When I began writing about personal branding in executive job search in 2008, it was a relatively new concept.
Back then, there was much resistance and outright bashing of personal branding.
Thousands of talking heads and self-professed experts pounded us with misinformation, adding to the confusion about personal branding.
But savvy job seekers and others began, little by little, to embrace branding and its value in positioning themselves as a good-fit for target employers.
And nowadays, personal branding is hitting home with more people. It’s becoming more embedded in the fabric of healthy career management, job search and career marketing.
These people are the smart ones.
They took the time to learn about authentic branding and to leverage it in their job search and career.
However, branding continues to be a misunderstood and controversial topic. That’s probably because they don’t know what it really is and is NOT.
What Personal Branding is NOT
The kinds of misinformation I was seeing 10 years ago and longer persist:
- “It’s a fancy word for narcissism.”
- “It’s shameless self-publicity.”
- “Branding proponents claim that success comes from self-packaging, not from personal development, hard work and intelligence.”
- “It’s a sham. One thing can’t define you in all contexts of your life.”
- “Since it’s just a passing fad, branding will be replaced by the next best thing.”
- “It’s the way to position yourself as an expert in your field.”
- “All it is is ego-stroking . . . an opportunity to brag about yourself.”
- “It’s merely a nifty tagline for a resume and email signature.”
- “It’s the way to become famous.”
What Personal Branding Really Is
Personal branding is not new. It’s always been with us. Even before there was a name for it, branding existed. Smart people always assessed other people’s reputation and promise of value before deciding whether to partner, hire, or do business with them.
Tom Peters, credited with coining the phrase “personal branding”, gave his take on it in 1997 in his Fast Company article “The Brand Called You“:
“We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.
You’re hired, you report to work, you join a team — and you immediately start figuring out how to deliver value to the customer. Along the way, you learn stuff, develop your skills, hone your abilities, move from project to project.
And if you’re really smart, you figure out how to distinguish yourself from all the other very smart people walking around with $1,500 suits, high-powered laptops, and well-polished resumes. Along the way, if you’re really smart, you figure out what it takes to create a distinctive role for yourself — you create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You.”
You already have a brand. Your brand is your reputation.
To get a handle on your brand, you’ll need to do some work. You need to dig down to define the unique set of strengths, personal attributes and drivers that differentiate you from your peers and competitors.
Along with introspection, the true measure of your brand comes from eliciting and assimilating feedback from those who know you best. They already know what your brand is about. They know what you’re the “go to” person for.
In addition, the branding process includes identifying your target audience so that your brand positioning messaging will resonate with them.
Think of personal branding as educating people and your target employers about the unique value you offer them.
I’ve brought this all together in my 10-Step Personal Branding Worksheet.
Branding isn’t just about marketing yourself.
The branding process looks at your vision, purpose, values and passions. Therefore, branding is also a personal development tool.
With this introspection comes a keener understanding of what kind of work is a best fit for you.
Branding helps you position yourself to move toward career fulfillment and work your passion.
Branding helps generate chemistry for you in your LinkedIn profile, executive resume, biography, cover letter, etc. It helps people understand what you’re like to work with and how you make things happen. It helps them understand what you have to offer that no one else does.
After you’ve defined what differentiates you and pulled together your brand, you’ll need a brand communications strategy. With this, you’ll consistently communicate your unique promise of value to your target audience across multiple channels, online and offline.
Here’s the beauty part: Your brand makes it easier for recruiters and hiring decision makers to assess you. In other words, it helps them decide if you’re a good fit for their organization, and whether to hire you or do business with you.
If working through the personal branding process can help you with all these things:
- Find career fulfillment.
- Communicate better to employers why you’re the best hiring choice.
- Make their hiring decision easier.
- Get you into your next great-fit gig faster . . .