When we think about the concept of branding from a corporate perspective, we think of the associations consumers and stakeholders have formed in response to our company, products, logo, etc. From a procurement perspective, brand or reputational risk is one of the most important things we are stewards of when we make decisions about the supply partners our company will form relationships with. But the value of building, having, and maintaining a brand extends far beyond the corporate level.
In The Future of You, speaker, coach, and consultant Roz Usheroff transfers the need for a brand identity to the individual level and makes it personal. It would be a mistake to dismiss the idea of a brand as ‘soft’. The experiences Usheroff shares in the book include her own as well as some from her network. They demonstrate the very real consequences of having and not having a well-formed brand.
Investopedia defines brand identity as: “How a business wants a brand's name, communication style, logo and other visual elements to be perceived by consumers. The components of the brand are created by the business itself, making brand identity the way in which a business wants consumers to perceive its brands, not necessarily how it is actually perceived.”
Two of the elements of this definition are key to Usheroff’s application of the brand concept on a personal level. The first is how you want your brand (or unique value) to be seen, and the second is others’ perception of your brand. If there is a gap between the two, it is important to identify it and then take charge to correct any misalignment. Usheroff suggests leveraging your network to solicit specific, actionable feedback about what they see as your strengths, weaknesses, and unique abilities. What you do with that information is entirely up to you.
The difference between unique abilities and excellent abilities are that unique abilities are skills that are innately part of your skill set. The fact that they come naturally allows you to lean on them more heavily than abilities built along the way – although they may eventually become excellent with time and practice. Self awareness will not only allow you to see the difference between these two kinds of abilities, but will also help you see the things you will never be good at. Those may be quit, delegated, or outsourced but should not become a distraction or occupy a disproportionate amount of your development efforts.
Being in true to your own brand requires an acceptance that the sailing will not always be smooth in the short term on the way to your ultimate destination. Some of the case examples in the book involve dedicated workers being unexpectedly terminated or passed over for promotions, but despite the short term setback, these surprises often work out in the long run.
Each of us must own our brand in the long and short term simultaneously. We should be executing a long term career plan but managing our brand every day. The transient nature of employment today requires an entrepreneurial mindset and a willingness to promote – although Usheroff makes perfectly clear that self promotion is most effective when communicated in terms of the value created for colleagues or supply partners.
The Future of You is a pragmatic guide that can help individuals at any point in their career develop and build their own brand. In addition to the book, Usheroff has produced a nine-part webinar lecture series (available through Udemy) that covers material similar to that in the book including both the background and process for starting to define your own brand.