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Personal Branding and The Workplace

“Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken.” Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). This quote, comprehensively sums up the essence of personal branding that has become an industry wide buzzword. Many programmes, tutorials and lessons on personal branding exist with a view to having participants develop powerful personal brands. What is a personal brand we may ask at this point, and why is personal branding important at the workplace?

A personal brand is simply what people say about you when you are not in the room; what their perception whether unfounded or real is, and what they think about you. As simple as that… So think about it – What is your Personal Brand? What do people actually say about you?

Organizations spend quality and quantity time developing corporate brands. Strategy sessions are organized to think through the brand reputation and brand vision. Visuals of the vision, mission and values are mounted in offices and training sessions organized to inculcate the brand values. Now how about one’s personal brand?  The same effort needs to be applied to developing a personal brand. One should take some quiet time off to deeply think about and reflect upon their desired personal brand, and answer the following questions – What do you want to be known for when you are gone? What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Based on the results of this exercise, a gap analysis needs to be undertaken. The gap between the current way of being – the way you think, speak and act – and your wish list should be documented. Pursuant to this, one should then proceed to do more of the positive things identified that are in congruence with the desired brand, and do less of the things identified that are incongruent with the documented wish list. Consistent practice will have the two even out and the personal brand of choice reign.

The natural next step would then be to figure out why it is important to spend time developing one’s personal brand and working towards achieving success.  The foundation of this is twofold, with the first being determination if the workplace where one has applied for a job resonates with their personal brand. You see, once you are very clear about your personal brand and what is non–negotiable in your life, it is very easy to determine if you will succeed working at a corporate organization, or partnering with a group to pursue entrepreneurial pursuits, by asking one question – Are my values consistent with the values of this entity that I desire to join?

If the answer is a resounding yes, then the willingness to succeed and the attitude to achieve greatness will create the automatic fuel for accomplishment. If the answer is no, then it would be worth reconsidering. This may seem like a tough judgement to make especially when the job seeking exercise seems tiring and unsuccessful. However, making the wrong decision and being confined to a workplace that is incongruent with one’s values has been evidenced to cause high stress and at the extreme, mental health problems. Nothing is worth sacrificing one’s health for. If one takes the time to search thoroughly, work through one’s networks and be willing to start at the very bottom of an organization that completely resonates with one’s purpose, the sky is the limit with regards to encountering a breakthrough, and flying high into the heights of corporate success.

The second major importance of spending time developing one’s personal brand is the ability to articulate it with purpose and confidence. Knowledge is indeed power as the age old adage goes. Knowledge of one’s personal brand provides the self-assurance to hold conversations coherently and comprehensively. When faced with that dreaded interview question that often has many interviewees babble on incoherently -“Tell us about yourself? ” – candidates who are well aware of their personal brand and why they have centered on those values are in a position to answer this question powerfully. The knowledge of one’s personal brand also provides the valuable opportunity during an interview to bring to the attention of the interviewing panel the synergy between one’s brand and their corporate brand.

The ability to identify activities that are aligned to one’s personal brand as against those designed to derail one’s brand is a key attribute. When workmates are up to no good and have designed all manner of strategies to short change the employer or take shortcuts, one’s efforts to work towards being in sync with their personal brand would deter jumping on the bandwagon to ‘fit in’ with colleagues. Internal struggles to be in alignment with one’s personal brand provide a good growing ground for values such as integrity, excellence, forthrightness, justice and loyalty. When conflicting actions present themselves to those rooted in pursuit of their personal brands, they get stronger.

It is also important to remember that in this fast paced technological world, one’s personal brand is indelibly affected by one’s online and digital activity. Whatever values one upholds in the physical world, must be maintained digitally. Potential employers go online to check out candidates’ brand reputation. There needs to be consistency between who you say you are, and what records exist about you.

So….the assignment is clear: think about your brand and decide what you want it to be; determine the gap between your current and desired brand; create systems and structures to achieve your desired brand; and lastly, fiercely guard your personal brand with all you’ve got. Because as Dave Buck so aptly puts it – “Your brand is a gateway to your true work. You know you are here to do something – to create something or help others in some way. The question is how can you set up your life and work so that you can do it? The answer lies in your brand. When you create a compelling brand you attract people who want the promise of your brand – which you deliver.”

Carolyne Gathuru
Carolyne Gathuru is the found and director of strategy at Life Skills Consulting. She has over 17 years’ experience in customer service strategy development and training.
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