Do you have a Personal Brand™?
I don’t mean preferring Nintendo to Xbox, your penchant for Converse All-Stars, or having Google tattooed on your face.
I mean that buzzword that gets flicked around the place, often paired with ‘Thinkfluencer’ and ‘Webinar’.
Some guy called Chris Ducker says that, “Your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
Now, I’m pretty suspicious of the whole Personal Brand™ thing – and the fact that the aforementioned Mr Ducker labels himself a ‘virtual CEO’ who will help you become a ‘Youpreneur’ hasn’t exactly unrustled my jimmies. I really wanted to write a piece, dripping with Foucault references, about how the concept of the Personal Brand™ has replaced the idea of personality and that if you position yourself as some kind of #thoughtleader, or #maven and use #hashtags to get #engagement you may be a #moron and that reducing yourself to a commodity cheapens us all…
However… I have a job to do here, so in order to temper the jaded and cynical side of my self (is that part of my Personal Brand™?) I had a chat to Melissa Moore, who has the amazing title of ‘Senior Manager, Employability and Enterprise’, to discuss what a Personal Brand™ is, how to curate one and what the hell do you do with it when you’ve got one.
“For me, a Personal Brand is all about knowing who you are, your priorities and deep values – knowing what motivates you – then spending time examining that and keeping it as ‘clean’ as it can be.”
When I think Personal Brand™ I imagine some highly contrived and sanitised persona created for the sole purpose of being attractive to employers. Melissa sets me straight. Personal Branding™ isn’t about contriving an image and performing yourself as a product and more about ,“knowing who you are and knowing how to project that confidence.”
“Of course, there is an element of marketing to it. You’re in competition with others. In that it comes down to researching a potential employer and knowing how to tweak your personal brand to make yourself more attractive to them.”
It’s not about faking it, however, “If you have an employer whose values are so far removed from your own that you have to change who you are to appeal to them, you don’t want to work with them anyway.”
A Strong Personal Brand™ can differentiate you from a whole bunch of similarly qualified people, which sounds all well and good but how do you create that?
“I think we’re all aware that employees will, as a rule, check out your social media profiles. If you’re part of the social media world, make sure there is a clarity to your presence and it is well curated.”
However, this doesn’t mean you have to sanitise your online persona.
Melissa explains that you don’t want to compromise who you are at your core, “If you are someone who has extreme left leanings, for example, why would you apply for a company that doesn’t?”
So, if your social media presence can wander into the political or controversial, Melissa advises to “Be creative. Get clever about it.”
Good news if your online presence is a little bit spicy.
Again, a Personal Brand™ isn’t about fabricating a perfect, or even alternate, version of yourself but making yourself a more attractive prospect to employers who you want to work for, who ideally already share your value sets. “Businesses will look into the people they are hiring and not only ask a) who IS this person? But also b) can we PUT UP with this person?”
“Create a LinkedIn profile. Look at the companies you want to work for and look at the words they use, their value sets, vision and mission statements. Have a look at them and if something sits all with you, use those words back while you curate your presence online. This makes them aware that you will fit with their culture.”
“When we ask businesses what convinces them to promote or employ a graduate into a particular role, of the top ten factors, the degree and quality of the degree comes in at about fifth or sixth, and the first five factors are all these ‘emotional intelligence’ and ‘cultural fit’ type elements. Employers want people who fit into the culture of their workplace. If you have a strong personal brand they can see this right away.”
People with a Strong Personal Brand™ are clear about who they are, what they want, what they can deliver and bring to the table.
“Corporate Australia is wiser than we give them credit for. Businesses look for team members who challenge them. Without people to challenge, too many ‘yes’ people, business stagnates – you need people who are going to disrupt a little but ‘disrupt with style’. This is why the University really pushes entrepreneurial skills because we recognise that employers aren’t looking for cookie cutter people, they’re looking for people who think outside the box.”
Establishing your brand not only gives future employers a window into who you are, and what you might do for their organisation, but gives you the opportunity to evaluate an organisation’s values against your own, giving you advantage in interviews and applications.
An important part of creating or discovering your Personal Brand™ is sense of self-discovery and self-awareness, “It’s an affirming process, rather than trying to fit you into a particular area”
“If it’s authentic you don’t have to do a lot of maintenance. If you find your personal brand is a bit of a chore you might need to do a bit of soul-searching.”
So, it would seem that having a Strong Personal Brand™ is something of an organic process that requires a bit of curation and tweaking, rather than a ground-up construction.
What about people who are struggling with the concept?
Melissa suggests that people who struggle with their Personal Brand™ are “people who say, ‘I don’t know who I am, I don’t know what I want to do, or where I want to be.’ People who are trying to fit themselves into a box or a shape where they don’t belong. They’re generally people who try and fit their parents’ dreams, their teachers’ dreams, or other people’s aspirations for them. They get to the point where they don’t know who they are any more and they haven’t developed an understanding of what motivates them.”
“People who march to the sound of someone else’s drum will spend most of their life working with someone else’s brand.”
Fear not! If this sounds like you, you aren’t doomed be a generic brand human.
“Come and have a chat with us at Careers and Student Development,” recommends Melissa. Every weekday between 9 and 4:30 we have little brief drop-in session. It’s more of a triage service, so if you need a longer appointment we can make that for you.”
Turns out, you already have a Personal Brand™. If it’s authentic and well curated it will be your magnet, attracting employers and opportunities that mesh with your personality and repelling situations that are against the grain of who you are.
If you feel you need help working out exactly what your Personal Brand™ is, buffing some edges, or getting it out there, go and see Careers and Student Development and they’ll get you all packaged up so you can be a can of BrandNameCola™ in a world of GenericCola™.