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Three Common Personal Brand Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Three Common Personal Brand Mistakes and How to Fix Them
I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation. -Joan Jett

It breaks my heart to admit this, but my beloved Joan Jett is wrong regarding your professional reputation. Your career success depends on having a positive, authentic, and memorable professional reputation, profile, or brand. Frankly, you need to give a damn.

Yet, I see clients mistakenly thinking they have cultivated a brand to advance their careers when they have not. Many believe they have invested time and money “cultivating” a professional profile in the right places, when they have not. I want to help you avoid being one of these people and create a personal brand that accelerates your progress.

Three of the most critical mistakes come from not understanding what a professional brand consists of, your personal brand, and how to create brand impact. Luckily you can remedy these missteps by listening to the following advice.

Mistake #1: Thinking that your brand is your career documents.

Many people pay coaches and consultants to polish their career documents (resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and bios). Impactful career documents are part of an effective career strategy. However, these documents are not your brand.

Your brand consists of:

  • Deliberate messages you send.
  • Impressions you leave.
  • What people hear.

Your career documents fit into the first bucket — that is, the messages you send — and while this is an essential component, the other two buckets are more critical to your career success. Moreover, for your deliberate messages to be impactful, they must be consistent with the last two buckets.

The impressions you leave category includes your expertise, skills, and behaviors. Here are some examples of behaviors and skills that impact how people view you:

  • Your strategic thinking.
  • How you communicate and interact.
  • How you handle a difficult meeting.
  • The way you enter a room when stressed.
  • How you treat and motivate others.
  • How you react to different points of view.

The last category, what people hear, boils down to what people say about you when you are not in the room or your reputation in your industry or sector.

Many people invest in professionals to revise and revamp their career documents and, at the same time, do not make sure that the impressions they give off are consistent with those career documents.

Most of my clients struggling to achieve internal promotions (and sometimes those looking for new opportunities) have negative reputations that hamper their advancement. Their career documents are just fine, and even if they are not, they are usually a more straightforward fix.

It would be best if you appreciated that your professional brand is much more than pieces of paper and that it is worth the investment to polish up the impressions you leave as much as you do the career documents. To know what you need to address, you need to know your current brand.

[Related: Four Powerful Techniques That Will Help You Close More Sales and Build a Reputable Brand]

Mistake #2: Not knowing your current brand.

The second mistake people make regarding their professional reputation is not knowing their current brand. My clients who make the most progress actively seek out feedback and information regarding how others view them. These clients want the unvarnished truth. By having this information, these clients have armed themselves with the information they need to make the changes that will advance their careers.

To know your current brand, look at reviews and ask people, such as managers, peers, and mentors, what people say about you when you are not in the room or your reputation. Some of my clients delve deeper and ask:

  • What should I be doing differently?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I start doing?

“Emma,” one woman I know, was shocked that the brand she was touting was utterly contrary to how she was perceived and not in a positive way. Emma’s brand on paper was fabulous — she messaged artful why you wanted her as a leader in your organization — but the impressions and her reputation told another story.

Emma then did the hard work of changing how she was perceived. She modified how she spoke in meetings and others, and she drove her business and executed on goals. As she went through this effort, she began to see her organization give her more opportunities.

Take the time and be courageous enough to learn your professional reputation. If your brand is not what you want it to be, you should develop a strategic plan to enhance those skills and behaviors that may be lacking. Finally, you want to check in with people to see if your changes are resulting in the improvements you want.

[Related: Six Habits of Highly Promotable People]

Mistake #3: Not understanding how to amplify your brand.

Your brand only opens up the door to opportunities if people know your professional profile and why they should think of you. You must make sure that you are broadcasting your brand on the appropriate channels.

Channels include:

  • The stories you tell over lunch or at a networking event.
  • Where and what you speak or write on.
  • The committees you sit on.
  • What you post and comment on in LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • The conferences you attend.
  • The projects you initiate or tackle.
  • Your network.

Understanding your goal will help you decide which channels are effective. If one of your goals is to level up your network and you only participate on a committee where you are the most senior person, that may not be an effective strategy. If, on the other hand, you are trying to develop a thought leadership reputation and that committee gives you a platform to do it, then that is an excellent strategy.

You should revisit your brand channel approach a few times a year to see if it has the impact you foresaw. If not, it is time to mix it up.

Career success is dependent on impactful branding. If you appreciate what a brand is, understand your current brand, and leverage the most impactful brand channels, you will be ready to rock and roll.

[Related: Three Public Speaking Fight Moves for Millennial Women in Male-Dominated Industries]


Sheila Murphy is a career coach and former award-winning Fortune 50 senior officer who helps lawyers, professionals, and executives gain more control over their careers, compensation, and courage.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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