Yes, your personal brand matters. I don’t mean it in a philosophical, “be yourself” motivational sense; but in a deeply tangible and concrete sense which directly affects your “bottom-line” as a professional in the modern working world.
Creating your personal brand has a direct and large return on the investment you make into your career, yet it’s often deeply ignored. Most likely you consider your education an investment in your future, including all formal academic education, certifications, trainings, online courses, and anything else you can think of which often ends up on your CV as “proof” of your investment in your career. Education is an important step (one we fully support – daily, in fact!) but the truth of the matter is: your CV, qualifications, and educational investment yield zero (0) ROI in your career if your personal brand is unable to materialize itself concretely.
It can be hard to translate your personal brand into the professional world. The solution? Focus on building your employee brand. If your “personal brand” is “what people say about you when you leave the room” (Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon.com), your “employee brand” takes it to the next level. How are you perceived in the context of the professional world with your current or future employer? After an interview, meeting, huddle, conference call, or extra-curricular event, the question becomes: what are people saying about you when you leave the office?
It should be fairly obvious that in the context of the job market, there are likely thousands (probably even more) people who have similar education to yours, similar certifications, similar trainings, and took similar online courses to improve themselves – all of whom are vying for a job that you (most likely) also want. So why does a company go with one person and not another?
If “hard skills” are the same for you and a thousand other people, there might be several reasons for the decision that one person gets a job over another: personality, leadership potential, communication skills (the list goes on) – “soft skills” which can’t be taught. All of these end up, in one way or another, falling under what makes up one’s personal brand: who you are, what you stand for, what sets you apart, what makes you great. More often than not, people have at least some shade of their own personal brand in them – yet they most likely have a hard time teasing it out, making it tangible, and communicating it. Yeah, that’s the hard part.
Unsure where to start? The easiest place is actually something you (hopefully) do naturally without thinking: your passions. Figuring out what your passions are, what it is that you are fully and completely passionate about, maybe even borderline downright obsessed with, is a huge step in the right direction to building your employee brand. The key to marketing your employee brand starts with those things you are passionate about, and amplifying them in a tangible and positive way that eventually paints a picture of who you are, what kind of employee you are, what you believe in, and where it is you are going as a professional.
Example? Take me. I spent years in academia, teaching undergraduate students at a local university in Montreal. I enjoyed teaching, and was passionate about advanced critical-thinking, philosophy, and discussion. I spent the majority of my youth reading and writing obsessively, choosing often insanely-advanced books from the library even when I barely understood them. I was just completely hooked on academic thought and rhetoric, and it was no surprise to many that I would go on to love writing 25-page essays on obscure British poets and to the world of teaching. However, after the academic world and I fell out of love with each other, I struggled to reconcile the two sides to me: one side which was passionate about the business world, and another which was permanently drawn to academia.
The solution? I realized that my employee brand was unquestionably connected to my passions – in this case, academia. So instead of working to actively suppress it (feeling like it had no place in the “business world”) I embraced it.
I became the guy at the office whose desk might be seen stacked with obscure books of poetry. In meetings I found myself justifying certain situations with clients by referencing instances taken from modern philosophy (yeah, there’s always a connection). I would write long-winded blog posts on behalf of the company (like this one) and people started to notice (and sometimes even enjoy them). Eventually, whether I knew it or not, people would start to associate me with the employee brand I had built for myself – and the company I worked for found the best way to help me progress into the right roles now that my passions, interests, and ideals had become clear. I had branded myself as an employee: clients and colleagues knew me, recognized me, and embraced me – and for the right reasons.
So when it comes to building your employee brand, start with asking yourself: what will people say about you when you leave the office?