Focus on your personal brand, says every article related to any aspect of career change, or job hunt. Think about what makes you unique. Justify how what you’ve done so far demonstrates what your personal brand is.
And as a marketing student, I must take even more attention here. On building, displaying and marketing myself as a successful ‘brand’. For the caveat is that I can’t sell products, when I can’t sell myself.
Yet, to an extent, my personal instinct on this is that we’ve started focusing so much on what we want to be seen as, that we’ve almost forgotten who we actually are. Being a personal brand is fine when the amount of dissonance (the difference between what you are and what you think you are) is almost negligible. But when you’re thinking brand first, you’re almost putting yourself at the risk of being individual second. When the only agenda of your brand is to drive your audience’s perception of yourself in a certain manner, I believe we’re putting our authenticity at risk.
To me, this article by Sheryl Sandberg perfectly sums up the solution to the problem at hand. Focus on being a voice, not a brand.
There are innumerable definitions of what the term brand implies . Some say its what they talk about your when you’re not in the room. Some say its a set of associations. Some even go on to call it a ‘promise kept’. And I understand that the idea synthesis of people being brands comes from the ideology that as people, we too have tangible and intangible values attached to us. And these are what drive our equity, and define our uniqueness when we’re pitching ourselves amongst a crowd of people who are similar to us in terms of academic and/or professional background.
But then, we’re people, we’re not objects. Or products. Objects don’t speak for themselves. Marketers give those products their persona through a combination of marketing activities, strategies and messaging. But as people, we are our own personas. Our activities, and actions demonstrate who we are. Even if we walk around with labels proclaiming us to be practitioners, evangelists and thought leaders on certain subjects. Paradoxically , what we do in the real world is who we are, not what we say we do. Because your audience is a co-owner of your brand. Your audience’s perception of you is what drives their opinion of you. Hence my personal thought is that we as living, breathing, walking-talking individuals need to be more than ‘brands’.
As individuals, what makes us different, is our own unique set of idiosyncraties, backgrounds and ‘secret sauce’ that we bring to the party. We’re all passionate about something. Or some things. And they are what makes us more ‘us’. And I personally am a big believer in the fact that everything you do has an impact on teaching you skills that can impact you personal or professional life. For instance, if like me, you’re very passionate about writing, I believe it allows you to be a better communicator at work. If you’re a sports player, it teaches you team spirit. And these are critical skills that no degree can ever teach you enough. And these make up your individualistic, independent voice. What I also believe is that it is totally fine to let these passions evolve over time, what’s not okay is faking it.
When you’re passionate about something, it shows. When you show you’re passionate about something, that shows too. Think inside out. Begin with some deep rooted thinking inside yourself. Choose what are the things you’re going to put your time, resources and energy into, and don’t be afraid to talk about them. Make that your voice. And it is your voice, combined with other things that becomes your brand over time. Get your voice to align with your principles, values and mission. And the brand will automatically follow.