Career Advice: Turned off by personal branding?

Photo of someone changing the word unknown to known - as a metaphor for having a strong personal career brandThere’s been a lot of talk about personal branding recently, particularly in the business world – and more recently, in career development circles.

Google the term and you get millions of results (I just did, and got 52,900,000).

For all that, it’s a concept that many people misunderstand…

Yet it’s really important for your future career. 

Whether you’re in the market for a new job, seeking promotion, or making a career transition, how you market yourself is key.  In an increasingly tight and competitive market, differentiating yourself – standing out from the crowd – is increasingly crucial.

In my experience, many people misunderstand what branding is, find it distasteful, and actively avoid it… which is seriously career-limiting, in the hyper-connected, digital world that we live in. 

If you recognize that – if the idea of branding turns you off – then this post’s for you…

This is my top 3, of what personal branding is not:

1.   Your personal brand is not a dodgy sales pitch

When I first bring up the ‘b’ word, there’s often this facial expression I get – the kind of face you pull when something smells bad. Some people literally pull back.

The problem? Many people associate branding with shonky sales tactics. They consider building a brand akin to peddling snake oil; something inherently inauthentic, superficial and morally dubious.

This could not be further from the branding I’m talking about.

The truth is, you already have a brand, you just know it as reputation. If your reputation matters to you – if you take pride in your work, in what your name stands for, and what people expect from you – then we’re on the same page.

Branding is about consciously and purposefully identifying, building and protecting your reputation. That’s it; no hype.

2.   Your personal brand is not all about image

I don’t know about you, but when I say the word ‘brand’, I think of logos. Shiny, slick and polished. But branding’s about way more than looks; about way more than presentation.

Yes, looks matter… but there has to be substance underneath. Your brand sets up an expectation, and you need to deliver on your promises.

Want to stand out for professionalism, to be known for it? Live professionalism. Act professionally at all times, in all media – from your online presence to your e-mail address, from your telephone manner to your customer service. Be professional in every single interaction you have.

Your brand is who you authentically are, not a persona or façade. You need to be it… not just adopt it as and when the moment suits.

3.   Your personal brand is not all about you

It’s paradoxical, but branding really isn’t about you… and it certainly isn’t about blowing smoke up the proverbial. It’s not about self-absorption, big-noting, or shameless self-promotion – all things people rightly shy away from.

Yes, your brand tells us about you – about who you are and what makes you different – but in essence, it’s about other people.

It’s about the people you’re marketing to, and specifically, about what they need and how you can help them. About what they gain from working with you. 

We all have gifts and talents, experience and expertise; unique constellations of strengths, skills and knowledge to contribute. Not owning that, developing that and sharing that is a waste, for you and everyone else.

Like it or not, you already have a brand.

Are you going to own it and value it? 

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