What's All This Talk About a Personal Brand?

By Camille Block

It’s a trendy topic in business. But it’s actually an age old concept in a new wrapper. Each of us is unique and offers a distinct style, talent and flavor. Hopefully, we learned this at some point in our lives, whether it was from our parents, Mr. Rogers, Barney, friends or our own self-reflection. 

Thankfully, business is finally showing some interest and it has become all the buzz for recruiting, hiring and career development. Personality assessments are now becoming a part of the hiring process itself and entire professions are being created around better understanding these tests. Most of us are used to the critical culture of finding our areas of weakness and then working really hard to improve them. Think about it:  if our kids come home with all A’s and one C, what do we focus on? Or when our boss evaluates our performance and gives us top marks, but one area of “needs to improve”, what do we then fixate on? We take a class, get help, read a book – all to invest our time in fixing a problem instead of harnessing our strengths and growing them to their full potential.

Well, it seems business (and hopefully parents as well) are getting a little smarter and the trend is now to focus our energies on discovering and celebrating what is right with us and then learning how to package those strengths, similar to the way advertising agencies promote the brands of their clients.

Here is how Wikipedia defines personal branding:

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.[1] While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.[1] The term is thought to have been first used and discussed in a 1997 article by Tom Peters.[2][3]

Tom Peters, in an article called A Brand Called You first published in 1997 in Fast Company Magazine said, “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” 

While now a trendy concept becoming more and more mainstream, personal branding does make a lot of sense. Finding out what we are really good at (AND ENJOY) and then investing and growing that skill can be a lot more powerful than discovering all the things wrong with us and spinning our wheels trying to make them into something right. Obviously, it’s a given we will always benefit from improving our weaknesses, but investing the time to discover what makes us unique, effective, valuable, and interesting, while figuring out what we have that others need and enjoy doing, is a lot more fun. And, in business, it can make the difference between working in a job where you are surviving versus a job where you are thriving – both in performance and personal satisfaction.

I learned this myself recently as a middle-aged woman (not loving the sound of that phrase, by the way). After years of working at companies doing some things I was good at, and some I was not, some I enjoyed and some I didn’t, I decided to do some soul-searching. It seems being “middle age” does that to us; it’s a time to re-evaluate doing things the same old way and take the reins back with the wisdom we have learned from life experiences. So, discovering your personal brand, whether it is in your mid-life OR as you are starting out in your career, will do a few things for you. 

Discovering and living out your personal brand will…

  • Save you from wasting time on unsatisfying jobs.
  • Increase your confidence that you are living out your purpose.
  • Decrease unnecessary job turnover on your resume, giving you career stability and a background attractive to recruiters and employers.
  • Increase your quality of life and your internal happiness.
  • Provide the world with the missing puzzle piece that only you can provide.

Now clearly, there are things we have to do that are NOT what we are good at or that we enjoy. That is life and we need to suck it up. But, when we can target roles which highlight our strengths, we can then shine doing the things we are made to do and find ways to get the other stuff done, even if it is not in our sweet spot.

 And, finally, it is not good enough to simply discover our personal brand – what we do really well that makes us stand out. We also need to learn how to communicate it to others. Think of any company with a great product that does something awesome. If no one has heard of it or doesn’t know why it is better than the competitor, there won’t be any sales. In the same way, if we are trying to build our career – or get a job – it doesn’t matter how good we are at something if no one knows. We could be the best person for the job, but unless we are able to market and communicate our personal brand showing why we are unique and will solve the hiring manager’s business problems, the job will go to someone else. We be must be our own marketing ambassadors

For some, knowing their personal brand and then communicating that to others comes easily – both on paper and in person. For others, it can paralyze them or take so much time and emotional energy that they settle for less than their best. If you are in the latter category and need some tools to not only discover your unique brand and also learn how to communicate that and become your own ambassador, consider a good career coach.

If you need some help figuring out your next step professionally, consider working with Connectivity.  As a career consultant, my specialty is helping you figure out where you want to go and then bridge the gap with the right set of tools to help you get to your next opportunity. Contact Camille at Camille@connectivity.cc and let me know how I can help you.  For more on my background and services, see www.Connectivity.cc