Who are you really? What’s your personal brand?

Posted on March 30, 2011



This question comes up a lot if you’re looking for a job. We all should have a personal brand. For me the answer has changed as I’ve gotten older. The answer also changes depending upon the context.

What do you say when people ask you about yourself? Here’s what I’ve said over the years.


In my 20’s:

I defined myself by where I went to school and where I lived. Yes, I’ll admit, status was important to me back then.

In my 30’s:

I defined myself by where I worked and what I did for work.

In my 40’s:

Uh oh – time for an identity crisis. Or do we call it a mid-life crisis. I realized that I wasn’t my work. Yes, it was an important part of my life, but it wasn’t my WHOLE life.

As I’m out meeting new people and attending conferences, the question inevitablity comes up on “so what do you do?” Way too many people answer with a long discourse on what they’ve done in the past. Boring. Is this really the personal brand you want to present to the world?

I’ve read all the stuff on developing your elevator pitch and your personal brand. You’re supposed to describe yourself in as few words as possible – what! And not only that, you should make it so interesting that people want to hear more about you. Okay, so I can come up with some catchy phrases, but they’re not really me. You’re also supposed to be authentic. Authentic and fascinating – mm, this one is tough for me.

My latest description is:

“I help companies interact better with their customers. I do this using content marketing, social media, and streamlining processes.”

What I really want to say is:

“I love being outdoors kayaking, hiking or snowshoeing. When I’m not outdoors, I’m active on several technology boards and mentoring students.”

Now that I think about it, this is the difference between my professional and my personal lives. So I have both a professional and a personal brand. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t think that it’s necessary to completely blend your professional and your private lives.

So what about you? Who are you and how would you describe yourself? Do you have different descriptions for your professional and your personal brands?

If you’re not sure how to develop your own brand, whether professional or personal, I’ll be addressing this in a subsequent blog post.

Photo is courtesy of Winged Wolf’s Flickr photostream, under Creative Commons Licensing.