You Have a Personal Brand Whether You Want One or Not

Today I’d like to share an exchange I had over email with a reader who responded to my recent article on Inc. about personal branding. The reader gave me permission to share it here.

Dear John,

I’m following you on Twitter, and I’ve been reading your blog on Inc. for the past few months. Today, I read your post about personal branding. It got me thinking, what I am really doing here on social media and does someone like me even need a personal brand? It’s not like I’m a senior executive or some hot shot entrepreneur. I consider myself to be a low-level employee that advanced past entry-level but then kind of got stuck.

I’ve done various jobs all within the same department and company for the last eight years. Management has passed me over for promotions more times than I care to remember. However, I feel comfortable where I’m at, and the thought of getting back in the job market makes me feel sick to my stomach.

But truth be told, I do wonder why I keep getting passed over for promotions. While I’m content where I’m at, notice I didn’t say happy or fulfilled. I have a degree in economics and feel I have more to offer my company than what I’m doing.

I’m on social media, but I mostly use it to read articles, “talk trash” to my friends about sports, and post pictures of my kids. I’m not a writer like you.

Do you really think someone like me needs a personal brand? How would it help me get from where I’m at to finally getting a promotion at my company or a better job somewhere else?

Thanks so much for your great articles and for following me back on Twitter. LOL



My response to Jeremy…

First off, thanks for your message. It’s always great to hear from readers. I truly love to help people, and I feel like I have something valuable to offer people like you because it wasn’t long ago that I was actually worse off than you are now. I had hit a place in my career where I felt like a failure, and I hated what I was doing.

I changed jobs several times, only to end up in a worse place than the job I originally left. Then, out of nowhere, I got fired from that job! I was on a downward spiral in my career.

However, as bad as that experience was to go through, it gave me the motivation and hunger to bounce back and to make the necessary changes in myself to get to where I am today.

I believe somewhere along the way in your career you lost your passion, and that has led you to question things like whether you need a personal brand. Go back to the beginning of your career and think about the aspirations you had then. What’s stopping you from pursuing them?

Don’t over-think the term personal brand. Your personal brand is simply a trendy term for reputation. Of course, today your reputation is primarily affected by your online presence. All of the data shows that HR representatives and recruiters check a candidate’s online presence before making a hiring decision.

So, ask yourself how you’re currently perceived at work and within your industry. How would you like to be seen?

One thing I’ve learned in my career is that you’re only one market shift from being laid off. I’ve had it happen to me and countless of my friends and colleagues. So, investing in yourself is something you should always be doing.

The connections I’ve made online are what have enabled me to make the jumps that I have made in my career. Let’s face it: Most of us don’t have time to go to networking events, especially if we’re already employed.

But we can network online after work. Some people tell me they don’t have time, and I get that; I have two kids and a wife. However, what I tell people is to eliminate one thing from their life that’s not bringing them a return on investment and replace it with investing in themselves and their career. For me, that was stopping watching TV. After work, I would watch an hour or two of TV every night.

Instead, I devoted that time to making connections with influential people online who would help me grow. You should too. Many people make the mistake of only networking with people from their past.

Be forward-thinking with your approach to online networking by connecting to people who are relevant to your current personal and professional interests. Often these are people that you have not met yet and would likely never have an opportunity to meet anywhere but on social media.

Consider revising your time spent online. Maybe read one less article, or cut the amount of time spent on “trash talk” with friends over sports in half? Then, use that added time more strategically by engaging in online activities that are beneficial to your career goals.

Make sure your profiles online best represent your talents and interests. Depending on who you talk to, many experts will tell you that your online profiles and presence are equal to or more important than your résumé.

Always remember you have a personal brand whether you want one or not. If you’re a professional, you have one, just like you have a reputation in the community, you live in.

Be proactive in improving yourself professionally. Never wait until you need it to start.

My best,

John White

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