Personal branding for career success
Personal branding for career success

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Personal branding for career success

2 Making a difference at work

Paying attention to your personal brand at work can have an impact in two key areas:

  • a.You are better prepared to present a clear message to others about who you are and what you have to offer.
  • b.Colleagues, peers and employers will have a clear understanding of what they can gain from working with you.

Sometimes, you might want to boost your personal brand image in the workplace because you are facing a challenging situation and want to demonstrate that you can deal with it. Business Image Consultant, Jane Chapman, explains how having the right image can enhance your confidence and authority.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 3 Interview with Jane Chapman
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Transcript: Video 3 Interview with Jane Chapman

Jane Chapman
OK. So how can your image help you enhance your authority in a challenging work context? It's an interesting one. But the first thing I'd say would be think about the psychology of colour. Now in terms of colour, when we wear a dark neutral-- so that might be a navy blue, it might be a charcoal grey, or grey, might be black, it might be-- it's probably those three, actually. When you wear a darker neutral, it automatically gives you a bit more gravitas. It's hard to explain why, but we see it.
So typically if you base your outfit with some of those dark neutrals in there-- add in a bit of other colour to make it interesting. You don't want to wear black head to toe. But go for that darker colour. It will give you a bit more gravitas.
The second thing, really, is wear something that you feel a million dollars in, that you feel really comfortable in, that you don't have to think about all the time. The third thing is wear something that makes you feel confident. Typically that's by dressing a bit smarter.
OK, so we've talked quite a lot there about dress. In terms of your body language, just think about not doing all this closed body language where you shrink down, but actually that you're thinking about eye contact, you're thinking about projecting confidence. And to be honest, with your image, when you look like you can handle anything, chances are you'll feel confident enough to do it.
End transcript: Video 3 Interview with Jane Chapman
Video 3 Interview with Jane Chapman
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The following case studies illustrate some of the benefits of a clear personal brand.

Leya and her unexpected opportunity

Leya had been working as a careers adviser for five years, when her boss suggested she might like to try managing a department for a few months while a colleague was seconded elsewhere. Management was not something Leya had ever considered but her boss was sure she would excel. She accepted the offer and found that she really enjoyed the role. She is now the Director of a large careers service.

Leya’s manager offered her this opportunity because she had developed a clear personal brand within the organisation. She was known for her strong interpersonal skills and her ability to motivate and encourage others. While she hadn’t deliberately cultivated a brand, by being open and honest in all her interactions with colleagues and clients, her personal brand was authentic and clear for all to see.

Linda and her successful job interview

Linda had been a manager for several years when she saw an opportunity to try something new. She applied for a job that seemed to require her skillset, but included oversight of many operational areas that she knew little about.

If the organisation wanted someone to lead on operational detail, she knew she wouldn’t be a strong contender, but she was invited to interview. At the interview, she decided to be clear about who she was and what she could offer, rather than apologising for the gaps in her knowledge and experience. She focused on her track record of working with a wide range of different people, bringing them together and building effective teams. She got the job!

Linda was successful because the authentic brand she communicated in her interview was exactly what the employer was looking for. What she didn’t know was that there had been significant personnel issues prior to her appointment and the team was fractured and aimless. By presenting her brand clearly and confidently, Linda convinced the employer that she was the perfect person to sort that out.

Philip and his social media marketing

When Philip left a senior role to start a freelance career, he wanted to let the right people know he was available for work. He took some time to develop a website, thinking carefully about how he wanted to present himself, and then he switched his focus to social media. Focusing mainly on LinkedIn and Twitter, he then started regularly posting thoughts and ideas, commenting on other material, etc. This was something he had always done anyway, but now he was doing it more deliberately – carefully considering the comments he made and how they might be perceived by potential employers, and ensuring they were regular and timely. Offers of work followed!

Philip used social media to promote his personal brand, but he was thoughtful about what he posted. For him, this wasn’t about collecting followers or setting a target to send five tweets a day. He wanted the right people to notice and remember him – for the right, professional reasons. Once he had created an effective and valued personal brand, he was able to start approaching some of his followers directly, with ideas about how he could help them and their organisations. His pitches were well received as his reputation was already strong.

