Stop Acting Like Personal Branding Is Pointless

The common saying goes, “If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will.”

I hate to beat a dead horse, but I feel as though I must speak my piece. Don’t worry. I don’t plan on telling you the top 5 personal branding myths. I don’t plan on telling you why you should start a blog to build your brand. Neither do I plan on telling you to go read the article Fast Company wrote called, A Brand Called You. (Ok, I lied about that last part)

Recently I’ve read quite a few blogs written by folks who struggle with the idea of personal branding. Actually, that’s an understatement. These posts were written by people who think it’s a load of BS. Most of them were interesting reads that made a decent case for disliking the concept of personal branding. This post, however, made me cringe:

A person doesn’t need a brand. A person is a person whether or not there is paperwork filed with the government. A child doesn’t create a personality, she has one.

That’s why “personal branding” smacks of insincerity, in the gentle way that Volvo smacks crash-test dummies during vehicle safety tests.

At this point I was halfway done, and I had already read enough to spend my day debating her poorly defended points in the comment section. Somehow, it still got worse:

Fortune‘s story later quoted organizational psychologist Lucia Erwin: “If someone wants to use their personal brand to move up in their company, then they need to ensure the values align.” Delete the “personal brand” jargon, and the message is still clear: “If someone wants to move up in their company, then they need to ensure the values align.”

This is where I realized that Ms. Holland was clearly missing the point. I couldn’t imagine how she could not see that your personal brand has everything to do with your values and that ensuring “the values align” meant ensuring that the opportunity is aligned with what you want for yourself. So I closed my browser without leaving a comment and dismissed her as just another person who likes to form opinions without really trying to understand what something is about.

I’m not spokesperson for personal branding. But I am a millennial who has watched her peers really define what it is they love and want for themselves and used that to open doors to opportunities that they might not have previously considered. It was actually only a year ago when I started reading about personal branding and thinking about what it meant for me.

Managing your brand in my mind is simply leveraging your reputation to accomplish your goals. Like the saying at the beginning of this post conveys, whether you know it or not you already have a brand. You already work hard, deliver results, communicate your passions and interests, and build relationships. Basically, everyday you do you. The only difference is that while you are doing the things you do best you are also in tune with how that affects others’ perceptions of you.

Personal branding is about understanding yourself – your passions, your likes, your dislikes, your strengths, your development areas, your goals etc. – and taking control of how you want those things to affect the journey that you are on in life.

If you are passionate about politics, I’m willing to bet that everyone around you knows of this passion whether you are aware of it or not. Your interest in the world of politics is likely reflected in the articles you read, events you attend, and the people you know. It’s also likely that even if you don’t work in a field related to politics, your coworkers know about your passion. Personal branding is about being aware of the connections people make with your name simply based on your interests, talents, network as well as your overall reputation and making that work for you.

After all, how do you know that one of your coworkers won’t send an awesome opportunity your way once he realizes it aligns with your skills and interests? Maybe then personal branding wouldn’t be so much crap.