In today’s social media world, you might just get the impression that personal branding is something that it isn’t…a carefully tailored image of you that “wows” all who come into contact with it. In other words, you become so attractive, employers and network connections just flock to connect with you.
As a result, for many professionals, personal branding is something they either love or hate. The more extroverted seem to hop on board with it as they see it as a tool to meet more people and to come off “nicer” and more “social”. For the introverted, it is more like an out-of-body experience where they are looking down at their “personal brand” and wondering who the heck that person even is (just hoping no one will notice how fake they really feel).
In either case, though, extrovert or introvert, the real point of “personal branding” has been lost.
It’s the same mistake most for-profit entities make when it comes to their marketing: they’ve missed the point. They’ve made it all about them and not about their target market. Thus, down, down, down go their sales while up, up, up go their marketing budgets. (Or maybe even worse…flat, flat, flat go their sales.)
When it comes to personal branding (which is really marketing in a thinly veiled disguise), the same holds true. You can spend a lot of time crafting it, only to find that no one is interested.
Your Personal Brand Is Not About You
Rather, it’s about your “customer” or your end user or target audience because that is who you are trying to connect with, engage, and (don’t miss this!) ACHIEVE RESULTS FOR. Ultimately, that is what a career is all about…the problem you solve, the people you serve. So the more your “brand” speaks to them, the more opportunities you will receive. Period.
Honestly, it’s why most resumes fail, interviews flop, and job searches falter. (It also happens to be why most businesses flounder.) Because self-employed or corporate-minded, the same principle holds: Work is service.
So does that mean personal ambition is bad or that image is evil, etc.? No, but if your personal branding comes off self-focused, more often than not, you’ll struggle. Therefore, it’s best to position your ambition and your image into the context of how what you do truly benefits (and not just because you’re great and people should just be happy you walked in the room). A select few might be able to pull this off…a very select few.
So Make Your Personal Brand Personal to Your “Customer”
If you are looking to attract employers or make certain connections, you first need to get to know them. Go on a listening tour. What do they want? What do they need? Get away from telling them what they want and what they need. Speak their language instead. If you have wisdom to impart, impart it in their context, not yours. Build credibility as someone who understands them, not as someone who secretly only cares about themselves.
If you start thinking in this direction, you will find that personal branding is really something quite different from what you originally thought. It has much less to do with your personality and more to do with your actual knowledge base.
Hmm…Maybe that’s really why so many people get it wrong after all….maybe their knowledge of their “customer” isn’t as good as they think it is.
No, personal branding isn’t something you can fake or even really “craft”. It’s something you communicate. And either you do that well or you don’t.