Branding is about your reputation, creating a unique magnetic image, building a name for yourself, showcasing what sets you apart from others, connecting, and promoting the value you add to any situation!

What Is Personal or Career Branding?

It is defined by Susan Whitcomb of The Career Coach Academy as: “A cohesive image that positions you as a trusted expert, attracts your ideal job, clients and customers, and conveys the value of investing in your talents/services”.

Marketing professional and author Dan Schawbel defines it as “Your total perceived value, relative to competitors, as viewed by your audience”. He goes a step further and says that it is composed of four elements:

  • Personal appearance – including clothing, hygiene and attractiveness

  • Personality – your values, goals, identity and behavior

  • Competencies – these are the cognitive, business, communication and technical skills that enable you to perform your job responsibilities

  • The differentiator – offering a unique value proposition or benefit to your target audience

Why Career Branding is Important
For Women in Management

It is essential to your career advancement because it helps define who you are, how you are great and why you are important. Additional benefits include:

  • Bringing you new opportunities faster

  • Guiding your decisions about what training to pursue and what opportunities to accept

  • Differentiating you from your competitors (inside and outside your organization)

  • Elevating you above the status of a commodity

Women in Management
Start Building A Career Brand
Using Three “A’s”

You'll be successful if you weave together three “A’s”: authenticity, advantages and awareness.

Authenticity. Project an image of your authentic self – your values. This includes identifying who you are, what your work-life purpose is, and what you are committed to causing.

  • Start by brainstorming a list of all the things you’re good at, i.e., conflict management, sales training, customer service, marketing.

  • Next identify your passion. Using your brainstormed list of what you’re good at, circle those items you are most passionate about, and identify the #1 item.

Advantages. Once you’ve identified your #1 item, determine the advantages of that item. For instance, if you chose conflict management, some advantages would be enhanced productivity, new ideas, less employee turnover, etc. List at least three distinct advantages.

Awareness. Find opportunities to put yourself on the radar screen of the right people. Initiate a well-orchestrated campaign to create awareness. Write articles for the company newspaper, speak at conferences, request work on high-profile projects, suggest time-saving/money-saving ideas to your boss.

  • Hone your product advantages into a three-point marketing message that conveys your unique strengths. This message should be a critical sound bite such as “I excel at the 3R’s of sales: research, relationships and revenue – I exhaustively research client needs, build relationships based on serving those needs, and have a track record of driving record revenues as a result”.

  • Be prepared for the networking opportunities that abound, internally and externally. Be ready with your sound bite. Mix and match success stories and sound bites to create a comfortable, yet compelling, two-minute introduction to your value to the organization. Practice delivering your sound bite so it sounds natural, not like you’re reading a telemarketing script.

Seven Strategies and Tactics
for Successful Career Branding

Success will be the result of a relentless focus on the things you do that add value, those things you’re most proud of, according to Tom Peters’ Career Survival Guide.

  1. Identify what sets you apart from everyone else. Create a distinctive role for yourself, then promote yourself in that role. He goes on to suggest two steps you should take first:

    • Ask yourself what it is that your product or service does that makes you different.

    • Then create a personal features and benefits model in one or two sentences. (Remember the difference between features and benefits? In this context, the features would be what you do and the benefits would be the value your feature adds. When in doubt, state your feature –“I’m a problem-solver” – then use the phrase “which means that”, then finish the sentence with your benefit “I can reduce team turnover”.)

    Include in your “features and benefits” model:

    • The qualities that make you different from the competition

    • The things you’ve done lately to make yourself stand out

    • What your colleagues and customers say is your greatest strength

    • What your most valuable / significant personal trait is

    • What you want to be famous for

  2. Gain experience and track accomplishments

    Start by tracking your past accomplishments and gaining strategically important new experiences. Your accomplishments are the foundation of your success, so develop a strategy for gaining experiences in areas of your brand in which you are weak. Seek new and challenging assignments, freelance and volunteer to gain experience.

  3. Complete your education and training

    To really excel in your career, you may need additional education, training or certifications. This may be difficult in terms of time and finances so first find out if your organization offers tuition assistance or reimbursement to its women in management. Then check out degree and certification programs available in your area – The University of Phoenix has locations in most areas with classes taught by business people with real world experience in their area of expertise. Then consider on-line degree and certification programs.

    The choice between classroom and on-line learning should be made carefully. Successful on-line learners are highly motivated, strong self-starters but even they sometimes admit they miss the learning that comes from personal interaction with other students and teachers.

  4. Promote yourself

    Your accomplishments and experience may be amazing, but what good is it if nobody knows about them? Women in management need to toss their natural modesty out the window! There’s a fine line between bragging and promoting and you need to find it.

    Always have a current resumé that contains your key accomplishments, skills and education. Treat your resumé as an internal marketing brochure – include your positioning statement (a summary of your qualifications). Remember, you don’t have to be looking outside the organization to go on a job interview.

