Why it’s time to re-think the brand of “me”

| March 22, 2012 | Comments (0)

The woman@work column appears weekly in The Globe and Mail.

I recently came across a cleverly organized resume that resembled a Google search page.

Although not a new concept, it illustrates how we expect people in our working lives to search us online before we ever meet. What Google says about us means more than any resume, and I presume many share that view since an entire industry of personal branding exists largely to help professionals hone their message.

I admit that when the popularity of personal branding started to take hold, I felt skeptical. The idea that so many people could claim to be an expert in their given field seemed highly implausible and I lamented the introduction of what I dubbed the “me, me, me” era. As an active user of social media, I often felt like a spectator in a digital Colosseum, where experts battle it out in forums, trying to prove to their industry peers they know more.

In spite of this, I’ve recently been converted to the idea of personal branding, when it’s done properly and not just a fancy way of saying you regularly update every social media site under the sun. With so many of us vying for a piece of our knowledge-based economy, the market dictates that we must differentiate to stand out.

While entrepreneurs learn the value of branding quite quickly, it’s those working in a corporate environment, where too many profess to the same skill set, that the need for it becomes rapidly apparent.

“In the corporate world, you need to look at yourself differently than before. Your employer is interested in your skills but if you want to separate yourself and get ahead you have to stand for something,” insisted Diana Bishop, a personal branding specialist who works with senior leaders in the private and public sector. “If you are doing a skill that a lot of people have, you need to have more than a great resume,” she said, adding that many recruiters now feel that branding is a must for new clients.

But first, let’s define personal branding – a term that remains largely misunderstood — and agree that it encompasses more than LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. After speaking to various experts, I believe it’s safe to say that the term refers to finding your ultimate value proposition and ensuring that you convey that story in all facets of your work and public life.

Ms. Bishop calls it the “secret sauce.” She takes the same approach with people as with major brands and insists that once you discover your unique value offering, and align your career (or product) around it, it paves the way to greater revenue.

This can be a liberating process. Ms. Bishop encounters many senior, female leaders who feel like they cannot be themselves at work. They confess to leading a double life, their real life outside of the office and the persona they developed for their work environment. This double life no longer works in our modern environment, where personal and business lines are blurred.

The concept of personal branding seems to appeal to women specifically, and consultants I’ve spoken with all work with considerably more female clients.

Tyler J. Smith, a director of marketing and communications says the ratio of her personal branding clients is 10-1 for women. She attributes the high number of female clients to the various career transitions women encounter.

“The average woman will need to, at some point, manage a leave in their career for familiar reasons,” observed Ms. Smith. She believes that a strong awareness of your personal brand will help pave the way to a clearer career path and ensure that women make fewer missteps when they re-enter the workforce.

Higher numbers of women may also rely on personal branding consultants to help them talk up their achievements. “In general, women can be more modest in their accomplishments,” observed Erin Miller, an image consultant. Miller works with clients to develop their brand through their physical appearance, such as their wardrobe and hair, but she is increasingly coaching women on their body language and voice.

Branding, explained Ms. Miller, extends to everything you do and touch, whether online or face-to-face and she cautions that there are risks in not talking control of your personal image.

“If you don’t work at branding yourself, other people are going to do it for you” warned Miller, “It’s one of the few things you can help control.”

Tags: , corporate, Diana Bishop, , , Google, personal branding, social media,

Category: Career Girl

About Leah Eichler: Leah Eichler is co-founder of Femme-O-Nomics. View author profile.