Personal Branding: A Creator’s Journey

On May 9, 2017, James Comey, director of the American Bureau of Federal Investigations (FBI) and one of the most powerful  men in the US, was about to give an address to his employees in Los Angeles when TV screens behind him started to flash breaking news. Apparently he had been fired by President Donald Trump. Comey laughed it off as a fairly funny prank, according to a New York Times report. It was only later, when Trump’s letter was delivered to the FBI headquarters in Washington, that the reality started to sink in.   

Regardless of the political motivations behind his dismissal, James Comey is a powerful recent example of how fragile our careers are and how vulnerable we can be to the wind of change. The economic recovery, which started in 2014 in the Czech Republic, was seen as great news by many managers. Little did they know that numerous companies would use this new window of opportunity to deeply restructure. In the process, many bright managerial heads fell between the cracks, told on a short notice that they wouldn’t be needed anymore. And few companies cared to put together comprehensive outplacement programs for their departing staff. At the end of the day, they were busy restructuring. This way, over the last three years, many bright spirits found themselves in a limbo, looking for new career opportunities.

What’s left of you when your vCard is taken away?

When dealing with managers who find themselves suddenly on the labor market, the first question I ask is what they did to cultivate their name and personal reputation during their previous job. What proof of their expertize – beyond meeting their quarterly KPIs – do they have? Have they published some articles on a blog on LinkedIn maybe? Or have they been in the media with a couple of expert interviews or articles? Do they have some good videos or SlideShare presentations from holding a speech at an industry conference? Anything would be a good place to start when putting together a personal brand kit that they could take with them when introducing themselves to new potential employers.

But guess what? Up to 99% of managers have nothing of the above. Why? Because they haven’t thought about it when they were still on the job. So they either have a few good materials, but they left them behind with their previous company, or they never had them in the first place. My next question for such people is then usually quite sharp: what’s left of you when your vCard has been taken away?

On Victims and Creators

Personal branding is a discipline of its own. Usually people start thinking about it when they want to leave the corporate world and start their own business. But this is too late. May you know it or not, you’ve already built a personal brand. Only that your creation might not have the connotations you like and most probably it won’t help you in achieving your new goals. Being passive / responsive only about your personal reputation at the workplace is also saying something about you. It says that you gladly go away the flow, happy to be taken care of by your company for as long as possible. So then you can’t be too surprised that, at a certain moment, your company might not want to take care of you anymore. Yes, you may feel as a Victim because you’ve been behaving as a Victim by constantly empowering others to make decisions about what’s important for you. As opposed to Victims, Creators are constantly on their tiptoes. In personal branding they aren’t building their image to impress. Not at all. Creators use their own image to convey a message, to tell a story, to share their expertize, to inspire and to leave something behind. As opposed to Victims, Creators find deep meaning in building their personal brand beyond the immediate ego satisfactions. They know that a personal brand is a tool that will serve them long-term. They also know that a strong, visible personal brand, same as a corporate brand, cannot be built over night. It takes time and commitment to build one. But Creators aren’t afraid. They dare to show up and share what’s best of them with the world. So, when companies are to choose between a Creator and a Victim during a hiring interview, guess whom they’ll prefer.

Never too late to start building your personal brand

It is never too late to start building your personal brand. In this column, I will be addressing practical insights on how to start seeing yourself as a brand and acting like one. For starters, you need to have a crystal clear vision. What are you trying to achieve? In what kind of world do you want to live and how exactly do you want to contribute to that? How can you use the position where you are right now to get yourself just a bit closer to your vision? Start with that, and all the others tools and mechanisms of personal branding will come into place. Don’t start – because you still think you don’t need it, you may fear that it’s going to take you an awful lot of time or simply you don’t believe you have something to say – and you shouldn’t be surprised that next time the wind of change will blow in your company or party, there will be little to take away with you when you’re to leave.

Among all investments of your time, seeing yourself as I, the Brand is one of the most lucrative, for it will bring you new opportunities for personal growth. On a market where colossi are taken down in prime time, it’s quite a solid investment into your career and life.

This post has been first published by the Czech & Slovak Leaders Magazine in my personal column I, the BrandRepublished with permission.

 

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The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.
Cristina Muntean
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Let's Talk

The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.