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Personal branding for career success
Personal branding for career success

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1 What is a personal brand?

We all have a brand already. It reflects our values, beliefs and personal qualities and determines how they come across to other people. As Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, famously said:

‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.’

A bearded man wearing glasses holds a Post-it note up to the camera.
Figure 1 You are your own brand

When defining a personal brand, McNally and Speak (2009, p.4) start with this well-defined concept of a brand:

‘…a perception or emotion, maintained by a buyer or a prospective buyer, describing the experience related to doing business with an organisation or consuming its products or services.’

They adapt this to describe a personal brand as follows:

‘Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.’

They explain:

‘Your brand is a reflection of who you are and what you believe, which is visibly expressed by what you do and how you do it. It’s the doing part that connects you with someone else, and that connection with someone else results in a relationship.’

Personal branding is viewed by academics and professionals in many different ways, and not always positively. For some, defining and understanding your personal brand is an obvious path to living a better life:

‘Building an authentic personal brand is an evolutionary and organic process and a journey towards a successful life.’

H. Rampersad (2009, p.xiii)

For Tom Peters, the individual who is widely quoted as being first to talk about the concept of a personal brand, it is the only way to develop and progress within your career:

‘Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be a head marketer for the brand called You.’

Tom Peters (1997, p.2)

Many of us associate it with entrepreneurship, or even celebrity, when individuals become the face of their own personal brand:

‘A great way to understand the concept is as follows… when somebody hears your name, what pops into their head? That’s your brand, for better or for worse.’

The Celebrity Branding Agency (n.d.)

For some, it represents a cynicism that has made an impact on many of our lives, for example, through the rise of reality TV:

‘The branded self is one of the more cynical products of the era of the flexible personality: a form of self-presentation singularly focused on attracting attention and acquiring cultural and monetary value.’

A. Hearn (2008, p.179)

For the purposes of this course, we will approach it as a useful tool for promoting yourself effectively and consistently to employers, current and future. Understanding and developing your personal brand in this context can help you to gain greater job satisfaction and progress your career as you want to.

Activity 1 Quotes, definitions and opinions

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Watch the following video and, in the box below, make a note of any quotes that particularly catch your eye or seem to encapsulate your own perception of what personal branding is.

Video 2 Different ideas about personal brand
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What stood out for you? Maybe it was the focus on being yourself, using your talent or making a strong impression on others.

Although there are many definitions available, your personal brand is just that – ‘personal’. In fact, it is unique to you. You’ll explore this in more detail as you work through this course.

In the next section, you’ll consider some of the pros and cons of a personal brand.