Ready for a Brand New You in 2018?
There is a lot of buzz around personal branding. What is it? How can it help your career? Why do you need one? As Tom Peters wrote (way back in 1997!) in his groundbreaking article “The Brand Called You”: “It’s time for me — and you — to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.…We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc… It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.”
Peters wrote this during a time of shoulder pads and strict company dress codes, dial-up internet services, and generous company pensions. Fast-forward 20 years later to our modern era of globalization, virtual workplaces, flattened organizational structures, social media, the “gig economy” — and constant change. Career paths today resemble anything but a straight line, and they require skillful navigation in getting from one career transition to the next. This comes in part from answering a highly introspective question: “Who am I?”
Discovering your answers to that (admittedly profound) question is key to developing your personal brand. Why? Identifying your strengths, clarifying your values, and pinpointing your passions illuminates who you are at your very core — and what makes you, you.
The concept of branding is all about authenticity, credibility, uniqueness, and consistency. It doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, a clothing label, an insurance company, or an individual. If you know what you do well, what makes you unique, what you are known for — and who needs what you have — you will begin to think and act like a successful brand.
Let’s personalize this concept: Think about a brand you regularly buy. Maybe it’s the pasta you choose for a favorite recipe, the grocery store where you do the majority of your shopping, or the restaurant where you and your family dine together every Friday night. What do you like about this brand? It could be great customer service, good value, fair price point, safety, luxury, comfort, convenience, or quality. No matter what draws you to it, this brand you choose somehow resonates with your values. And it delivers on the promise that you will receive the same great experience every time — or you would take your money elsewhere.
Now think about your personal brand. Whether you are aware of it or not (or like it, or not!), your brand is out there already. It is found in what you have written and shared about yourself, from your resume to your social media profiles. It also includes what other people have written, shared, or said about you.
Curious about what your brand reflects? Here’s a great way to find out. Collect all the information that you have authored or created: your resume, bio, LinkedIn profile, elevator pitch, social media posts and profiles, and so on. What stands out? Now, take it a step further and add what other people have said about you. Find your performance evaluations, read what other people have posted about you on social media, locate old letters of recommendation, or think back to some memorable career milestones (good or bad). What stands out when you view the totality of the message you are sending? Is it consistent? Does it sound like you? Is it who you want to be?
Building a brand can take time and reflection, but the benefits are endless in helping you enjoy greater career satisfaction. As Tom Peters reminds us, it’s about Me Inc. It’s that simple — and that hard. But once you start taking ownership of your brand you begin honing and sharpening a message that comes from you, and not somebody else. And that starts feeling pretty great.
Creating your personal brand is one step toward taking charge of your career. Creating your personal brand means you stop trying to be like someone else, or following in the footsteps of someone else’s path to success. Best of all, your personal brand allows you to be authentically, wonderfully you, and it’s one of the best career strategies you will ever learn.
Ready For A Brand New You?