Building a strong personal brand is critical to your professional success. It is more important than your track record, awards you have won or the number of connections you have. Over the long term, your reputation and your brand are what will carry you forward or hold you back. Yet many healthcare marketers and PR professionals spend very little time focused on this aspect of their career.
I learned my lesson the hard way.
When I first started working, I had the good fortune of being part of two amazing companies. Both had talented people, great products and loyal customers. I poured my heart into these companies and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
However, when I decided to leave the second company, I got a cold splash of reality.
A very honest (and helpful) recruiter told me that my resume, though impressive, was virtually indistinguishable from the hundreds of other qualified “company man” candidates. It was his use of the phrase “company man” that struck me.
I think he saw my deflated reaction and took pity on me. He explained to me that my professional identity was inextricably tied to that of the companies I worked for. That I was defined by the roles I held and the company’s measures of success.
In short, I had no personal brand at all.
The recruiter offered me a piece of advice that I will never forget.
There are two groups of people who come through my office. One group have let the companies they work for define who they are. Professionally they are no more or less than the roles they have held. In the other group, are people who have carved out separate identities for themselves, identities that go beyond the company. They have shaped themselves in a way that is aligned with their own values and beliefs. You can guess which group tend to get the better jobs and have more fruitful careers.
I took that advice to heart and over the years I have tried to ensure that I not only do an amazing job for the companies I’m involved with, but that I also take time to build a strong personal brand.
Rather than bore you with the details, here is a summary of some of the things I did for my personal brand growth:
- Attended industry conference, even if I had to pay my own way
- Volunteered for committees
- Helped others by connecting them with people who had the skills they were looking for
- Actively engaged on social media
- Wrote articles for publications for free
- Conducted seminars at local chapter meetings
Over time these activities helped me do my job better. As my reputation for being a friendly, creative, people-connector grew, opportunities for the company I worked for started to appear. It was wonderful.
But I learned that not everyone saw it that way. One senior executive felt I was purposely trying to gain standing in the industry at the expense of others within the company. It was this executive’s opinion that a single person should not shine brighter than anyone else. It was only by a total team effort where everyone was equally highlighted that we would succeed.
This executive went as far as to ask that I no longer accept opportunities to speak or present at industry conferences but pass those along to other members of the team. I complied, but I struggled with the request. I eventually found out my colleagues had been told that my extracurricular work was simply a way to feed my ego and that I was more interested in personal success than helping the company.
This became such a sticking point that it led (in part) to my decision to leave that organization, which was sad because I really loved that company.
My decision to leave was not only a blow emotionally, it also hurt my personal brand. For a while I was known as the crazy guy who left a fantastic job at a great company. However, because I continued to behave in a consistent manner – helpful, friendly, etc – it was not long before my departure from this company was no longer a point of discussion.
Since then, I have been able to leverage my personal brand into new and exciting opportunities for the companies I work for, for friends and for myself personally. In fact, nothing makes me happier than when I can connect someone who has a need with someone who has the skills/ability to help. Sometimes that leads to jobs, sometimes to contracts, but always it leads to a meaningful connection.
I would not be where I am today if I had not invested in building a personal brand.
Please join us for the next monthly #HITMC tweetchat, Tuesday May 14th at noon ET, 9am PT (for your local time click here) when we will be discussing the following questions:
- T1 If you could have your wish, what are THREE WORDS you would want people to use to describe you?
- T2 What are effective ways to build your personal brand? What are NOT good ways?
- T3 Can personal brand building be taken too far? What’s the right balance with building your employer’s brand?
- T4 What are effective ways to deal with managers & coworkers who seek to suppress or tarnish your personal brand?
- T5 What advice do you have for someone who has a personal brand setback (loss of job, errant post, offensive remark)? How could they recover/mend their brand?
- Bonus What corporate brand do you admire most?