There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the importance of creating a personal brand. I first came across the idea in an article by Tom Peters in Fast Company Magazine in 1997, but he didn’t originate it.
Here’s the concept: Any powerful brand (Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, iPhone, Facebook) stands for much more than the products that it names. McDonald’s stands for more than just a certain kind of food, it’s also about kid-friendliness, reliability, cleanliness, and value. These attributes are incredibly consistent over the long term, and drive much more visibility and loyalty than just the food they sell.
In the same way, when you establish your own “personal brand,” you are giving people a lasting impression of who you are, which encompasses the way you interact, the work you do, and the way you help or hinder others. Its value becomes important when you’re looking to make changes in your life, such as changing careers. If people see the switch as consistent with what they understand as “Brand You,” they will be much more supportive.
I’ve found this concept to be invaluable inside your current employer as well. It’s not just about the work you’re delivering in your current job, it’s also about the kind of work you’d like to be doing in the future, and who you’d like to be working with.
I focused on this a lot over the last 5 years in my previous employer. I decided that I wanted to become well known as an organizational leadership coach, seeking to achieve this lofty goal: Anytime anyone in the company came across the word “coaching,” I wanted it to quickly be associated with my name.
I had no idea if it was possible, but I knew that it would probably be my best chance for creating a full-time coaching position in the company.
To support this goal, I started doing lots of things. I put energy into growing the company’s community of coaches. I captured the words “coaching” and “mentoring” in the company’s internal search engine. I started a weekly blog around coaching, which subsequently shifted to my career blog outside the company, at www.dierschow.com. I worked with others to create a quarterly newsletter, and every issue was shipped out from my work e-mail address.
Did it work? In the end, I was laid off before I ever achieved the goal of creating a full-time coaching position. But it still was the most valuable activity I did, because it did indeed create the kind of connections I was searching for. My name became tightly connected with everything in the company having to do with coaching and mentoring, and I was constantly having new people coming to me with interest. And these relationships have formed the basis for my success with starting my own coaching company.
Your personal brand doesn’t have to be grand or magnificent. It can be as simple as being known for being the best at what you do, with the 100 people who care most. It might be centered on other qualities you have, such as being a great friend and supporter.
Figure out what you want to be known for in your career, then work toward things that will reinforce that message. It will give you visibility and flexibility, and your career satisfaction will thank you for the investment.
by Carl Dierschow