My mother always shook the generic canned fruit at the grocery to determine if there was more juice than fruit inside. If true, she would denounce it as being the “off-brand” and reach for a can with a Dole or Libby’s label because they were a “brand name”.
Today, branding is for people as well as products. The term “personal branding” was used in a 1997 article by Tom Peters and remains in use but has multiple definitions. Susan Chritton, author of “Personal Branding for Dummies”, defines it as “The strategic process of creating a positive set of experiences.” Personal Brand Strategist Diana Jennings, the chief contributor to the chapter on Image in “Branding for Dummies,” defines it as “Who you are at your core.” Both agree you must define your brand via introspection to “know thyself”.
WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE A BRAND?
Retirepreneurs planning or executing a transition need a personal brand to control the perceptions of clients, co-workers and everyone else. “Most people don’t question the validity of their mental picture. They go through life believing their mental picture is fact,” says Jenninngs. “By measuring perception, you will come to recognize how wide the gap is between how you’re perceived, how you perceive yourself, and where you want to be in the future.”
A personal brand is also an active way to counter ageism. It shapes the perception that your experience is an asset and not a liability. You want to avoid being perceived as “not having the ability to do the job,” Jennings says. That can mean the difference of being perceived as “experienced” versus “old” and “old school”.
YOUR BRANDING PROCESS
Retirepreneurs have an advantage in self-assessment: a longer and richer history. As I mentioned in an earlier piece, existing artifacts like resumes, performance reviews and personality tests can provide insights for identifying and labeling your brand. Books and websites offer self-tests and asking close friends and trusted co-workers how they see you can produce some surprising insights.
Once you have assessed yourself, Susan Chritton cites additional factors to consider: geography (think Silicon Valley vs. New York City); culture (think hierarchical versus collaborative); the industry (think Technology, Media, Manufacturing, etc.). And here’s a surprise: your brand needs some elements of faith. “Religious principles are often at the core of your brand essence,” says Chritton. “Would people recognize these principles in your daily actions?”
After defining your brand you need to build it. You are independent of any employee review system and must produce results to justify your current (and any future) engagement. Those results will build credibility by providing evidence of your expertise. That builds your reputation, increases your confidence and leads to authenticity: you – the real you – driven by your genuine purpose and using your skills to create value for your clients.
Once built, your brand does not change with a new job or assignment. “You take your brand (because it’s who you are) with you as your job titles change, your career progresses, and as you move from company to company,” says Jennings. “This is because your personal brand is authentic. It is not about spin, gimmicks, trends, nor is it created for appearance’s sake. As you grow and develop personally and professionally you will evolve your brand, not reinvent it. Your brand doesn’t change, it follows you.”
You cannot evolve a brand if you don’t have one. If you want your prospective clients and customers to reach for your label on the shelf, you need to get branded.
Diana Jennings – Personal Brand Consultant Orange County (offers a free ebook: “Building a Stronger Personal Brand”)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Sullivan is a project manager who enjoys bringing order to chaos. He is fascinated with the chaos that is career management and publishes articles to bring order to your career.