15 Ways to Build (or Revamp) Your Personal Brand
Updated: Jun 21, 2019
An event recap of: Revamp Your Brand at Work
There were two things that drew me to the Revamp Your Brand at Work panel last Thursday, June 13:
Give me any excuse to enjoy the bright, vibrant, natural space that is The Riveter’s Capitol Hill location.
As someone who’s finally pivoted out of higher education after 8 years in the space, I wanted to hear from powerhouses in their fields (in particular, the SVP of Communications at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates!) on how they did the same—and how they continued to do so throughout their careers.
They pitched the event as “a panel discussion on reinventing, rebranding and reinvigorating yourself and your job. Whether you want to polish your post-college persona or breathe new life into the role you’ve had for 10 years – we’ll discuss how to bring your passion to the forefront of your work, ways to enhance your personal brand and tricks to expand your network.”
Sign. Me. Up.
Reinvigorating and rebranding myself and my job was how I spent my entire summer! And as I think about my next steps after my current contracting position, this was exactly the event I needed to keep myself focused, diligent, and deliberate as I continue to make an impact where I am, and consider what the future holds.
Enough about me though. If you’re reading this at all, it’s because you want the inside scoop on what the powerhouse panel had to say. Those nuggets of wisdom and inspiration to keep you motivated and energized as you figure out your next steps.
So, let’s get to it.
As a marketing and communications professional, I was naturally most excited to hear from the moderator, Kari Leitch, Senior Vice President of Communications at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates (and she lived up to the hype), but I was blown away by the pathways and insights from all of the panelists: Harini Gokul, Technology Leader and Investor; Lara Mae Chollette, Head of HR at Ellenos; and Michelle Rudd, Senior Vice President at Wells Fargo.
Here are the 15 takeaways from the Revamp Your Brand at Work panel
There’s a lot of juicy content not included in the top 15, so if you want to read a more detailed version of the takeaways, jump to the bottom of this list for the loosely transcribed event notes (including the panelists' recommended books and podcasts!).
You are the several people you keep most closely connected to. Ask yourself, “do they reflect and mirror my purpose and where I want to be?” Intentionally build your personal board of directors.
Do not let your email address domain define you. Just because you send emails from @uw.edu does not mean you are only destined for higher education (or insert field here) or that you are pigeon-holed there.
When considering your personal brand, what do people say about you when you’re not in the room? Because this is how your brand is being perceived.
We are all swiss army knives. We have multiple strengths; we’re never this “one person.” We’re moms, trouble makers, wine drinkers—we’re all of the above. When it comes to transitions you can still stay true to what you are, but just pull out a different muscle.
Show the interest and aptitude, ask the questions. It can be a natural evolution. Understand your strengths, weaknesses, and gifts and tap into those in your work.
You don’t have to do it alone. You need to have curiosity, you need to be able to ask questions, and then you need to build a coalition that will take you there. Find your personal board of directors, a collection of people who will hold you accountable and they will call you out.
Find passion projects. Find the things that go outside of your functional role but that allow you to make an impact and bring in the things that give you joy. You can be in student affairs but choose to go outside your scope of work to start a video campaign highlighting student stories if storytelling inspires you.
Laminate your values. Your values don’t change. Your values at some point just need to get laminated and then you need to measure each professional and personal decision from your values.
In your network, have a rock, a couch, and a mirror. The rock is the uncomfortable place. This is the person who’s going to ask you the tough, uncomfortable questions. The couch is the person who you go to saying “I’m not looking for you to critique, let’s just relax and have a glass of wine.” The mirror is when you want things reflected to you. Someone to affirm that your choice is the right one.
Cultivate the right relationships. Those that take an active interest in you? Cultivate that relationship. They are more likely to be personally invested and it will be a more natural, enjoyable, and meaningful partnership.
Give something back. Mentorship and sponsorship are not one-way roads. There is a circle of giving back and how you treat people is what’s going to come back around and multiple in many ways.
Learn from those you admire. Look at people that have a skill you want to build in yourself and just watch how they do it; break it down. Not the best networker at social events? Watch how the social butterfly in your network navigates a cocktail hour and take mental (or literal) notes. Mimic until it becomes natural and you push past the comfort zone.
It’s ok to cry. In moments of crisis, give yourself room to breathe. And then once you take that time, you can be like, “Ok, I got that out, now what do I need to do next.” And power on.
