Personal branding is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining a reputation and impression of an individual, group, or organization. “Your personal brand,” says Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, “is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Moreover, it is how you present yourself in your career, representing the story you wish to tell your coworkers, bosses, industry leaders, and other professionals. But no pressure.
Why have a personal brand?
Whether you’re an employee looking to grow, an entrepreneur cultivating a startup business, or an established credit union looking to position your team in the community, a personal brand has become far more important than ever. With a strong personal brand, you have the authority to own your career. No matter your purpose or motives, if you aren’t effectively managing your reputation, then you run the risk of losing out on opportunities to grow.
For some, personal branding is an approach to turn reputation into revenue — a means to become rich, famous, and influential. For others, it’s an opportunity to market themselves and their skills to find the right career or to uncover new opportunities within their existing career. However, for me, personal branding is all about the fine art of being my best self 100% of the time. It’s about inspiring others to join me in my passion for cooperative values and demonstrating how everyone can be an agent for change and pioneers in the future of credit union advocacy.
While personal branding does require a commitment to start, there is never a clear end; it’s a journey. We’ll cover the exact method for starting that journey in future articles, but it’s important to note that before you can truly create a personal brand and market yourself and your skills, you have to decide what those skills are and what you are trying to sell.
Establishing your personal brand also requires you have an active role. You must be proactive in looking for opportunities that require your skill set and convincing others to take advantage of those skills. Beginning your journey means exposing your expertise and your passions in order to understand how you can apply them to the agendas of others for mutual benefit.
Branding in the industry
For us in the credit union industry, we can be confident in our own journey based on our connection to the original concepts, organizations, and individuals who proved that consumer-owners could succeed. We are surrounded by a network of transformative pioneers and industry icons: Ed Callahan, Robert Mackay, and Chip Filson to name a few. For me, the people inside of my CUSO — including the credit unions served everyday — inspire me to be a pioneer of the future, creating templates for success.
“We are unique, not original,” says Randy Karnes, CEO of CU*Answers. “We draw confidence about the future from our connections to the past. Every credit union and person in our network is unique, this moment in time is unique, the set of individuals who comprise the community is unique, the challenges are unique, the opportunities are unique. Your response to your situation must be bolstered by your enthusiasm to be unique, current, and matched with where you’re going.”
By putting our personal brands into practice, we become part of the collection of individuals living the cooperative values and energizing the credit union legacy for many years to come through our advocacy.
Set yourself up for the future
Starting a journey in personal branding can be difficult, but it’s manageable. Express your uniqueness daily. Make time for reflection; just a moment each day to connect to yourself instead of the outside influences affecting your decisions. Connect to your passions and skills and think about how you can use those in your career. Most importantly, remind yourself what you’re working toward. As we mentioned earlier, each person has their own unique reasons for starting their journey in personal branding, so find yours and use it as a motivator.
When it comes to personal branding, we must start our journey inspired to take on the future using our unique qualities. We must consider ourselves to be the pioneers of the future, the next leader, the next CEO, the next board member, or league president, and ask how we can use our skills and expertise to get there.