By Peggie Arvidson
What’s your brand?
This topic has been floating around my head for a while now. It started when I got a call out of the blue to apply for a contract at a big employer in my hometown. I’ve worked for myself for 13 years and the idea of working for a big company, even on a contract, seemed daunting.
The idea of pushing my own boundaries in 2017 was at the forefront of my mind when I thought, “What the heck!” and went for it. Low and behold they offered me not one, but three different possible contracts. At first I thought it was a fluke and played small in my own mind – “they must not have many people to choose from…” and “Wait until they find out I really don’t know what I’m doing!” all cropped up as I tried to talk myself down from what I identified as my inflated ego.
I chose one of the contracts and went about my life, preparing for another big upheaval in my life just 4 months after moving across the country. All I could think was that there was no time like the present to start pushing my boundaries and getting out of my comfort zone.
It turns out that although it had been more than 13 years since I set foot, willingly, in a corporate setting, I was, I am a natural. Some people are born to sing and it appears, I’m born for business. Who knew?!
Although my colleagues are and average of 15 years younger than I am, and the workplace is incredibly different than it was my last time around (who knew you barely keep any paper in or on your desk anymore?!) much has remained the same, and although it pushed me beyond my comfort zone to head back to a commute and an office, it’s been very worth it to revisit the idea of my personal and professional brand.
For 13 years I’ve worked as an entrepreneur, honing my brand and my message and helping others to do so with the intention of attracting and working with clients who are the best possible fit. It turns out that all that focus on values and brand messaging translates well no matter what work you’re doing in the world.
Ultimately people want to know who you are in terms of what you stand for. Whether you run an independent coffee shop, sell homes in your community or work for the local Fortune 100 darling, you are only as good as your personal brand.
During my first week on the job, the manager of our project gave a passionate speech about personal branding and I knew I’d made a good decision. He told stories of his time in business school and how it didn’t take long to know who you would and wouldn’t choose to have on your team as you went through the program. Aside from a few inhaled breaths, comparing myself to those who have MBAs, I was on board with his message.
After all, you don’t build a business without knowing what you stand for and how you want others to talk about you when you’re not there. My shorthand for “brand building” is that simple – how do others talk about you when you’re out of earshot. Do they take notice of your work ethic or your frequent trips to the coffee bar on the company dime?
Your personal brand is the living, breathing embodiment of your core values and whether you’re at work or at play, you can’t fake what is meaningful to you. Over years of working in the corporate and entrepreneurial environment I’ve realized that a personal brand evolves from a personal passion. While you may not be passionate about every single task required in your work, if you can’t find a passion for the overarching vision, there’s a good chance that you aren’t going to pull off being “on-message” or on-brand!
Being “on brand” requires you to have clarity about your personal vision and values. It asks you to ask yourself hard questions like “what am I willing to do for what I believe in?” and “What would I do or say if someone else tried to convince me that their vision was more important or valuable than my own?”
Admittedly, being an entrepreneur for 13 years allowed me to sit in my own bubble, believing my own stories (both good and bad) and heading out into the corporate world helped me solidify my answer to the those questions. I know what I stand for in a new way and I couldn’t be happier with the progress in both my contract life and my entrepreneurial life as a result.
Now that you’re nearly a quarter of the way through the “new” year, is it time to ask yourself “what’s my brand?”