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Developing Your Personal Brand

Interview with personal brand specialist Lisa Orrell

lisa OrrellThere’s been a lot of talk about personal branding for the last several years. The problem for most people is twofold: first understanding what personal branding actually is and second knowing how to develop a personal brand of their own. In an effort to get some clarity and direction, I turned to branding specialist Lisa Orrell.

Lisa Orrell, The Orrell Group, is globally recognized as The Generations Relations and Leadership Expert. Besides being in-demand as a consultant and speaker, she’s the author of several books including Millennials Incorporated, Millennials into Leadership, and Boomers into Business. Her recently released Your Employee Brand is in Your Hands: How Any Employee Can Create and Promote Their Own Personal Leadership Brand for Massive Career Success has received rave reviews.

Orrell’s newest book features tons of strategies for being your own “publicist” inside and outside of work so I was thrilled when she agreed to share some of her insights with me.

The term “personal branding” is bantered about a lot. Can you give a basic definition of Personal Branding?

Savvy employees manage their Personal Brands daily, and use it as their Behavior Barometer. They understand the concept that every time someone has contact with you at work, outside of work, or on social media, one of two things happen: your Personal Brand is either strengthened or weakened, by what you say or don’t say, and by what you do or don’t do.

Basically, a strong Personal Brand allows all that’s unique and effective about your personal and professional style to become known (in a deliberate and managed way) to your colleagues up, down, and across the organization. And that can enable you to generate maximum value and a unique distinction for yourself at work.

Many people still think of Personal Branding as something for people who are self-employed or small business owners. What are the benefits of creating and managing a personal brand for someone with a more traditional job?

There are many valid benefits, here are five to consider:

You Will Get Clarity and Direction

Personal Branding is all about increased self-awareness by acknowledging your weaknesses (i.e. having a bad temper, being extremely shy, or being a poor communicator) and making the necessary changes to improve yourself. And it’s also about understanding your strengths. You have to know who you are and who you ASPIRE to be in order to conduct yourself in any role effectively; be it entry-level or a senior leadership position.

You Can Expand Notoriety Outside of Work

Aside from wanting more notoriety at work, Personal Branding can also increase awareness for you in your industry. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting this type of professional recognition; it’s a smart career strategy. Many employees would like to be interviewed by industry media or asked to speak at industry conferences and tradeshows. But it typically doesn’t just happen.

If you strategically promote your Personal Brand as a Thought Leader within your industry this type of notoriety can be achieved. However no one will be interested in conducting a media interview with you or booking you as a speaker if you don’t have a fresh perspective and unique information to share.

Therefore, you need to stay current on trends, formulate your own insights, and consider writing articles for industry publications and blogs, as well as participate in conversations on industry-focused social networks. These types of strategies can start positioning you as a Thought Leader, and attract the attention of the media and Event Planners.

You Can Excel Career Advancement

As Consumers, we typically buy brands we like and trust. This concept also applies to Personal Branding. When you define and manage your brand at work, and live it consistently, your coworkers and those above you will know how you’ll react in any given situation thus developing trust in you. Just like a positive product brand, more people will buy in to you, and that increases your chances for promotions or being chosen to work on high-profile projects.

You Will Enjoy More Job Satisfaction

As you become clear on your Personal Brand, you become clearer on your personal and professional values. This can lead to asking yourself important questions like: Am I in the right job or role? Do I even like what I do or should I make a career change? Does my Supervisor, or Company, mesh with my Personal Brand values? Knowing the answers benefits you because it improves your chances of being at a company or in a role where you’re happy and that impacts your job satisfaction and professional performance.

You Can Hone Your Job Search Efforts

When you’re actively job seeking, determining your Personal Brand will enable you to focus on companies, positions, and supervisors that will fit you best. There are many smart job candidates who turn down lucrative employment offers and/or a jump in their titles because they know the opportunity is not the right fit with their Personal Brand.

How does someone develop and promote a Personal Brand?

A great strategy at work is to join internal networking groups (i.e. Women in Leadership and/or other Diversity Groups); pat other team members on the back for their help/good work publicly and they will start doing it for you (that way people, even your supervisor, become aware of things you’ve done that otherwise may never be fully known); make an effort to meet other people outside of your department to avoid just knowing the same people you work with daily; start/lead initiatives that are outside of your job.

For example, if you are philanthropic, organize a toy drive during the holidays or a fundraiser for a cause you believe in at work. That kind of effort can expand awareness for your brand company-wide and potentially get you on the radar of Senior Executives whom you may otherwise never meet or communicate with. From there, a wide variety of people will get to know you.

Some say it’s never too early to begin developing a Personal Brand. Do you think there is there a particular age or career level where personal branding becomes more important?

Ideally, the sooner the better. I’ve been conducting my Personal Branding Workshops for employees of all ages for over three years, but I am now starting to conduct them for College Students. The sooner you can get people into a Leadership Mindset, the sooner they start acting like one. And Personal Branding is a KEY component to adopting that mindset.

On the opposite end of the generational spectrum, I also have many workshop attendees 40+ years-old who tell me they wish people had been talking about Personal Branding when they were in their 20’s because it would have really helped their careers. But they’re excited NOW because they still have 10 to 25 years ahead of them in the workforce and know that by focusing on their Personal Brand it will make those years more successful for them.

Is Personal Branding different for women than it is for men?

I believe so, particularly in the areas of confidence and being assertive. Many men tend to innately have those qualities; although that doesn’t mean they’re always used well. But I find that women, even confident women, tend to act differently around their male coworkers and don’t speak up with their opinions and ideas.

Many women who experience this at work have told me that they realize this is something that has probably negatively impacted their career growth. However, by focusing on creating and managing their Personal Brands, they are empowered and have clarity on what to do to break-through those personal obstacles.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I started my marketing agency when I was just 25 years-old, ran it for 20 years, and then made the career change into what I’m doing now: Writing books and speaking professionally. So from a career stand point, I don’t have any regrets.

But from a financial investment standpoint, I’d advise my younger self to buy low and sell high. Had I put more effort into that back in my 20’s, I’d now be scuba diving and surfing every day all over the world!

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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