Show up. Show up to volunteer, show up to support that person. You don’t stalk, but there are men or women where you’re like, “Wow, I want that person to be my mentor”. So think about “who does this person know that I know?” “What’s the six degrees of separation?” Figure out what your best angle or best opportunity is going to be to get connected with your target mentor, sponsor, or peer.
Be intentional with your time. Think about who is in your life very purposefully. The most important thing you’re not going to get back is time, so be intentional with who you spend that time with.
But ultimately, it’s your "brand." How you define personal brand might be different from the women on this panel and some of the insights may not apply. By even clicking in to read this, you’re taking the first step at being a bit more introspective about considering who you are, what you enjoy, and what are you looking for in your next step. And that’s where the journey to building or revamping your personal brand begins.
If you’d like to read the full notes from the event, and the questions asked throughout the session, check them out below.
PURPOSE & BRAND PURPOSE
How do you define “purpose” and your “brand purpose?”
KARI: I’ll start. Authenticity is very important and maintaining a voice that captures who I am. I want to make sure I’m capturing my truth in the workplace and that my colleagues use and share their voices in the workplace, as well.
HARINI: Brand is less important. The person is important. The journey to understand the person you are takes decades. You will change and that’s ok. I have a strong desire to do good and it’s the reason I work, it’s the reason I play, and it’s the reason why I do what I do. How I do that is equally important as who I do it with. You are the several people you keep most closely connected to. Ask yourself, “do they reflect and mirror my purpose and where I want to be?”
LARA MAE: I always thought earlier in my career that my personal brand was the email address I was tied to, like @nba.com. But it doesn’t matter. Maya Angelou always said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” People know when they work with me I’m going to give them a straight answer, no BS, and I’ll follow through.
MICHELLE: What do people say about you when you’re not in the room? I’ve always thought the brand of the bank I worked at would speak for itself, but then I learned people were drawn to me for reasons not related to where I worked but how I worked.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE PERSONAL BRAND
These brand purposes have evolved over a period of time. Have you ever had to face a milestone where you had to change your brand purpose?
LARA MAE: I call it my jungle gym of a career, where there were very clear transitions in my life. Even though I’ve changed industries, I still stick with what I love and keep that brand going, even if I’m not working there. For instance, my background was working at the NBA and I remain active in the sports community, volunteering with athletics nonprofits.
MICHELLE: When you worry about getting pigeon-holed into a certain industry or role, you have to figure out how to rebrand yourself by sometimes staying in the same place. I’ve had to figure out what was not being met in my career and develop it within my roles. We also need to think about being a three-dimensional person, beyond “Hi, this is me and my job.” What are we doing to develop that creative side of ourselves?
HARINI: We are all swiss army knives. We have multiple strengths, we’re never this “one person.” We’re moms, trouble makers, wine drinkers—we’re all of the above. When it comes to transitions you can still stay true to what you are, but just pull out a different muscle.
How have you sought out opportunities that have helped you evolve your own personal brand and personal attributes?
KARI: I’ve been with Ste. Michelle for 23 years in a variety of divisions—branding, corporate issues, government affairs—a lot of it was showing the interest and aptitude, asking the questions. Evolving your brand can be a natural evolution.
HARINI: I love the 10x10x10 method. Think about your life in 10 weeks, in 10 months, and in 10 years. Because when you know what you want or where you want to be, then you know where the transitions are, the risks to take, and what needs to happen to get there. That’s the framework. Then it’s competence and a body of work: you need to have curiosity, you need to be able to ask questions, and then you need to build a coalition that will take you there. Early in my career, I thought I had to do everything on my own team, by myself. You’re stronger with your connections.
MICHELLE: Know yourself. Take the StrengthsFinder to help you understand yourself. You are who you are and you have your gifts.
LARA MAE: I grew up in a family* where being the best person you can be is important (*note: her mom showed up!). My mother was valedictorian, my grandmother was the unofficial mayor of Seattle, so I felt like I had a lineage and expectations to live up to. At some point near 40, I learned I needed to give myself space and not be who people need me to be. I used to say “I love myself, I believe in myself” but I didn’t believe it. I think giving yourself the space to get to that place and give yourself forgiveness is important.
The second thing is you tend to have a group of friends that you talk to socially and then there’s this closer group of friends who tell you the truth to and who push you—or push back—and help you make decisions.
The third is to find passion projects. I’ve been known as marketing or HR, but no matter which direction I went I always found passion projects—things that went outside of my functional role but things that helped make an impact, on the company and on my personal passions. I’m in HR but my passion project is community outreach and development, building relationships in the community. I created a process within Ellenos’ culture that encourages our employees to volunteer at organizations they care about. It benefits them, and it benefits us.
