Taking Ownership of Your Personal Brand

By Cheryl J. Thornton MBA, Chartered MCIPD, FAIM, CAHRI.

Your personal brand is an essential asset in a highly competitive global job market. Personal brand is similar to product brand in that it reflects your core value proposition and defines your market positioning. Personal brand is unique and it’s about getting yourself on the radar of the right people who can help your career mobility. It’s also about gaining respect, getting hired quicker or promoted faster.

Consider when someone Googles you, what is it you want them to know about you? Are the search results positive or negative? What images appear? Embracing an introspective approach is critical when defining and building a quality personal brand package. Walt Disney once said “The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.”

Here are some factors to consider with personal brand:

• Visibility: Personal brand is a continuous process. You must constantly work on your personal brand for it to be successful. Be self-confident, focus on your accomplishments and position yourself for the next move. Shape your brand through attending the right networking functions and through effective use of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter etc.

Reputation: What are your personal qualities? This is really asking ‘what do you want to be known for in the market?’ For example, are you visionary, innovative or an expert in your field? Use your education, work experiences and community involvement to highlight your strengths. Demonstrate your passion for what’s important to you through pro-bono work and causes which you support.

Image: Your personal image should captivate others. Does it reflect a respected leader or expert in your field? Perhaps it reflects an image you don’t want it to. In developing your image, don’t appear as though you have just attended a trendy self-help course or read the latest fad business book. If your personal image is not consistent with your personality then it won’t be sincere.

Organisation Alignment: Are your personal values aligned with your current or future organisations’ values? Richard Branson’s showy, self-promoting and flamboyant behaviour is in sync with Virgin’s brand, hence he is often regarded as the ‘pin-up boy’ for personality alignment with company brand. Most importantly, become a ‘brand ambassador’ for your organisation.

Originality: Hollywood actress Judy Garland once said: “Always be a first-rate version of you instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” Copying someone else’s brand is unsustainable . Focus on what YOU have to offer, outsource the areas in which you’re lacking and avoid making comparisons with others.

Risk Management: Consider environmental, cultural and contextual risk factors before deciding on one approach to your personal brand over another. Do you want to be known as traditional, fresh, conservative or a maverick? For example, what are the risks of a personal brand reflecting a ‘tell it like it is’ communication style? While this may be seen as a positive attribute in one market, it may not be so in another. How will you mitigate this risk? Fit for purpose should be the focus.

Feedback: Challenge yourself by asking key people in your network to describe you. Family, friends, peers, clients, your boss and people you don’t get along with etc are valuable sources of information and can help you fine-tune your personal brand.

Competition is fierce. You can blend in and be invisible, or stand out and get noticed. Creating or sharpening your personal brand is a professional must-have and it is never too late to invest in ‘Brand You’.

Cheryl is a senior HR leader with over eighteen years of international and emerging markets experience gained in local and multi-national companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East and North Africa. She has held senior HR roles in banking, property development, retail and aviation. Cheryl is passionate about the end-to-end Talent cycle, and over the past decade specialised in developing targeted solutions to integrate a core set of talent programs in attracting and acquiring talent; planning talent; and managing and developing talent. Cheryl holds an MBA in Strategic HRM from the University New England, is a Chartered Member of CIPD and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management. Cheryl is Australian and has been based in the United Arab Emirates since 2005.