One of the most memorable applications I have ever reviewed was submitted from a student from China who was the owner of a small chain of shops that sold scarves and accessories. Included with her application was a glossy brochure that she had had professionally printed in full color. It showed photos of her in her shops, photos from her vacations, and photos of her with her friends and family. It also included her biography, a history of her company, and a page on her likes and pet peeves. Although it was unconventional, this woman was very confident about selling herself to us in a way that she had well thought out.
Yesterday, Mary and I met for coffee and of course, University of Venus came up. Mary has been encouraging me to build my personal brand through social media: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I have been resisting Mary’s advice for months.
I mainly use Facebook to entertain. My Facebook friends are actually my friends and family. I am a regular Facebook user; it is my main form of communication with people that I don’t see every day. Until the launch of this blog, I had never used it for anything professional. Each day the line dividing personal and professional blurs a little more.
I am a lurker on Twitter. I follow a few people, and have 5 close friends that follow me, but I rarely tweet and my tweets are private. I have been reluctant to start publicly tweeting, until I know what I want to use it for. Twitter seems to need a strategy, a marketing plan of sorts. In the meanwhile, I read other people’s tweets, and try to learn from their strategies.
I am terrified of LinkedIn. I put up my resume, connected with a few people, and have been afraid to log in ever since. I suppose I am an avoider. It is clear that LinkedIn is Professional. A friend who is also new to social media once said the following: “I’ve been told that LinkedIn is the office, Facebook is the neighborhood cookout, and MySpace is the bar.” When your home office and the local coffee shop become extensions of your workplace, where do you draw the line? Are you a different person in different contexts?
Although my relationship with these three networks varies, I do think that building my brand is important.
I am in a strange place in my career. I am no longer new to the world of work, and I am a member of the senior leadership team. However, I don’t think I have paused to think about what I stand for or what I want to be known for. I need to focus on thinking of myself as an asset that is compelling, authentic, and consistent. I need to create my own definition of success and ensure that it motivates me. I am finding this task to be somewhat intimidating. I always thought that hard work would speak for itself. However, I now realize that self-promotion is not only a good idea but a 21st century necessity.
What do you think? Is personal branding vital for success at work? Is the concept relevant only to Western audiences, or is it also important in other areas of the world? Are there any drawbacks to marketing yourself in this way? If so, what should you do about it?