Does Personal Branding Equate Bragging?

In finding a job, many recruitment experts in the U.S. express the need for all job hunters to have a personal brand. 

Recently, Forbes had an interesting Q&A on this topic, where a reader wrote in asking if he needed to brag to create his personal brand. He did not want to brag, and maybe felt that if he did not brag, he would not have a personal brand, and hence be left behind. 

What I found interesting in this article, is that it was not tailored toward expats or foreign students in the U.S. looking for a job, but typical Americans. Actually, it can apply to anyone who doesn’t like to brag or toot their own horn. 

I would like to share some of my own personal experience and thoughts on personal branding. 

What I Think Personal Branding Is
Firstly, I’d like to define what I think personal branding is. I am not getting this definition from any website, because I have never looked up the meaning for this term, but from my own mind. This is what I think personal branding means. 
I think a personal brand is a mix of your personal and professional approach to the world. It also encompasses some values you hold dear. Hopefully the values you hold dear, others would also identify in you. That would be your personal brand. 
How to Identify Your Personal Brand
For instance, a quick test of a personal brand may be to go around and ask friends, family, and colleagues three words they’d use to describe you. 

Take these words and analyze them. Do you think they accurately reflect you? If yes, that’s great! If not, why do you think some people’s opinion or view of you is different than what you think you are projecting to the world? How can you go about changing that? What do you have to do to enhance your personal brand. 


How Our Personal Brand Is Created 
I think our personal brand evolves as our life and career evolves. Though, especially in America, many teens may have part time jobs and start understanding something about the working world before getting their first ‘corporate job’ after college, many of us would not really think of how our image is being portrayed to others. Once we start consciously thinking about that, we evolve our personal brand (what the world thinks it is). Based on this, we start to fall in line with what we want to see in ourselves, and hopefully, what the world sees in us. 

How Our Track Record IS Our Personal Brand
So, based on this, our track record sets our personal brand, not bragging. Hopefully, the best measure of our personal brand is how others talk about us when we aren’t there. 

  • What are they saying about us? 
  • What do they think we are good at? 
  • What kind of work or projects would they want to see us work on? 
  • What values do they think we live and work by?

The reason many may think personal branding requires bragging is that when we change jobs, we often have to talk about our track record to prove our worth to potential employers on our resume, in reference letters, and in interviews. Even when getting promoted within a company, some amount of viva voce is required, but more so in a situation where we are being analyzed by an unknown employer. They do not yet know so many things about us- our work ethic, our accomplishments or struggles, our problem solving and team building approaches and how we’d adjust to a new corporate culture. This is why attending interviews (or networking) may put many on the spot and make them feel less than humble. 

How to Build a Personal Brand 
As personal branding is really a personal development exercise, let's sum up this article with more thoughts to ponder on building, creating or enhancing your personal brand:

  • How can I build your personal brand in an interview without being a overtly over-the-top bragger? 
  • Or, what could I say and do in an interview to prove my worth, show my track record, or demonstrate my personal brand that doesn’t feel too uncomfortable? 
  • Interviews are already so uncomfortable for most of us, and adding personal branding to it, often makes many feel fake or too rehearsed. While it is important to be prepared for the interview, is there a way to be prepared without sounding canned? 
  • Can one prepare, yet come off as confident, collected and humble; like a real person, rather than a corporate robot? 
  • Maybe this is why the term personal branding is such a turn off to many – I am not a product, I am a person. How can I establish and communicate your value in align with my personal value?


Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Jennifer Kumar is a corporate coach working to bridge the cultural gap between Indian offshore teams and American counterparts. Learn more or contact us to get started today! 

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