You may have heard of the concept of a personal brand. When we refer to a personal brand, we don't mean the copyright symbol or the brand name of something.
Instead, think about humans simplify and categorize things. We tag companies and people with simplistic definitions. You may know the brand name of Prana, but what does the brand of Prana mean to you? My personal impression is that they're an expensive but fashionable fitness brand. That's not bad for them, as that definition probably works in their favor.
Another example of branding might be Patagonia, where they're known as a reasonably expensive (fancy things tend to have stronger brands), and environmentally focused outside clothing company.
Brands aren't just for companies, though. People have brands as well.
Personal brands? What does that mean?
When you are hired into your first professional role, you will usually have a simple but boring brand to others in your company. The new hire or junior employee. You don't know a ton, and your main distinguishing feature is that you need training and are likely to screw up anything complicated. Lovely, right?
However, you swiftly begin establishing your brand. Perhaps your co-workers notice that you come into work early. Perhaps they see that you pay particular attention to customer feedback. Regardless, your activities and skills begin to build your personal brand.
What is the impact of having this brand? When people reference each other, they can't possibly tell you about the complete person. Instead, they tell you about their brand.
"You should talk to Cathy about that. She's the expert at debugging database problems."
"I'll introduce you to Dana. She's tough to work with, but it's important you know her if you want your work approved."
"Oh, that's Clinton. Not sure what he does actually."
You know about that whole saying about 'starting off on the right foot' when meeting new people? Your personal brand is the foot you start with.
If you want control over how people perceive you, you'll want to think carefully about your branding.
Your personal brand doesn't only impact others. If you're aware of your brand, it likely impacts how you act as well!
Personal branding, and the Self.
How you talk to yourself is important. A soccer coach tells their team members to say that they're going to win the ball, and score a goal. Why? Because what you tell yourself tends to come true. Not due to any mystical powers, but because our own self-talk is the loudest talking we hear. You can convince yourself of anything.
- "I know I will fail" becomes acting like you will fail. And likely failing.
- "I know I will kick serious buttocks on this presentation" becomes confidence, and likely doing well on the presentation.
This means that a powerful, exciting personal brand will translate into your acting in such a way to make that brand come true.
Even more, your personal branding impacts how you talk about yourself to others.
Without consciously deciding that I had a brand, early on at Amazon I decided that I was pretty good at writing documents.
Was I good at writing documents at first? I'm not positive. I imagine I wasn't terrible, but I was nowhere near as good as I was years later.
However, when a co-worker said they needed someone to help them write an important doc, who volunteered? I did! I said, "I'm pretty good at docs, let me help you."
Did that immediately make me a document writing success? No, of course not.
But it did three things.
- I told people that I was good at doc writing, by offering to help, and suggesting this was my thing. This helped build my brand as a doc writer.
- It reinforced in my mind that I was a document writer. It encouraged me to volunteer for future doc writing, and believe that I was a document writer.
- It gave me valuable experience in document writing, which began to turn my assumption true (regardless of the initial truth). More on this shortly.
How do you identify your brand?
I've heard people ask how they can identify what their brand is. Interesting question.
When I was a young kid, was reading a strength of mine? No, I liked reading, read a lot, and it became a strength. While I did come from a family of readers, I would never have gotten to this level of proficiency without repeatedly reading.
The simplest strengths in life come from repetition. In a particular area, you might learn faster than others, but you learn through repetition.
Now let's talk about real excellence.
Was Messi born a great soccer player? No, when he first touched a ball, he was clueless, just like every other kid. He saw his older brothers playing soccer, wanted to play soccer as well, practiced an obscene amount, and made history.
I'm sure he had great soccer genetics. However, he would never have fulfilled his potential without a massive amount of experience.
The best leaders might have started with potential, but the only way they become who they became is through practice.
When it comes to brands, I don't think you can identify your brand. I think you create your brand. How do you do it?