Career Development Your Brand

What is a Personal Brand?


What is a Personal Brand?

Personal branding is a term that has gained a lot of buzz for those who work as a career professional but what is it?  Personal branding refers to how we market ourselves strategically to influence public perception.  This is my own definition.  If you think about it, people have always marketed themselves to influence others’ perceptions in one way or another.  As human beings, we are social creatures, we live and thrive in groups and we care what others think about us despite the fact that some people claim they don’t.  The very fact one feels the need to state they don’t care what others think about them says they care enough to announce it to others because they wish to impress upon others that they don’t care…which only has the reverse effect (end mini rant here).  Getting back on track, let’s talk about a personal brand in the context of our careers.  The entire job search process for a job seeker is a marketing campaign.  The job market is similar to a retail market in a lot of ways.  The job seeker marketing collateral has traditionally been the resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation, reference list and/or portfolio.  With the advent of social media, just as product branding has changed, so to has personal branding.  You following so far?  Continue along this logic and let’s talk about whether or not having a personal brand makes you “fake.”

Online Personal Branding

New technology gives people so many more channels to market themselves to get noticed, get found, and get hired.  This entire process of online marketing is so new, however, that people are confused, they don’t know where to begin, they are overwhelmed by all the new tools and as soon as they feel they learn one, another one pops up or the one they liked no longer exists (yeah technology will do that to you and so will start-ups still trying to see if their business model will survive in a sea of competitors).  If you’re a social media user, you’ve likely heard that on social media, you should be “authentic” and “transparent,” which are other buzz words to describe the culture, or philosophy of interaction through social media.  If you view yourself as a brand and have a purpose in “branding” yourself, how do you maintain authenticity or transparency?

Are you Fake if you have a Personal Brand?

Does personal branding mean you have an agenda and therefor are no longer authentic or transparent?  Does having a goal make anyone fake?  I don’t think controlling your personal brand necessitates a disingenuous display of who you are or what your goals are through your branding efforts.  The best brands are not fake – they are genuine, authentic, and truly add value.  What’s wrong with sharing what you offer and providing value to others?  We all have many sides to us.  For instance, the way you interact with your mom is not likely the same way you interact with your best friend, your significant other, or your boss.  Does this mean you are fake?  Of course not – it means you are multidimensional and you present different sides of you according to your audience.  The fact is that we do this intuitively already that perhaps we don’t even think of it in this way but in this sense, we are always “branding.”  Guys, the first time you met a girl you wanted to date, did you talk about your nerdy comic book collection (I happen to think comic books are cool)?  Girls, did you talk about your shoe collection?  The point is, this didn’t make you fake – it’s about perception management and that’s what personal branding is about.  In the context of career development, we always have and always will brand ourselves in such a way that will help us achieve our goals.  The difference now is that we have so many more options to do it and do it well.

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