragging, and take note of how well each of you articulates your points. Here are some key points you may want to cover in your conversation:

  • Your name
  • Your school and area of study
  • Your interests and strengths

After having this discussion with your peers, here are some points which would be helpful in giving meaningful feedback:

  • What was your first impression?
  • What did you notice about their non-verbal communication habits? (Eye contact, body language)
  • If in a virtual setting, what did you think about their background?


ELEVATOR PITCH CONT.                                                                                                   

The Basic Elevator Pitch Structure

There are a few basic things that every pitch should cover. First and foremost, your pitch should introduce you to whoever your speaking with, and should tell them your name, your program and your year. This introduction may also include your goals and aspirations/ambitions for your future career. After this, you want to highlight your most relevant skills, covering 2-3 key points about your experiences. These should focus on transferrable skills, along with what makes you unique/stand out from others.

Aside from these basic building blocks, you may want to talk about your leadership values and experiences as they give people a better understanding of your personal beliefs. These are some of the things that truly help you to stand out, as these should be tied to your core values, setting the direction for the rest of your pitch. Learning how to leverage these values, and playing into your strengths, helps to set you apart from your peers who may have similar work experiences as you do.

Examples of Leadership Values

  • Compassion
  • Adaptability
  • Stewardship
  • Authenticity
  • Curiosity
  • Time




Your personal brand is what you wish to appear as to others. An elevator pitch simply conveys much of these ideas to someone else in a concise manner. A good elevator pitch should give the listener insight into your core values, making it easier to promote yourself to others that align with your beliefs. As such, it should be focused and clear, tailor-made for the audience receiving it as it will likely be one of their first impressions of you.

Having an elevator pitch reduces the stress of interviews and impromptu encounters, and thus better enables you to present yourself to others in a manner you wish to be seen in. Having already developed an idea of the message you want to convey about yourself, along with how you wish to deliver these concepts, you are now better equipped to handle these situations going forward. Oftentimes, however, it might be inconvenient or even impossible to deliver your pitch word for word. In these scenarios, and even for general use, it may be better to instead weave your talking points into the conversation as they become relevant, making the conversation process more natural.


ACTIVITY 2: IMPLEMENTING AN ELEVATOR PITCH                                                 

As opposed to going in blind to a conversation with your partner, this time take 5 minutes to write a pitch about yourself using the worksheet provided. Try to hit all the key points previously mentioned, such as a strong introduction, core values and what makes you unique. After this time period, try introducing yourself to your partner once again, keeping the pitch to about a minute in length. After listening to your partner, try to retell them what you learned, keeping in mind some of the following items:

  • How did it make you feel?
  • Were you engaged?
  • What are you left wondering about?


HOW TO IMPROVE                                                                                                             

Now knowing the basics of an elevator pitch, and things to keep in mind for delivery, the next step is improving on it. Many introductions often end after only having covered information already accessible to employers, such as your name, your program and your year. Thinking about it from an employer’s standpoint, they hear a lot of the same information over and over again from every candidate. The key to standing out is therefore to tell them about things they maybe haven’t heard about before, or are more uncommon.


What Is Your Ask

Interviews are conversations, and it takes more than one person to converse. A good way to engage your interviewer is to involve your end goals/objectives in questions to them. Perhaps you want to ask them how you might gain exposure to their industry, or for suggestions on how you can develop particular skill sets, all of which give them knowledge of things you might aspire towards, and gets them involved in the conversation as well.

A very important note, however, is the one thing you should not ask them: For a job. While this might be your end goal, it is not what you should be asking about in the moment, as it is ultimately their decision whether or not they wish to employ you after hearing what you have to say.


APPETIZER PITCH                                                                                                              

You might have noticed that it might be hard to keep someone engaged for the entire pitch duration. Appetizer pitches exist for this purpose, as they contain statements that create curiosity and intent in as few words as possible. This entices the listener, prompting them to ask questions and to engage in the conversation, keeping them involved.

These appetizer pitches should be future-focused and attention-grabbing, discussing topics beyond what you’ve accomplished in the past and involving what you want to contribute going forward. Your pitch should be a conversation, rather than a presentation, and weaving your talking points into the conversation as it evolves, as mentioned previously, helps with engagement while still allowing you to present all your skills/information. Some excellent starting prompts for appetizer pitches include:

  • I believe that…
  • I want to…
  • I want to be known for…


  • I believe that everyone should travel solo at least once in their life.
  • I believe that growth comes from risk.
  • I want to have an award under my name when I die.
  • I want to be known as the person everyone wants to work with.
  • I want to be known as someone who thrives on change.

Note: A lot of the “I want to be known for…” statements tend to entice you to write more, but try to keep it concise as being short and catchy is the goal.

If you want to learn more about appetizer pitches, Ivan Wanis Ruis is an excellent resource. He is a well-known public speaking coach and author, and the three prompt questions are derived from resources made available by him.


ACTIVITY 3: ELEVATOR PITCH REFINEMENT                                                            

Take 5 minutes to create an appetizer pitch, completing at least one of the three statements above. Refer to page two of the provided worksheet for further guidance for this process. After this time period, take turns delivering these appetizer pitches to each other. When thinking about each other’s statements, keep in mind the following:

  • How did it make you feel?
  • Was it engaging?
  • Was it specific enough? Did it make you want to ask questions?
  • Do you have any tips for them on how to make it more attention-grabbing?


WORKSHOP KEY TAKEAWAYS                                                                                         

Developing your Personal Brand gives you control over how you wish to be perceived by others. Giving thought to your core values, and developing these values into a brief Elevator Pitch will help you to be more prepared for interviews and conversations with potential employers going forward. By utilizing Appetizer Pitches and weaving your talking points into the resulting conversation, you can keep listeners engaged in the conversation while still getting your points across. Try to be bold yet professional with your statements, and remember to test them out with your peers to gain more experience with using them.


Click here to access the workshop worksheets.



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Guelph Engineering Leadership Workshops 2020-21 Copyright © by Catherine Dang; Kate Cooper; Louisa Smith; and Technical Editor: Nicholas Yip is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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