What is a Personal Brand?

What is a Personal Brand

When we think of a company “brand name” we think of Coca-Cola, Kleenex, Calvin Klein. They have products or services that are a major part of their identity, and shape the business.

Likewise, we can develop a personal brand of our own. Traits we want to promote, goals we want to achieve, who we want to “present” to others.

For me, my personal brand shows a lot in this web-based book: I love to teach and share knowledge with others. I have built up a lot of experience that can be helpful. (sometimes, about “what not to do” scenarios) I’m a developer and “maker”. I like to experiment and make iterable changes. This is who I am. This is the essence of “who is Ian Douglas”.

Telling your story, from the previous page, is really about explaining that personal brand.

Turning Brand into Alignment

The trick, then, is how we spin our “brand” into “alignment” – what’s important to the companies to which we’re applying for work.

Let’s use an example. You are an aspiring mobile game developer, and that’s a big part of your identity. You’ve learned good UX, you’ve studied game mechanics, and you already have one game in your favorite app store. Your future goal is to work at a big game development shop after releasing several of your own independent games.

Meanwhile, to pay the bills, you apply for a job at an insurance company. Then they ask “why do you want to work here” or “why should I hire you”, how are you going to share your fledgling personal brand?

“Well, I just want a paycheck until I make it into GamerCorp Inc.”

That won’t do.

“I’m looking to gain experience in a larger company with more stringent standards so I can grow in an environment where I have good mentorship. Eventually I’d like to explore the idea of game development to build on some gaming work I’ve already started.”

Hmm. Better. But this is still going to make them think you’re a “flight risk” – the first chance you get to take on a gaming job, and you’ll resign. Is that 6 months away? 18 months away? They might decide it’s not worth the risk and not move forward.

“I have built up a lot of skill in making user-friendly interfaces that are intuitive and simple to navigate. This experience has been more casual in nature, and I’m looking forward to applying what I know to a more professional environment. Many of the logical portions of building game mechanics apply to insurance work such as fair dealings, payment transactions, user profiles, and data security. I’m excited to share that knowledge and continue to grow.”

This final example, I think, is much more “aligned” with things that are important to a professional company.

Talking about yourself can feel hard, and awkward, when your personality type is not one to brag about your accomplishments. Likewise, you don’t want to come across extremely arrogant and proud, lacking humility.

People land all across the introversion-extroversion spectrum. Any Myers-Briggs evaluation I’ve ever taken usually lands me right in the middle of being an introvert and an extrovert. Folks like me are called “ambiverts”. (shout-out to Leta for teaching me this term.)

A Note to Extroverts

Gaining energy from being around other people can make you more boisterous. I’ve interviewed many folks who present as extroverts, and they don’t always come across as nervous as introverts. But they will certainly feel as nervous.

Be careful that your energy level does not overplay itself. Your interviewer may be an introvert themselves.

If you’re more of the ambivert personality, you will likely already be pretty balanced in this.

For the Introverts

When I’m in an introverted mood, it’s important that I have time to recharge away from others. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I need “alone time” in the middle of an all-day interview session. But being self-aware of my needs is extremely important.

Hired.com has some great tips for introverts. Their ideas include being strategic about what time of day to interview, and arriving early to an interview that you can recharge alone in a coffee shop. I especially like the tip on getting the interviewer to talk so an introvert can absorb more information.

If you deal with feelings of doubt and imposter syndrome, being an introvert can compound these feelings when an interview does not go well. Needing to be alone to recharge after an interview can quickly spiral into feelings of discouragement. I have some thoughts written up in chapter 10 about processing your feelings when you don’t get a good outcome.