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Personal Brands Aren’t Just for Marketers

Discover your brand.
Chris Laping
Contributing Writer

Recently I was working with a long-time technology leader who was just laid off. After 20 years of service, he was thrusted into unemployment. Beside his natural fears of not providing for his family, he had to overcome a massive challenge: where should he begin?

He admitted up front, “I don’t do LinkedIn. And I also haven’t prioritized networking offline. I realize I’m not in a position of strength.” Honestly, that’s tough. According to Zippia, 85% of jobs are found through networking, while 70% of job openings are never publicly posted.

This leader’s story and Zippia’s data demonstrate a clear point: passively managing your career will hurt you. Just like retirement savings, it pays off to invest a little at a time … and with compounding interest, your gains can be enormous. So, how do you do this in the context of your career? Quite simply, you prioritize connection. But it’s more than meeting strangers on social media or at a conference. Instead, it’s about memorability.

Do you have a strong personal brand?

Most of my readers squirm in their seat when they hear the word, brand. It invokes sales-y, marketing language full of big budget glitz. But I encourage you to overcome your limiting beliefs. The strongest brands stand for something, and they have a unique, unduplicated role in the market.

When you have a strong personal brand, it’s the same. People find you memorable. You’re admired for your values and you’re uniquely different than others around you. And when this happens, even the smallest effort in networking pays off with compounding benefits! A really important lesson about personal brands is this: you don’t have to be better; you just have to be different.

An activity I facilitate in life coaching is called, “Why do they love me?” And it always produces shocking results. I ask a client to write down all the reasons their family & friends love them. Predictably, the list includes things like being a provider, cook, housecleaner, or homework helper. After we go through the list, I nudge them to ask their family & friends. I say, “Just tell them your coach prompted you to ask.”

You know where this is going. When they return with the list of answers, the two lists rarely line up. People love them for reasons never imagined.

The irony is spending a lot of energy being a provider, cook, housecleaner, or homework helper … and yet, it’s valued way less. (Clearly, those things are important, but they’re just rarely your known-for.) This works in a professional context, too. If I ask you, “What do your peers or boss value the most about you,” the answer forms the foundation of your personal brand.

And let’s imagine I asked them on your behalf. Would I hear things like, “I love Chris because he’s a human-centered CIO.” Perhaps, “I love Alissa because she’s a non-bureaucratic HR exec who knows how to get business results while taking care of people.”

This one-liner is your unique, unduplicated role. It’s the foundation of your personal brand—who you are and what you stand for. Do you see how this definition of personal brand is different than logos and corporate colors?

In next week’s article, I’ll go deeper than the one-liner and cover a few other must-have’s in a strong personal brand. Two weeks from today, I’ll close out the series with advice on how to use your personal brand inside your current company to build credibility and in the marketplace to create opportunity.

Here’s a homework assignment for next week: ask someone you trust at work, “My coach wants me to ask you, what do you value most about working with me?”

If it feels awkward, tell them your coach wanted you to ask…

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