Gayle Johnson is a self-employed copywriter and coach, who took a more deliberate approach to defining her own personal brand at work. Watch this short video to hear why she decided to do this and how it helped her career.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 4 Interview with Gayle Johnson
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Transcript: Video 4 Interview with Gayle Johnson

Gayle Johnson
I first started thinking about my personal brand when I was working at the university in York, so it was a large organisation. I felt as though there were lots of competing demands on my time. There were lots of strategic changes and lots of different change programmes happening. And as a middle manager, I felt like I had lots of pressures from all around, really. And it made me start to think, where do I fit in all of this, because in such a large organisation, you can't control everything. But what you can control is what you stand for.
So I started to be a lot more conscious and a lot more deliberate about how I was showing up at work. And I wanted to do that in a way that felt honest and true to me. So it wasn't as though I was sort of putting on a mask. In fact, that's the opposite of what I wanted to do. What I wanted to get back to was what I really stood for and bring more of that out at work.
So I did. I started to think about what was important to me, what values were important to me, and what that meant for how I worked with people or how I could influence priorities myself. And through that work, I found I got a lot more confidence in myself because I was being myself a lot more. I wasn't trying to please everybody or be the person that I thought I should be because of a particular job title. I was being myself. That gave me a lot of strength and a lot of confidence.
It also meant, I think, that I was more effective because I wasn't wasting all this energy on wearing a mask or any of those sorts of things. I was doing the work. And it also meant that my relationships with particular people at work really strengthened. And I think that's really powerful. For me, having a network of people you really trust and who really click with you is a really powerful way to go through work. And as I say, the most important part of it was that I sort of developed this newfound strength and trust in myself.
That was the first step, I suppose, I took to put towards personal branding. And secondly, through doing all of that sort of work, I realised there wasn't much more I could do with that job. That wasn't going to fulfil me much more than it already did. Doing the personal branding work meant I got a lot more out of my job satisfaction, but there was a limit to it.
So I decided to leave and take a bit of a risk and set up a business on my own. And that's where I really started to be very deliberate about my personal branding because of the work I do now is as a copywriter and a writing mentor. And I'm by far- you know, there are many, many, many of us. There are thousands of us. And I firmly believe that in order to get work, people have to trust you, that people buy people. So I was very deliberate about being myself, about what I wanted to portray to the world and how I wanted to show up. I wanted to let people into my world a little bit.
And that's really worked because I'm now three years into that business, and I only work with people who I really have a connection with. And that means they really value what I do. So we're all happy. I enjoy the work, they enjoy working with me, and we get a good result. So it's really made a difference to me being much more conscious about my brand.
End transcript: Video 4 Interview with Gayle Johnson
Video 4 Interview with Gayle Johnson
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Activity 2 How could personal branding help me at work?

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Think about your current work situation. How is your personal brand working for you at the moment? Has it brought you any unexpected opportunities like it did for Leya?

You’ll look in much more detail at how to develop your personal brand later in the course, but for now, choose one thing that you are happy with and one thing you’d like to improve about it. Write your thoughts in the box below. You might find it helpful to reflect on your answers to Activity 3 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] in Week 1.

Throughout the course there is the option ‘Download your answers for the documents on this course’ on the left hand side. This will produce a PDF document of all of your answers to the activities for you to refer back to as needed.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
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Leya didn’t consciously develop a personal brand at work, but others recognised it because of her consistent actions and behaviour.

Gayle had a very clear idea of why a strong personal brand was important to her and developing it helped her to feel more authentic in the workplace, enhancing her personal job satisfaction and professional relationships.

Activity 3 in Week 1 might have given you a sense of how your brand is currently perceived by others. If it has, you can start to consider if there’s anything you want to alter or enhance. For example, you might want to promote a particular strength or set of values more strongly, or you might simply want more people to know and recognise your brand.

Throughout the course, you’ll explore ways to make both of those things happen.

Now you’ve had a taste of how personal brand can make a difference to ordinary people in the workplace, you’ll move on to look briefly at how celebrities use their personal brands and consider what we can learn from their approaches.


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