4 min read

Personal Branding is Paramount

With increasing job-hopping and non-linear career paths, our personal identity is tied more closely to our personal brand than the company we work for. How are you strategically positioning yourself for success?
Personal Branding is Paramount
Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf / Unsplash
The average employee has ten times as many followers as their company on social media

If you're not working at a listed company, you probably have substantially more followers than the company you work for. On top of that, you're active across several social media platforms while your company is probably only across a few.

The modern reality is that our personal brand is becoming increasingly important. With increasing job-hopping and non-linear career paths, our personal identity is tied more closely to our personal brand than the company we work for.

The Corporate Brand

Corporations have seen the importance of a mission statement and a unifying set of values to guide the firm's actions. Investors are placing more and more importance on the corporation as a living entity with purpose rather than a shell under which the directors run a business. This links not only the company's day-to-day operations but also their environmental impact.

Here is a screenshot from Commonwealth Bank's most recent annual report:

This is page 6. Right near the front. 'Our purpose and values are core to everything we do'. Those values are Care, Courage, and Commitment, written out nicely by a typographer that was probably paid a substantial amount of money to design them.

Whether companies and their employees actually live by these values or not, modern corporations have identified the importance of their corporate story and direction.

They are devoting considerable resources to ensure that their marketing and branding efforts contribute to the company's social image.

What can we learn as individuals?

I believe that our personal brand is equally important.

The modern professional no longer follows a linear career path. Access to education and training is so readily available that it's easier than ever to learn new skills and change careers. We move frequently from company to company and even jump between industries.

As a result, I believe that our credibility is no longer tied to our depth of experience at a single organisation. Our credibility and employability is now a function of the varied skills and experiences we've gained across a wide range of professional experiences. As a result, one of the most important steps we can take is to strategically develop this personal and professional brand.

The world of Venture Capital and startups have already identified the importance of varied experiences in individuals. A common metric for evaluating the potential success of a startup is to examine the founders. What is their track record in building businesses? How many different projects and ideas have they worked on?

When it comes to decision-making, they're more likely to invest in serial entrepreneurs who have successfully started many different businesses, a strong personal brand, and established networks rather than someone whose CV is comprised of 10 years at a single company who is now venturing into entrepreneurship.

This is an oversimplification, of course, but I think it emphasises a shift in the way we need to think about professional identity. As career paths become more fluid, our professional identity will be tied more closely to our personal brand than the corporation we work for.

A 2017 paper by Rangarajan, Gelb and Vandaveer interviewed 33 U.S and European sales executives and managers. Their final recommendation:

Follow a strategic self-branding process based on one's values and competencies, similar to the branding methods of companies and products.

Here are some tips to begin building your personal brand:

  • Be Authentic- Get real. Modern social media platforms are notorious for showcasing the best sides of ourselves. Yet our favourite influencers and creators (your favourite YouTuber for example) are our favourites because they are relatable and authentic. I'm not saying you need to bare your soul on the internet, but I think it's valuable to share a bit about your interests to make connections in our modern online communities.
  • Engage - Engage more on social media in your areas of interest. Reach out to people and learn about their experiences and advice. Establish a presence on social media platforms in an area of interest (e.g. finance) and create a name for yourself in that field.
  • Connect with people - Anybody can tell you that networking is important. However, for young professionals who have limited corporate experience, it's hard to feel like 'coffee chats' and networking events have an element of mutual gain. They don't, and that's the reality of it. But recognition of this reality is fundamental to building meaningful connections. When 'networking', show considerable gratitude for their time. Consciously think about ways to contribute to the conversation and provide insight (without overstepping). It's an incredibly difficult balance, but it's important to show that you appreciate and value their insights.
  • Leverage your Image - As you'd expect, most people have a surface-level understanding and image of you as an individual. You may be known for a particular skill or hobby, or a personality trait. It's great to use this as a starting point to develop and publicise your personal brand.

Your personal brand is personal. It's for you. But it's also essential to the way you connect with others. A strong personal brand helps clearly and confidently convey your areas of interest and professional motivations.

Here's a great article to learn more about personal branding: How to Build a Personal Brand (2021) (shopify.com.au)