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Bringing Your Individuality To Work: Brilliant or Taboo?

Aug 17, 2007
"Personal branding" is the latest buzzword. It's a topic that cuts across a number of career management areas. The concept can be extremely helpful, but the language leaves many people feeling that there's a big mystery out there about how to be successful. Let's demystify it, shall we?

There are products, and there are brands. What's the difference? Well, a brand is made up of all the intangible associations that go along with a particular product: the romance of Chanel No.5; the sexiness of a Ferrari; the cachet of a Rolex. To the working world, you are, in part, a product. Sure, you've got that dazzling smile and you're the one everyone wants to sit next to at the holiday party-that's part of the product. But it's more than that.

Your brand is the unique special recipe of you-your experiences, skills, personality, talents, creativity, wisdom, ability to connect with people. It all adds up to what you specifically add to an organization.

I've asked dozens of people about their brand, and very few can convey it with any clarity. Personal branding is not your title. Personal branding is the "youness" that you bring. It's not necessarily what you do, but the particular way you do it.

Let's look at some examples:

Bob comes from an Ivy League background. He likes to manage largely by the number goals. Even though his door is physically open 90% of the time, he generally prefers his team to make appointments with him to talk. He loves reports and frequently has a large stack of them on his well-organized desk. He's known to be fair and consistent and respected by his team. He's comfortable with upper management and is invited to join them for lunches and ball games.

Bob has the uncanny ability to look at a process and immediately find the clogged pipe in the system. He is decisive and he acts quickly. Bob always looks very professional and speaks with confidence. He never loses sleep over his decisions. He's typically the first to arrive in the morning and among the last to leave at night. His office decor consists of certificates, degrees, and some photos of his last college alumni rafting trip. He has a quote from Demming (one of the masters of process management) on his bulletin board.

What adjectives describe the image you are getting of Bob?

Jill went to a state college and likes to manage by developing close, friendly connections with her customers and her team. Her door is always open and sometimes there's music coming from her office. There's always a dish of candy on her desk. Her work area is typically a bit messy and there are a bunch of Post-Its on the wall by her phone.

Jill has an amazing ability to find creative ways to improve processes, especially in the area of customer service. Her team frequently seeks her out to get her input, celebrate wins, and brainstorm. Talking to Jill keeps her team invested in their work. Higher-ups don't know quite what to think about Jill, but they do know that whatever she's doing, it's innovative and it works. She's outgoing, highly expressive, and prone to wearing "artistic" jewelry. Her bulletin board features smiling photos of herself and her team and customers at various fun events. Jill is often half an hour late in the morning and usually leaves early on Fridays.

What adjectives describe the image you are getting of Jill?

If you saw only their titles and the revenue results of their departments on a resume, you'd be hard-pressed to know who they really are-what they contribute to the organization. The truth is that they are both outstanding, but vastly different, managers. They each bring something unique.

Bob brings consistency, reliability, expertise in process analysis, a traditional approach to setting boundaries with staff, an ability to speak the language of upper management. Bob is great at executing and preserving well-developed processes. He will also ensure that his team understands and honors this goal as well. All of these things may help Bob get his team more resources, raises, bonuses, and recognition. Customers feel certain that Bob will find and fix problems quickly and efficiently.

Jill brings vitality to the organization. Her team and customers connect with her, which in turn motivates them to cooperate with each other. Her confidence in her team is based on knowing who they are as individuals-their strengths and potentials. Her mindset of continuous innovation helps the organization stay ahead of the competition in providing new services and products. Her collaborative nature stimulates creativity and productivity in the group. Customers feel certain that Jill really cares and is vested in their happiness and success.

What do you bring? Remember, your brand is the unique way you do what anyone with your job title does. What's your personal brand? How has your personal brand contributed to your success? Can people sense your brand? Does your choice of language mirror your brand? Does your personal image? Your communication style? If you're in a career transition, have you communicated your brand throughout your resume and cover letters?

Sit back and observe yourself, or ask a colleague or friend to help you. Define your personal brand, communicate it, and live it.
About the Author
The McAloon Group works with clients on all types of career management issues including personal branding, career transition, leadership and positioning for promotion.
Visit htt://www.TheMcAloonGroup.com to request a complimentary sample session
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