The Case for “Personal Branding”: What it ISN’T and How to Do it Right

Personal BrandingAs a career strategist, I’m acutely aware of how important it is for job candidates, career changers, and promotion seekers to present themselves well to land opportunities. For instance, I’ve witnessed firsthand the difference between interviews that succeed and ones that flop. Want to know a secret? A massive chunk of it relates to personal branding!

Unfortunately, there’s a tonne of misconception around personal branding, which makes many people shy away from actively embracing the concept. Today’s post will cover what personal branding is, and more importantly, what it’s NOT, so you can strategically apply its advantages to your career journey.

Why Many Reject the Idea of “Personal Branding”

It’s no exaggeration to say that many people absolutely loathe the idea of personal branding.

Tom Peters first coined the phrase in 1997, and two decades later, many think of it as almost synonymous with narcissism and masquerading. After all, we’re all aware of at least one celebrity or public figure who appeared perfect and polished on the outside but had a mighty downfall when the media uncovered their true colours.

That’s part of why many of us feel hesitant to embrace the concept.

Anyone can perpetuate a perfect professional image – but what’s beneath the surface?

What Career or Personal Branding is NOT

If you’re one of those people who cringe at the very idea of crafting a personal brand, I honestly don’t blame you. It’s easy to picture a “brand” in terms of businesses and corporations, but when applied to humans, it can appear artificial, one-dimensional, and commoditized.

But at its core, personal branding is NOT about:

Manipulating People’s Perceptions

Many corporations carefully craft marketing techniques designed to reel people in and take advantage of them, so it’s easy to associate that with personal branding. But if someone you know is behaving that way, they’re doing it wrong. Plain and simple.

Creating an Impeccable Online Presence

In 2021, it’s undeniable that social media is a powerful tool for making connections and promoting yourself. Still, personal branding is not about leveraging every possible channel to show up on people’s feed without adding any real value.

Writing the Perfect Resume

Yep, I said it. I’m a resume writer that talks extensively about resume tailoring tips and navigating applicant tracking systems – but those are only the technical elements of a successful career strategy.

In other words, personal branding is not merely on the surface level.

So… What is Personal Branding, and How Can it Help You Succeed in Your Career?

The Definition

A personal brand is simply a reputation or identity an individual aims to put forth within a community, field, or industry. In other words, it’s what a person wants to be known for.

On the other hand, personal branding is the purposeful effort to create that identity or perception to have greater influence within one’s circle or society at large. For instance, a lawyer aiming to advance their career may work extremely hard to position themself as a leading authority in a specific subject area.

How personal branding can help you along your career journey

Personal branding can help you market yourself better, differentiate you from the competition, and propel you towards your professional goals.


First, it’s essential to think about and harness the concept the right way.

I provided a formal definition above, but perhaps it’s much more helpful to think of personal branding as cohesively and succinctly demonstrating who you are, what you value, and what you offer to others.

Whether you’re a recent graduate looking for your first job out of school or a seasoned professional seeking a promotion, personal branding can help you:

  • Connect with your most intimate core values and goals and determine how they fit with a company’s
  • Develop clarity and concentrate your energy on positive actions that will move you closer to your aspirations
  • Effectively communicate precisely why you’re the right fit for a position, whether on your LinkedIn profile, on your resume, or during job interviews

The Key to Building a Credible Personal Brand

None of that is as easy as it sounds.

As hinted earlier, the problem with a lot of personal branding is that people often get so caught up in creating the perfect exterior at work or in the broader marketplace that they forget to craft actual substance behind it.

The key to building a credible personal brand is just doing it authentically, which requires a lot of self-awareness and introspection. You can’t go wrong when doing these five things:

  • Outline your and understand your personality, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, and what makes you unique
  • Reflect on what matters to you and why. Think about this in both a personal and professional context, as well as the present and future
  • Consider not just what you hope to get out of opportunities and people but also how you can add value to them using your gifts and talents
  • Find and model after genuine, integrity-filled mentors who present themselves well and “walk the talk”
  • Translate all of that into your overall career and life goals so you can focus on taking actions that align with who you are and how you want to leave your mark

Reinforce Your Personal Brand With the Right Tools

As you begin working on all of those areas, you’ll be in a much better position to present yourself in a credible, consistent and authentic way, whether you’re online or communicating with others in person.

All that said, sometimes it’s difficult to understand or articulate what makes us unique.

If you’re finding yourself in that position, let’s have a chat.

I’ve spent many years mastering the art of asking the right questions to help my clients communicate their skills, passions and motivations on their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and during their interviews.

Book a free consultation here, and we’ll turn your ideas into tangible tools that will help you successfully navigate the job market.

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