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by Lynn S. Schwebach

What is Your Personal Brand Cockatoo Illustration

Ilustration by Lynn S. Schwebach

At some point in their lives, most people have been labeled or defined in a way that surprises them—or infuriates them. And yet many dislike concepts such as “personal branding,” because many in our society associate branding with bragging. 

But, career development experts tell us, the danger of avoiding personal branding is that if we don’t brand ourselves, someone else will.

Branding guru and author Robin Fisher Roffer declares that bosses, customers, and colleagues have already branded you, and chances are, if you haven’t yet branded yourself, they might have gotten it wrong.

Roffer said it happened to her. At an industry conference several years ago, someone introduced her to the audience as the “Sweepstakes Queen of Cable.” Although not a detrimental title, it didn’t apply. She was a brand strategist, having branded hundreds of television networks and internet brands. By calling her something she wasn’t, it marginalized her dreams and talents.

Roffer realized that how she perceived herself isn’t how others perceived her. She knew she had to create her own brand. She declared herself “The Premier Brand Strategist of the Digital Age.” After putting this on her business cards, e-mails, and introducing herself with this title, her business grew beyond her expectations.

“By simply saying it and backing it up, I became it,” Roffer said in one of her YouTube training videos.

Personal Branding Sets the Stage

Personal branding sets the stage for how you want others to think of you, your work, your service, or your product. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a corporate or nonprofit employee, or an entrepreneur, teacher, or volunteer, your personal brand is the impression you leave on others.

A polished personal brand helps your career but it also helps you in so many other essential ways. For instance, sitting down and figuring out your skills, values and interests, and how their combination contributes to the world, helps your self-esteem and gives you a stronger sense of self. (And it helps the world.)

Stated another way, personal branding helps you define your vocation, a term that means “call.” Personal branding is your calling, or what drives you, what makes you “you.” That awareness in and of itself makes you a healthier person because you’re living out your dreams, and fulfilling your life’s purpose.

Your personal brand sets you apart. It makes you unique. Except for your friends and family members, others don’t know what sets you apart unless you tell them.

Corporations have long known the power of branding. They hire experts to help them develop unique and effective brands. The car brand Volvo evokes “safety” in our minds; Starbucks denotes “high-end individualized quality” coffee; Walt Disney stands for “trust.” These product brands evoke emotions. So do personal brands.

Others Connect with You and Your Brand

Your brand stands for how you connect on an emotional level to others: “the most dependable employee in the department,” “the highest quality, error-free work of any team member;” “the marketer with the most creative solutions.” People connect these emotions.

Ultimately, it’s not only what you’re good at, but what you’re known to be good at—it’s your reputation. Contrary to what some might believe, it’s not self-promotion or bragging.

In his REACH website article “1-2-3 Success!,” William Arruda, founder of Reach Personal Branding, stated: “Personal branding is not about building a special image for the outside world; it is about understanding your unique combination of rational and emotional attributes – your strengths, skills, values and passions – and using these attributes to differentiate yourself and guide your career decisions.”

Business leaders agree. According to the Wall Street Journal, personal branding is the second most important job skill to have after clear communications.

The following is a list of reasons for building a personal brand:

  • To stand out from the competition
  • To understand yourself and your goals
  • To transform your career/and or personal life
  • To help you grow your business
  • To help you get a promotion
  • To help you land the right job
  • To raise your earning potential
  • To help you increase sales

Life is a journey, and your personal brand is your travel guide, taking you where you want to go, how you want to get there, and how you want to be perceived along the way. Steer your own journey before someone else does it for you! For more information on personal branding, see my articles, “Personal Branding Builds Confidence,” and “Basic Steps to Building Your Personal Brand.”