Brand YOU to Get What You Want

Have you heard of Oprah?  Ellen? Bono? 

These people have extremely strong personal brands.  You know who they are, what they stand for, …and even how you expect them to dress. 

Yes, these are famous people and there's a team of people helping them create and maintain their brand.  …but your personal brand is important too. 

Your brand gets you hired, bonused, and promoted.  It also affects the more subtle things such as who is selected to lead speacial projects and whether you get to work from home regularly.

A strong personal brand is the key for standing out from everyone else, getting noticed for what you want to get noticed for, and getting what you want! 

At this year's Women's Conference hosted by the Illinois Diversity Council, Sandra Pineau Bodison, Senior VP of Customers at United Airlines, said, "Your personal brand is what people say about you when you aren't in the room."  So true!  If your brand is poor, people may talk behind your back and undermine your authority.  If your brand is strong, they will remember you and recommend you even if they haven't seen you in a while. 

So when do you brand yourself?  You can set a stake in the sand and decide that you are going to start working on your unique personal brand today, next week or next month, but the truth of the matter is you do it every minute of every day.

Whether you like it or not, you already have a personal brand.  If you haven't been conscious of it, you may need to do some significant work on it.  If you have been consciously branding yourself, you may have a renewed feeling of refreshing it or making it stronger.  In either case, these three critical points will help you build your personal brand:

  1. Know where you want to go!  If you are unclear about your vision for the future, your personal brand may be seen as bland (people may merely see you as a good worker in whatever role you have) or wishy washy (if you are open to a lot of things without any clear direction).  Amazingly talented people who get caught up in the day to day of their career, can easily fall into the bland or wishy washy lulls.  If you don't know where you want to go, you can't tell people about it muchless be selected to work on things that steer you in that direction.  Are you clear on where you want to go in the next year, five years, 20 years?
  3. Demonstrate your uniqueness.  There are millions of Lawyers, Management Consultants, and VPs of Marketing out there in the world.  From a business aspect, how different are you from others?  What makes you stand out?  Do you have a unique skillset that others in your role don't have?  What cool things from your personal life can you share with folks at work?  If you coach your child's basketball team or simply attend Bulls games, not only is that something that others at work may have in common with you, but when someone at your company secures the NBA account or starts planning an employee appreciation field day, you'll be more likely to be selected to participate in activities you enjoy!

  4. Provide value.  After you've determined where you want to go and how you stand out from the crowd, then you need to demonstrate your total value to the right people.  If your goal is to get promoted within your current department, be sure your senior leaders, colleagues, and employees are clear on your direction and the unique value you'd bring to the table in the next role.  If your direction is to serve in a different role or department, start reaching out to those people to see how you can start providing value to them now and enhance your skills to make a change at the right time. 

At the end of the day, your personal brands is who you are every minute of the day.  So even if you want to change departments, you still need to deliver on your promises to your current department. 

Case McGee, VP of HR and Communications at Archer Daniels Midland recommends to enhance your brand, you should

I agree.  Being trustworthy, reliable, and authentic with everyone you come into contact with inside and outside of work are merely your "ticket to the game" of people caring who you are.  So if you have those under control, go out there, think about where you want to go, how you are different, and how you can demonstrate your unique value to get what you want!

Suz O'Donnell is the Founder and President of Thrivatize LLC, which is dedicated to increasing diversity at the top. If you'd like to learn more about personal branding for yourself, your team, or employee resource groups, contact her team at or 773-326-0110.

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