Professional Branding For Progeeks #1 – What and Why?

Let me be up front: the economy sucks, the job search sucks and is made worse by ossified HR and put-upon recruiters. So, anything that's wrong in the job search is at best, only half your fault.  That being said, it's time to look deeper at one thing that can help your job search and indeed your whole career even if self-employed.

Personal Branding.  Yeah, don't groan.

I'll be first to admit two things: I love Personal Branding and loathe what it's come to stand for in some circles.  Too often it's discussed with a bit of contempt, discussed as if it's a mixture of dishonesty, deception, and self-delusion.  At the same time, Personal Branding, the real deal not the buzzword-laden mess it's become to some, is damned important in your career and indeed your life.

So its time to take a hard look at it and why it's important to progeeks like you.

So what is Personal Branding?  Well to me (and let's just assume I'm right about everything) it means knowing yourself and then working to present yourself in a consistent, positive manner.  It's using the same process companies use for branding to portray yourself strategically – while being honest about yourself.

Where Personal Branding turns to B.S. is when people forget the latter part.  So I consider that basically not Personal Branding, but "being a liar."  Note the subtle difference.

Here's some examples of Personal branding:

  • You're a programmer who's damn good, but pretty introverted.  You would brand yourself as focused on technology, dedicated, and even aware of your limits.  You can admit in interviews, to clients, or yourself that you do technology first, people second and know what you're good at.
  • You're a marketer whose all over the map, you like to try different things and try wild stuff.  You'd brand yourself as an explorer and experimenter in the marketing sphere – and also admit you'll come up with terrible ideas, but also good ones.
  • Me?  I call myself Geek 2.0.  That's my whole Personal Brand – it means that I take my interests (technology, culture, process) and evolve it into a career focus.  I get INTO what I do. I'm the consciously evolved geek.  In some cases it also means I admit there's stuff I don't do as it's not me.

Note that part of Personal Branding also means setting boundaries.  No one trusts someone who says they can do everything.  If you've ever seen simple but effective products sell (check Apple) then you know that sometimes what you deliberately don't do or admit you can't do is just as much part of your brand as what you do.

It's a great form of communication.

In fact, you're communicating your "brand" all the time – by your dress, hobbies, speech, hygiene, interests, etc.  You're sending out signals constantly that "I am this."

Chances are it's a wee bit inconsistent.  When you make it consistent, that's serious Personal Branding.

When it comes down to it, Personal branding means:

  • Getting to know who you are.  Trust me, that alone is a pretty helpful experience, if your ego can stand it.
  • Thinking of how you portray yourself.  You'll also learn a lot of lessons here.
  • Actively, consciously, deciding how to poetry yourself and communicate you and who you are.

Why is it useful?  Well, the answer may seem obvious, but I like to note that it:

  • Helps you be memorable.  Standing out in people's minds is great for your career, your social life, etc.
  • Helps you be understandable.  You give people the ability to understand you by taking the initiative in communication.
  • Helps you tell a story.  A good "Personal Brand" give people context to understand you – and for you to communicate about yourself.
  • Helps say what you are.
  • Helps say what you're not – which is also important.

You take control of how you communicate "you" – and then you get the benefits of that communication.

For us progeeks, profans, and protaku good personal branding is EVEN MORE important than it is to other people.  We have to communicate unusual, obscure, complex, or even socially-misunderstood information about ourselves and our interests.  Good Personal Branding lets us take control of that for our benefits – and makes our fellow geeks look better in the process.

Sounds good?  I hope so because good Personal Branding is needed in this economy since it's an edge under your control.

So next week we'll talk about how you can start the discovery process of Personal Branding – from a progeek viewpoint.

Steven Savage