“You are the president of your personal brand. Make sure that you are also the president of the PR firm running it!” – Michelle Sandlin
When I was young and cute, my mother told me that she could definitely see me become a nursery nurse. OK.
When I was still young (still cute) and more active in my community, friends told me that they could totally see me become a lawyer. OK.
When I got older and demonstrated interest in various communication modes, a teacher told me I should consider becoming a journalist with my inquisitive mind. OK.
I said No Thanks to all three as they were presented to me. It was like a tag somebody was trying to stick on me and I was not ready to be defined by one singular line of work. However, it is a matter of perspective… It’s how you look at it.
Because see… I may have said no to becoming a nursery nurse, I still said yes to providing care to children, creating a child-friendly environment in a clean and tidy space, cooking, organising craft activities, reading, play time, etc.
I did a lot of what a nursery nurse does (to a certain extent let’s be real)… I just did not get paid for it. All that “volunteering” while babysitting my young nephews and nieces or little cousins. And some more by becoming a mother.
I said no thanks to becoming a lawyer because the way it works you can’t always choose the cases you take on. You have to defend at times the ones you would want to send to jail yourself.
Instead, I became a community advocate through my volunteering and my previous job working with newcomers. I helped people I cared about who often could not express themselves because of language barriers or lack of knowledge of the system. I was speaking on their behalf, standing up for them.
Helping vulnerable people and knowing I was making a difference.
And regarding becoming a journalist, I actually went back to school for courses in the journalism program. Not with the intention to become a full fledged journalist… more with the intention to learn more about the fundamentals of information processing and presentation. A nice mix of research, analysis, writing and sharing of the information – Storytelling at its heart.
I realized that I was already doing that in different contexts and maybe just needed a validation to allow myself to express publicly my own version of things, using my own voice.
Hence the creation of this blog.
And talking about this blog, I remember a comment a close friend made when she saw the initial picture I had put on my “about the author” bar. She said it did not look like me… the “me” she knew.
The picture looked too pampered. And it was. Indeed, it was taken at a wedding + I added a special lighting filter. She was right. I realized that the wedding picture was not an accurate representation of who I was on a regular basis. I don’t do make-up and randomly let my hair down when it is long.
So I listened and changed the picture to a “natural me”.
The jobs people in my life assigned to me and this picture story bring us to the conversation about personal branding…
I am guessing most of you heard about personal branding at some point. More likely in a professional context if you want to set yourself up for a certain job or career path…
There used to be a clearer line between our personal and professional life, now it is a total blur… what you put online thinking is personal just became everyone’s business because it is public whatever your settings tab says.
Now employers check potential hires online to see how they behave outside of work, they post jobs through social media to reach more people (also cheaper for them). They creep people to find out more about them and try to discover things they may not have picked up during the interviews, etc.
SO WHAT ARE YOU? The personal branding type or the authentic you?
It depends, right?
Whether you are among close friends or in the middle of a networking function where you have to do your best to be as likeable as possible to either land a job or a deal or at least a contact to get you closer to your goal.
If you are the personal branding type, do you recognize yourself at the end of the day?
If you reconnect with someone from… say… highschool who you haven’t talked to in ages… if they saw your profile online, things you are into, your personal branding… would they recognize you?
By recognizing, I am not funneling it to physical looks… I am talking about the whole package they can access based on your personal branding, based on your internet presence. Hobbies, job situation, causes you are involved in, things you are commenting on, pictures you are sharing, trips you are taking, events you are attending, how people describe you.
Yeah, going deep here. Not just about the looks. People are thirsty and will quickly want to get passed the first layer specially if it looks dull.
Internet is that “creature” part inspiration part fantasy and it is easy to get lost in it, specially when you are going through a tough time.
You want to help your mind get away so you check out your friends’ profiles online to see how exciting things are out there.
You need a distraction, so you browse on internet, maybe check that resort destination you always wanted to get to, but you did not make it there for various reasons…
You look somewhere else to define yourself or what you should be into…
Personal branding is not just what you put on your social media profiles, that would be too easy. Personal branding is also about what people say about you, the so called “reputation” you built around your name based on people’s perception of who you are. Your actions, your attitude, your causes… it is all part of the package.
So once in a while it is important to check that package and see if it still represents you accurately.
Let’s extrapolate here…
An oak tree started at some point as a seed, grew and became a bigger tree. Even if you haven’t sat in front of it to watch it every day, it is doing its thing and becoming a more mature tree. Still an oak tree though, right? Bear with me here.
So you go away for a few years and lose sight of that tree. You come back, you get to see that tree again…
What if, instead of the oak tree, you now find a bush trimmed perfectly in the shape of a square?
What would you think? How different does it look now?
Can you still pick out the core features that you knew before you lost connection?
If the answer to this last question is no, then you have the case of a personal branding gone wrong.
The roots of who you are have been pulled off the ground and another seed has been planted, giving birth to a whole new kind… which not everybody would recognize or relate to.
Personal branding or the authentic you?
Interestingly enough, after I started a draft for this post, I came across a movie on Netflix entitled “People you may know”.
If you haven’t seen the movie, it is about a regular guy some may describe as being dull and whose life got completely turned inside out. He worked from home, single, no presence whatsoever on social media but was longing for something exciting to happen in his life.
He met a girl who lived, breathed, ate social media. She decided to use him as an experiment to see if she could take a regular Joe and turn him into an online celebrity with millions of followers.
They teamed up and mission accomplished – he was a celebrity alright!
However, they took it so far that he couldn’t recognize himself anymore. He became someone else, a created image that replaced the authentic person he was. He became a facade.
And of course his social experiment turned on him…
All that to say that it doesn’t take much sometimes for a person to start or stop liking you. They may have a certain image of you, specially if they don’t know you personally… and you don’t always have control on how people will perceive you.
If you google your own name, what will you find?
I recently wrote a post entitled Be the boss of your mind and could have easily used “Be the boss of your brand” as title for this post.
Clearly important to be genuine. Not the time to fake it… Basically you are telling a story through personal branding… your story!
And if you are not considered a good person… well guess in which category you fall?
Bottom line… Is it a reflection of the real you?
Do you want people to see you as you want them to see you or as who you are???
(One requires more work and effort than the other one…)
At the end of the day your personal branding and the authentic you should not be on two polar opposite ends but on the same side of the fence.
What about you?… What is your take on personal branding? Please share in the comments.
Au revoir for now.