MICHELLE: I’ve found my personal board of directors, a collection of people who will hold me accountable and they will call me out. I was also very hesitant to work with a life coach, but she has changed my life. She’s uncorrelated. A life coach is not so emotionally involved in your success or your paycheck like a friend or family member might be. A coach just listens. One thing I’ve learned is that your values don’t change. Your values at some point just need to get laminated and then you need to measure each decision from your values. This is where a life coach can help.
HARINI: Surround yourself with a carousel of people and look for three things: a rock, a couch, or a mirror.
The rock is the uncomfortable place. This is the person who’s going to ask you the tough, uncomfortable questions.
The couch is the person who you go to saying “I’m not looking for a critique, let’s just have a glass of wine.”
The mirror is when you want things reflected to you. Someone to affirm that your choice is the right one.
Think about who is in your life very intentionally. I have curated my portfolio of people. The most important thing you’re not going to get back is time, so be intentional with who you spend that time with. Also, be sure to distinguish between mentorship and sponsorship, and seek out those in areas you don’t even think you’ll have a career in. There is still knowledge to be gained and you never know where your career trajectory might lead. Finally, give something back. Mentorship and sponsorship are not one-way roads.
LARA MAE: Culturally speaking, I was blessed with a community of “ates”, “titas”, “kuyas” (“big sisters,” “aunts,” “brothers” in the Tagalog language). Professionally, it was a little bit harder, so I’d intentionally choose who I would ask for help from. Those that take an active interest in you? Cultivate that relationship. In terms of giving back in mentorship, in the sports world, there aren’t a lot of professional women, so I always made a point to reach out because maybe I could be that “ate” for someone. There is a circle of giving back, how you treat people is what’s going to come back around and multiple in so many ways.
KARI: Look at people that have a skill you want to build in yourself and just watch how they do it; break it down. I had a shy streak but I had a colleague who could walk into a room of strangers and leave with 14 friends. Her demeanor became an anchor for me when I traveled to Spain and had to navigate a cocktail hour for 90 minutes without knowing anyone. I remembered her and how she would embrace the space, and I employed some of the tactics I learned from her. I ended up meeting people who remained my closest friends on the trip.
At this point in the event, the panel opened up to questions from the room.
QUESTION: Where do you look for mentors?
HARINI: If you’re truly interested in a person, ignore short-term gains. It’s an email template, I have it. “I heard you speak about xyz and I’m working on x.” Ask for a coffee chat. If they accept, that’s your door and it opened a little. Consider what you want from them and what you can give to them, too.
MICHELLE: The Riveter is about building community and you have the advance notice of LinkedIn. Send a note to a panelist and say, “Hey, I’m coming to the event and I’m excited for the discussion. I notice you’re xyz, me too! If there’s time after the event, I would love to catch up in person and talk about xyz.” It also shouldn’t be just about what that person can provide you, but what can you provide them?
LARA MAE: Show up. Show up to volunteer, show up to support that person. You don’t stalk, but there are men or women where you’re like, “Wow, I want that person to be my mentor”. So think about “who does this person know that I know?” “What’s the six degrees of separation?” Figure out what your best angle or best opportunity is going to be to get connected with your target mentor, sponsor, or peer. Be intentional.
QUESTION: Everyone has a moment of crisis where you wonder how you are going to get through it. How have you navigated that moment?
HARINI: I had a life-changing crisis at the same time that I was debating a job change that would be high travel and take me away from my family for long periods of time. I had to revalue my purpose and it led to me taking a sabbatical and running for office.
MICHELLE: I was fired earlier in my career. It didn’t happen to me, it happened for me. I was in a dead-end job and so it forced me to do the work. I was complacent, didn’t have a resume, and wasn’t prepared. It led me to reevaluate what I wanted to be doing and seek out opportunities that better aligned with that.
LARA MAE: It's ok for you to cry, it’s ok for you to let it out. In those moments of crisis, freaking cry. Let it out. Everything that these ladies said, but for you, let it out. Give yourself room to breathe and just breathe for a second. And then once you take that time, you can be like, “Ok, I got that out, now what do I need to do next.” And power on.
BOOKS & PODCASTS
What are you reading or listening to right now?
LARA MAE: Reading: “Warrior Goddess Training: Become the Woman You Are Meant to Be” by HeatherAsh Amara
HARINI: Reading: a book on little towns in Italy, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Designing for Equity, When to Make Decisions
KARI: Listening to: Pod Save America, Oprah SuperSoul Conversations | Reading: “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller