Got the personal brand wobbles?

The brand whisper

Your Personal Brand is not what it used to be…. why?

If you’re planning your next career move, you may want to do some research on your Personal Brand, what it communicates and whether it supports your desired career path.

The term Personal Brand was first introduced in 1937 by Napoleon Hill and notably again in 1997 by Tom Peters.  However, I wonder if the definition has become outdated and confused with what Me Inc really means today. What we think of ourselves as a brand and what others may think (friends, prospective employers, customers etc) could be completely different. Nothing much has changed there. But what has changed significantly since 1997 is the pervasiveness of social media and its impact on professional and personal brands! So perhaps it’s time to start thinking of them separately – but together.

Lets take a look.

How would others describe you?

So how are we impacted as professionals by our brand being stripped bare by social media?  Has the definition of personal brand and its impact on our career evolved dramatically from where it stood in 1997 – at least 5 years before LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter were created? What is the brand associated with our career?

I found 3 schools of thought.

  1. Those that say career is termed ‘Personal Branding
  2. Others that say career is termed ‘Professional Branding
  3. And another group that say ‘both of the above are quite different’

Even if they are different, can they be considered to be mutually exclusive?

For the purposes of this article lets assume you have two brands and they are different:

Personal = outside of work

Professional = inside of work

Even though your personal and professional brands may exist separately, in the eyes of the recruiter and/or your prospective employer they may also exist concurrently. For some employers they are not mutually exclusive and if handled badly – will negatively impact their own corporate brand.

With the ubiquity of social media, the speed at which news travels, ease of which information is found, and the backdoor engineering of social apps, you simply can’t afford to ignore the overlap of personal and professional brands.  Employers, customers and people we don’t even know are able to search, research and find out more about you than ever before.

This is particularly obvious when high profile figures such as politicians personal life impacts their political careermovie and sporting celebrities too are impacted. The consequences may range from short to long term derailment of an otherwise stellar career – in Tiger Woods case – his golfing performance.

But, just because most of us don’t have a highly public profile, it doesn’t mean that during job search and internal career progression we wont be subject to search and research, decisions and judgements by prospective employers, customers and others based on a variety of publicly available information they can mine from various social media.

Professionally – whether we like it or not employers, through the use of technology, will combine what you do professionally with what you do personally to establish a picture of the ‘over-all you’ i.e. and how you may fit into their world, their company culture, and their clients perception of you as well. (of course there are other tests – interviews, psychometrics, reference checks etc)

Employers form an opinion based on their perception of your morphed personal and professional profiles from which they will make a judgement on your suitability for recruitment or progression in the context of their own organisations requirements.

So have we moved on from the original definition of personal branding to a more complex set of publicly available information which combined forms our ‘Career Brand‘?

Lets break it down a bit…

What is my Professional (work) brand?

For professional branding there are 3 key elements that you need to bring if you are to be recognised as adding value:

  1. Your Talent = natural aptitude or skill
  2. Your Presence = The ability to project gravitas–confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness
  3. Your Outcomes = Result or consequence of a performance in terms of success and failure

Extending this out…

Lets look at The 8 Laws of Personal Branding by Montoya (2002) – in the ‘work’ sense:

  1. Specialisation
  2. Leadership
  3. Personality
  4. Distinctiveness
  5. Visibility
  6. Unity
  7. Persistence
  8. Goodwill

According to McNally and Speak (2002: 62): “Defining your personal brand dimensions and refining them into a personal brand platform involves identifying the competencies, standards and style that go into each relationship people have with you‟ (McNally, Speak, 2011). They mirror Peters’ and Montoya’s transformation from the personal brand to a corporate brand stressing that in order to make a personal brand work; you need to understand how a business brand works. They also acknowledge that the principles and ideas developed and successfully applied in business are readily adaptable to aiding the creation of a personal brand (McNally Speak, 2011). In building a strong brand they offer three components set to secure this, strong brands are distinctiverelevant and consistent.

McNelly and Speak talk about ‘corporate branding’.

You have a corporate (professional) brand.

But hang on – you also have a personal brand. And along with your authentic self, the two combine to create what can be a powerful ‘Career Brand’ -which people discover through the power of social media and brand reputation.

What is my personal ‘private life’ brand?

In his book Brand it Like Beckham, Andy Milligan outlines the key factors of David Beckham’s brand. This is split into his public and private “self” and what he is known for in each area. In his private brand (which is anything but private!) are his roles as son, father and husband; his public brand include celebrity, footballer and fashion icon.

Combined they affect his career. They become his career brand.

What is my career brand?

The reality is that now – through the ubiquity and rapidity of social media, we need to be even more aware of our total brand – the combination of Professional and Personal . Some career coaches say to keep personal and professional brands separate – and we can try. But how easy is this when it comes to career advancement?

I’m not suggesting you should panic, rush out and change anything or everything about your personal life just to fit in with a prospective employers requirements – you may or may not want to. And think about being true to your authentic self – authentic is sustainable.  Non-authentic, not quite so.

But also be aware of the sum of the parts. Be aware how the sum of the parts may be impacting your career progression. Know that others will be aware.

Be extremely conscious of the rapid morphing of your personal and professional lives – and do your best to manage them effectively.


Before you start to work on your CV, LinkedIn profile, and head into an interview – you may want to consider having a think about your Career Brand.

“You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success, and there is no right way to create the brand called YOU” – Tom Peters


Read more about staying ‘on-message’ with your career brand here.

During my research for this topic I uncovered….

additional online reading – with some exercises you can undertake to discover your ‘Career Brand’. Have fun!

Why “Being Authentic” is holding you back

Modelling and mining ubiquitous social media

Number of Employers Passing on Applicants Due to Social Media Posts Continues to Rise

Personal Branding – “Me Inc”

The Personal Branding Phenomenon

The Authenticity of Personal Branding

Business Branding: The Basics of Branding

Follow Craig McAlpine and

Twitter: @MyCareerBrand #MyCareerBrand





About Craig:

Craig works with his clients to build a tailored Career Brand, LinkedIn Profile, Curriculum Vitae (CV).  He also works with corporates and individuals who require assistance during Outplacement/Career Transition. His focus is squarely on developing his clients’ marketing collateral and interview skills to position and achieve the best possible outcome. Craig’s clients span from New Zealand, Australia, UAE and across to the UK, and his career advice articles are read by many thousands of career mined individuals across more than 135 countries.

He is recognised for his ability to develop his clients’ communication skills to enable them to sell their value proposition to employers and recruitment consultants better than their competition, increasing their confidence, and ultimately winning more employment opportunities.

Craig draws on over 20 years of leadership experience within various sectors including Recruitment, Professional Services, Financial Services, and Technology, supported by a strong background in sales and marketing.


Contact: Phone: +64 21 666 807, +64 9 5222802 e-mail: Craig McAlpine's Linked In profile: MISSION Working with Job Search Candidates to build their go-to-market strategy, develop powerful marketing collateral such as their CV, LinkedIn profile and social media presence, and ultimately to secure a new role that is not only rewarding but also assists them on their career journey. EXPERTISE Career Coaching - LinkedIn Training - LinkedIn Optimisation - Personal Branding - Job Hunt: Go to Market Strategy and Collateral - CV design and preparation - Interview skills INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE - Professional Services - Information Technology - Banking and Finance - Recruitment

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Posted in Applying For a Role, Communications, Curriculum Vitae, CV, LinkedIn, Others, Personal Brand, Recruitment

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