Clarifying Personal Branding and Why It’s Important to You

Personal branding is one of those terms that are largely unclear or misinterpreted.  As a result, some experts in the field are steering away from the term all together.  I like the term.  I think it is filled with meaning and can see why Tom Peters (business guru) coined the term a decade ago.

To get you clear, let’s first look at this from a purely marketing point of view, since that is where this term came from.  Wiki defines branding as: Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers. People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique.  In other words, when you see a McDonald’s and eat at a McDonald’s, you think of certain visual images, as well as a consistent eating experience and environment.  You’re very clear that this isn’t going to be a fine dining experience; you know what to expect.  That’s what branding does for the buyer.  It helps them know where to go to have a specific product or service and experience.

To translate that to you for personal branding, it’s what identifies you from another person and what other people can expect when “experiencing” or being with you.  In the work context, it’s your work reputation and what people come to value about you.  Your Personal Brand is unique to you.  There is no one else out there with the same constellation of skills and personal behaviors that you have.  Granted, there may be others with greater expertise than you, but we aren’t talking about a comparison when it comes to personal branding; we are talking about only you and how you are viewed by others.

To further understand personal branding, let’s look at Oprah’s personal brand.  Visually, Oprah wears color and smiles.  You see pictures of her touching and making contact with people.  In her work, her focus is on being curious about the world, supporting the best in others and personal development.  You could say many other things about what we expect out of her and how we experience her.  All of that is consistent and clear to those of us watching her.  We’d all be shocked if she suddenly got cranky and negative.

To summarize your Personal Brand:

It is unique to you.

It is your reputation.

It is how others experience you and what they value about you.

It is what others expect and seek you out for.

It is also what YOU want to be known for.

With those things in mind, now the big question is:  Why is awareness of your personal brand important to your career?  Here are 3 very good reasons:

  1. If you are aware of your personal brand and it is consistent with your career goals, you want to reinforce it so people very clearly understand what you’re all about.  It helps people remember you when it’s critical.
  2. If you are ready to make a change in your career status in the foreseeable future, you want to think through how your brand needs to change so others start “seeing” you at this new level.
  3. If you aren’t going where you want in your career, you probably have a mismatch between your personal brand and your aspirations.  That means you have to do something to align those two things.  You will only go as far as your personal brand supports.

Your personal brand is always there no matter if you understand it or are deliberate about managing it.  You will find that if you pay attention to it and continually align it to your career goals you will be more successful at attaining your career goals.

For more career tips and advice – FREE newsletter and eworkbook:  From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – Your Career Change Agent from and

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. She works with aspiring professionals who are looking for career growth, advancement and entry into the “C” suite. As well, she works with people to overcome the sometimes daunting task of changing careers. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy has coached, trained and guided other professionals who have gone on to impressive and fulfilling careers. Her personal philosophy about careers is: “It’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career”. You can check out her resources, blog and services at Next Chapter New Life and MBA Highway.

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