Should You Have Your Own Brand Even When You Work For a Company?

She was whip smart. She knew her shit. She was at the top of her field. Had spoken at several industry conferences. She was her company’s go-to person. She was the voice of her company.

Yet when I asked her about her personal brand, the identity she was building beyond her role as Director, she looked back at me with confusion. My brand, she responded. “I represent my company so I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have a brand.”

Now I was the one giving her a confused look.

When it comes to your brand, whether you are gainfully employed or work for yourself, you need to have your own brand identity. Period.

Your brand is part of your value. It is made up of unique and special ingredients that make you who you are. It is the thing that sets you apart and distinguishes you among your peers. You bring your brand into work every day whether you realize it or not. If you're not sure why having a brand matters, read here.

In the ever-changing world of work, your brand is the one constant that stays with you no matter where you go in your career journey. As jobs come and go, markets fluctuate, companies restructure, businesses fail and restart – your brand is the one thing you will always have control over. Not having your own brand identity is like committing career suicide.

Some of the most prominent business leaders have created brands outside of their primary roles. Jennifer Risi, World Communications Officer for one of the largest branding agency's, Ogilvy & Mather is known not only for being a seasoned executive but is a regular contributor around topics involving women in business and the gender gap in Advertising. Bisila Bokoko, Global Business Woman & Entrepreneur, has expanded her brand as a global consultant to include philanthropy and even represents the Wine & Spirits industry with her namesake Bisila Wines. And lastly, our own beloved Oprah, queen of media. Her brand not only includes talk show host but actor, philanthropist, author, and spiritual leadership.

Think about your walk through life, your career path. Would it help or hurt your career to be known outside of your company for what you do? Where might you be pigeon holing yourself into one label, under one umbrella? How can your professional platform be a bit more inclusive of the other parts of you?

We are renaissance women, ladies and it's time we take ownership of the many parts that make us who we are to build our own legacy.

Here are five things you can do to start growing your personal brand and be known outside your company for what you do:

1.     Build your speaking portfolio by speaking on topics that most matter to you.

2.     Get published in your industry or start a blog to develop your thought leadership.

3.     Join the board of your favorite organization or non-profit.

4.     Start or volunteer in a professional group that supports your favorite cause

5.     Write a book on your area of expertise.

Remember, your brand is the essence of YOU. Don't confine it to just the company you work for. There is so much more to you and your job is to express it both inside and out of the office.

Leaving the Herd

The herd mentality is pervasive throughout our culture. Researchers discovered that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 per cent follow without realizing it. We find safety in numbers. When we belong to a group, this makes us feel warm, safe, and content. Having a sense of belonging is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s how we build community and connection. However, when we succumb to a programmed, unconscious way of existing, we sacrifice individuality in favor of comfort. This showed up for me in my career in a profound way.

In my mid-twenties, I moved to NYC after grad school to start my career in corporate but the 9-5 thing quickly ran its course. Looking out of my office window down to the street below and seeing the tiny hoards of people during the height of rush hour make their way to work. The same way they had done previously the day before and the day before that. I had become one of them. I was part of the herd. I realized that the corporate cubicle life wasn’t for me.  So while most of my peers worked traditional jobs and climbed the corporate ladder, I had the nutty idea to leave the pack and start my own business.

Herding in our careers

I am always fascinated by how we choose our career path. But what I found is that we oftentimes choose our professions by default, not intention. We fall into a career because someone told us we should get into it or it just seemed like a good idea. An example of this could be following our parent’s advice to become a lawyer or go into finance because it’s stable and lucrative. Good advice but can become problematic down the line if you don’t truly love the work.

Breaking away

I believe one of the ultimate acts of leaving the herd is: the decision to stop following and lead.

Three things will happen when you decide to break away from the herd and how to handle it:

1.      Isolation. Leaving the herd can be a lonely place. Seek community immediately! Join groups of likeminded people who value thinking differently and freely. You can find them in meetup groups, within your community, shared spaces like co working offices, and events.

2.     Odd looks. Be ready for awkward conversations and puzzled looks from your friends & family. You may even get naysayers that challenge you or try to tell you it’s a bad idea. This is normal. People fear those who leave the pack but secretly they yearn to do the same. Be the example. Sometimes your decision to be bold inspires other to do the same.

3.     Temptation to return to the heard. It’s hard to walk to the beat of your own drum and dance when no body else hears the music. Resist the urge to go back to your comfort zone. Only you get to decide if herd life is for you or being the bold, daring black sheep.

Leading as the black sheep

The choice to be different is just that, a choice. If you’re someone who challenges convention and loathes conformity, you just might be a black sheep. Embrace it and do not hide. Our differences are what make us come alive. Being the black sheep is taking the lead for your own life, knowing what is best for you and acting on that knowledge unapologetically. Naturally, you will have those who you will inspire so being a black sheep is not just about you, but those you impact. Leaving the herd can be costly, but worth the price of admission.

Why changing jobs is a bad idea.

Why changing jobs is a bad idea.

For the early part of my career, I job hopped. From the time I graduated college in 2003 to the year I took the leap and became self employed in 2010, I worked a total of 4 jobs. Two years seemed to be the magic number of years that I could stay in any job. Once the 2nd year creeped up, I got that familiar itch to explore what else was out there for me. Some would say this is par for the course for people of my generation. Research shows that millenials tend to stay in a job for less than three years compared to 4.4 years of the average worker. While it’s said that job hopping allows us to cultivate different experiences and learn new skills along the way, what I find is that, no matter what generation you belong to, underneath it all, what we’re really looking for is happiness and fulfillment within our careers.  It’s like soul searching for our career.

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