    Develop two career portfolios – a print one and an online one. Have a personal website that includes all your important brand artifacts: your resumé, your mission statement, a detailed list of your accomplishments, samples of your work, articles and working papers, speech transcripts, awards and honors, testimonials and anything else you feel is significant. Your online portfolio is one of the best ways to be found by headhunters so be sure to include keywords that will attract their attention.

    On the job, be sure your boss knows about your accomplishments – certainly at review time but find ways to let him or her know about your successes throughout the year.

  5. Become an expert

    Nothing builds credibility more than establishing yourself as an expert! Start by writing an article for your company newspaper or a trade publication that showcases your knowledge. Further showcase your knowledge at conferences and meetings where you can give presentations and sit on panels. Don’t forget to include these in your online portfolio.

  6. Build relationships

    The most powerful way to build your career brand is through your network of contacts – your friends, colleagues, customers, clients and former bosses – and what they say about your skills, education and accomplishments.

    Strong networking involves relationship-building and staying in touch with people to be sure they know about your most recent successes. The managers who are best at this are constantly in a network-building mode, searching out new professional associations and the growing number of online networking communities.

  7. Make those around you successful

    Don't build yourself up at the expense of, or on the backs of, others. The most highly regarded personal brands are built on the success they have created for others. Think “selfless” as opposed to “selfish”.

    Use Your Brand
    To Develop Power

    Power, for the most part is a badly misunderstood term and badly misused capability. It’s not “climbing the ladder” power, it’s not who has the biggest office or the fanciest title power. And it’s not a dirty word. According to Tom Peters, it’s influence power and reputation power that really matter. It’s being known for making the most significant contribution in your particular area.

    For instance, if you are a scholar, you measure your influence power by the number of times your publications are quoted. If you are a consultant, you measure your power by the number of CEO’s who have your card in their rolodexes – and call you. If you are a woman in management, you measure your power by how frequently you are consulted on matters of importance to your organization and/or how often you are invited to address people outside your organization in your area of expertise.

    Savvy women in management know how to use power:

    • Power is largely a matter of perception. If you want people to regard you as a powerful woman manager, be a credible leader, regardless of where you are on the org chart.

    • When you use power intelligently and responsibly, you attract and influence people because of a “halo effect” – positive perceptions of you extend out like ripples on a pond.

    • There are power trips worth taking in the workplace, but be careful not to appear self-aggrandizing. Take small, slow and subtle steps.

    • Always look at your assets and ask what you can add to boost your power and felt presence. For instance, would you be better off staying where you are and adding to your existing skills or better off with a whole new project? Does your career portfolio of teams and projects teach you new skills? Gain you new expertise? Develop new capabilities? Grow your colleague set?

    • Be more loyal than ever before – to yourself, your colleagues, your team, your project, your boss and your customers. Everything you do to grow your own brand – learning, building relationships, delivering great results – is not only good for you. It brings credit to your organization too.

    Rebrand When Change Occurs

    As business changes, new competition enters the picture, technology changes or new people come on the scene, be ready to rebrand yourself. This requires that you know what the demand is for what you offer. Find out if companies are hiring in your area and if there is a lot of competition for what you want to do. If so, fine-tune your brand or rebrand altogether.

    Go back to your personal mission statement, your personal vision statement, and to the seven strategies and tactics listed above and “reengineer” your brand so that it remains in sync your changed environment, allowing you to continue adding exceptional value to the organization.

    Branding “Nay-Sayers”

    Several years ago, columnist Lucy Kellaway, writing in The Financial Times, labled personal branding “a hybrid of homespun psychology, self-help and dressing for success”. She went on to say, “It is born from the idea that each of us ‘owns’ our career and that we’re never going to get anywhere unless we set out consciously and strategically to market ourselves for all we’re worth”. She believes that she isn’t a brand and neither is anyone else. Rather we are people, which isn’t the same thing at all. She concluded that personal branding is distasteful for being blatantly ambitions, sneaky and superficial. And that it is bad for business because the more you focus on “Me, Inc.”, the less likely you are to be focusing on the job at hand.

    Denise Kingsmill, deputy chairman of Britain’s Monopolies and Mergers Commission, also saw a down side to personal marketing. She told The Financial Times that “Conscious personal branding turns into an ego trip unless you’re very clear about your objectives”.

    With all due respect, my response to the criticism of these two ladies would be to refer them to the seventh strategy listed above: Make those around you successful.

    A Few Final Thoughts

    How would you like to have Oprah Winfrey’s brand? Or that of Margaret Thatcher, or Indira Ghandi, or Jacqueline Kennedy? Check out the Fortune 500 CEOs. There will be quite a few recognizable brands there – albeit they will be mostly masculine ones. Think about their brands and how they got them!

    Based on the proliferation of books and seminars devoted to this subject, the popularity of personal branding hasn’t even peaked yet.