Martin was a nice guy, but he unnerved me. It wasn’t his wavy locks or his bookishly handsome features. It wasn’t even his charming Australian accent. It was that he asked me uncomfortable questions. “Why did you come to Australia, Lindsey?”
“Oh, you know, I wanted to learn about a new culture. I wanted to learn more about myself.”
“And are you?”
“So, who are you? Who . . . is . . . Lindsey?”
It was a simple question, but it felt intrusive. I was still trying to figure out the answer for myself. I was embarrassed by my weak sense of self, which was just another layer under my vague sense of career ambition.
::Fast forward a year:: College graduation loomed and I only knew the things I was interested in–communication, psychology, the arts. I hadn’t yet positioned them into a career trajectory. What I didn’t realize then is the discovery is in the search. The very act of resume and cover letter writing began forcing me to answer Martin’s question, “Who are you, Lindsey?”
I think this is a question worth continually asking ourselves. If you don’t know, how will anyone else? And why should an employer–even your current one–pay attention to you?
There’s a corporate term flying around called personal branding, which is the practice of marketing yourself and your career as a brand. In normal life, this is called a “building a reputation.” While it might sound gimmicky and used-car-salesmany, here are a few things personal branding is not:
- Personal branding is not bragging. Per se. It’s knowing who you are, what you’re good at, and what you’ve accomplished, and being able to articulately and confidently relay that information to companies or individuals who can benefit from your offerings.
- Personal branding is not selling. Per se. While the purpose of establishing a brand is to be recognized, to get business, or to be hired, you don’t want just any business and you don’t want to work for just any company. That’s called selling out. The best business relationships are mutually beneficial. Knowing what you want out of an employer is just as important as knowing who you are. I heard of a company that takes the interview approach of “We’re great. Why should we hire you?” Knowing your brand positions you to respond, “I’m great. Why should I work for you?”
Personal branding is not a once and done deal. It’s a long-term marketing strategy that continually answers the question “Who are you in the market place?”
Do you know?