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Personal branding for career success
Personal branding for career success

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2 The potential and the pitfalls

You have considered what personal branding means and looked at some of the varying views and opinions about it – both positive and negative. But what are some of the potential pros and cons for you when developing your personal brand?

A person holds a green circle with a plus sign and a red circle with a minus sign.
Figure 2 There are always pros and cons


  • Helps you to stand out. A strong personal brand allows you to communicate clearly to recruiters or customers. If recruiters can easily see that the skills and values that you present are aligned with what they are looking for, they are more likely to engage with you.
  • Networking becomes easier. Many people find networking a challenge, but having a clear personal brand will make it easier for you to a) identify the people you want to network with, and b) have concise and effective points to make while in conversation with them. You’ll explore networking in more detail in Week 7.
  • Supports career decision making. Developing an authentic personal brand involves spending time considering what you want from your career and analysing what you have to offer. Once you are clear about these things, deciding which job to apply for or which offer to accept should become easier.


  • Lack of authenticity. For many, authenticity is an important element of a successful personal brand. Devising a brand that doesn’t honestly represent who you are, and presenting that brand day after day to employers, colleagues, peers, etc., will be hard work and often personally unfulfilling.
  • Too much self disclosure. Personal branding does involve self-disclosure. The degree to which you embrace that is up to you, but there may be a line that you are not prepared to cross. For example, you may feel reticent about sharing your opinions openly on social media. You’ll learn more about this aspect of personal branding in Week 6.
  • Time consuming. It takes time to develop and promote your personal brand – contacting the right people, putting relevant commentary on social media, etc., so you must be prepared to commit your time to doing it properly.

Not everyone supports the concept of personal branding. For example, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, was recently asked how business people should manage their personal brands. Her reply was: ‘You don’t have a brand. I get this question a lot, and I shudder every time. Crest has a brand. Perrier has a brand. People are not that simple. When we are packaged, we’re ineffective and inauthentic.’ Her advice is ‘Don’t package yourself. Just speak honestly, factually and from your own experience’ (Holland, 2017).

Sheryl makes a useful point about the potential to take personal branding too far, and in Week 2 you’ll look at what we can learn from the process of branding a product. However, even if you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a whole branding exercise, there are components of the process, e.g. developing your LinkedIn profile effectively, that can be useful for anyone.

Activity 2 Having a strong brand

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Consider someone who you think has a strong personal brand. It could be someone you know, for example, at work, in your social circle etc., or it could be someone in the media. With Jeff Bezos’ quote in mind, what do people say about them when they aren’t in the room? In the box below, list the words that spring to mind.

Consider how that person communicates their brand. For example, if it’s someone you know at work, are they always positive in meetings, do they volunteer for unpopular tasks, do they talk about what they stand for, are they consistent in their contributions, etc.? Make some notes in the box below.

Do you think their brand has had a positive impact on their career?

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You might have chosen words like ‘consistent’, ‘interesting’, ‘attention-seeking’, ‘friendly’, ‘authoritative’, etc. They might not all be things you’d want people to say about you when you leave the room, but they demonstrate that individual’s impact on those around them. You’ll find out more about how to shape that impact as you work through the course.

If you chose a celebrity example, like Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie for example, you’ll know that they have hugely effective personal brands with millions of followers. You might not be interested in what they stand for – Angelina is an ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency – but you can acknowledge that their brand is clear and has been effective in developing their careers and causes. You’ll look in more detail at what you can learn from celebrity case studies in Week 2.

You’ve considered the personal brands of others, but what about your own?