Who Do You Think You Are? Have You Told Everybody Else That?

Why is it that it takes a crisis before people start considering their personal branding? With the employment shake up due to Covid-19, it is ‘more important than ever before that individuals…know what their image and leadership brand are doing for them’[1] (Forbes, 2020); yet a lot of individuals seem to stick only to updating their CVs and nothing else. This isn’t enough to land anything other than a stop-gap job which won’t leave you fulfilled or set you up for the future; so why do talented individuals ‘sit back and expect recognition’[2] (Harvard Business Review, 2008)? What can be done to inject your personal brand with ‘a little more pizzazz’[3]?

The first step is to evaluate how much time you are dedicating to developing the brand of you. Whilst a lot of fantastic individuals spend a grand proportion of time working on their companies, very few bother matching that effort when it comes to self-promotion. Sometimes this is through fear because, as Jon Michail of Forbes (2020) points out, it is a ‘courageous’[4] act to stick your head above the parapet and to tell the world that you believe you have the talents and personality traits necessary to thrive at a higher level – especially in cultures like New Zealand where the default emotional setting is meant to be humility. Wanting to hit that next tier means putting in the hours though and there are ways to let the world know you’re ready for your next success without coming across as arrogant.

You’ve decided you’re ready to put in the time developing the brand of you; but where do you start? Most believe that they should look to external networking: ‘broadening your network of industry professionals and other individuals for mutually beneficial purposes’[5] (Glassdoor, 2018). What a lot of people fail to consider, however, is that they also need to give the right level of attention to the internal network: your colleagues and already established connections. By improving your standing with team members, your reports and even senior executives in your company, your efforts become a regular topic of conversation for company associates, their friends and family, your vendors and any other interested second degree parties. When you consider the number of business connections you have and then add on the number of relationships each connection has on top of that, you start to realise why the internal network is such a great tool to use. How can you best market yourselves to these individuals though?

As mentioned, there are ways to promote your own work without being perceived as arrogant or as overselling your qualities. One of the best ways to do this is through highlighting the achievements of your team and your company. There is a two-fold effect to developing praise giving as a skill: firstly, it makes you a better leader by being able to take a broader view of the picture. In fact, research by non-profit Catalyst (2014) found that ‘acknowledging and seeking contributions of others to overcome one’s limitations’[6] as part of a sense of humility makes up one of ‘the four attributes of altruistic leadership’[7] – something companies are keen to see in those driving the business forward. The second part is that you can promote the fantastic work with which you are involved in context. Rather than an off the cuff remark of your greatness which will most likely be ignored, you can show how you are able to influence teams, bring in ideas, lead from the front (even in non-leadership role) and add value with the results to prove it.

If there are two points to take away from this piece, they are these:

· If you’re not getting recognised, you need to build your brand.

· If you want to build your brand, don’t just focus on the external; remember the power of the internal network.

We always tell the individuals in our Talent Coaching programme that if they’re not getting tapped on the shoulder every six months (whether they are looking to move or not), their personal brand isn’t relevant in the marketplace. Don’t get left behind; don’t let the time pass you by; and with a bit of luck, you’ll have gotten a lot more out of the exercise than you would have by just updating your CV.


[1] Jon Michail, How Does Personal Brand Leadership Work and Why Is It Critical?, forbes.com, (New York: Forbes Media, 2020).

[2] Gill Corkindale, The Return of the Personal Brand, hbr.org, (Boston: Harvard Business Publishing, 2008).

[3] William Arruda, How to Brand Yourself as a Leader at your Company, forbes.com, (New York: Forbes Media, 2019).

[4] Jon Michail, How Does Personal Brand Leadership Work and Why Is It Critical?, forbes.com, (New York: Forbes Media, 2020).

[5] Michele Lando, What is Internal Networking and Why It Matters?, glassdoor.com, (Mill Valley: Glassdoor, 2018).

[6] Jeanine Prime and Elizabeth R Salib, Inclusive Leadership: The View From Six Countries, (New York: Catalyst, 2014), 7.

[7] Ibid.