Personal branding is a form of insurance for your career. Not just your career, but also your identity.
Most people not only confuse ‘personal branding’ and being an ‘influencer’ (See: ‘Personal branding’ vs. ‘Influencer model’), but also assume that personal branding is a vain attempt to ‘promote’ oneself (See: Don’t drink your own kool-aid in the name of personal branding). Both are monumentally baseless and a complete failure of imagination.
But let me focus on the insurance part.
What usually happens in insurance? As per the most popular notions of insurance, you pay a small’ish amount periodically—we call this ‘premium’—so that you get a disproportionately larger amount in the case of an adverse event.
What happens in personal branding? You add your perspectives out into the world, mostly online, periodically. Think of this as ‘premium’. One day, when you are looking for a career change, a complete stranger (either part of the recruitment process or a decision-maker) may stumble upon your many ‘premiums’ and may consider you. The ‘premiums’ join the only other evidence you may be able to provide to support your candidacy – a CV.
But think about it – how would a recruiter or a decision-maker stumble upon your online perspectives/premium?
The act of stumbling upon your ‘premiums’ is the online equivalent of the older method of ‘asking around’. Someone who needs to hire you would be ‘asking around’ and landing on people who may be able to offer an opinion about you, and your work. They would still do this, these days, but the first, most easily performed action would be to ‘find’ you online. They ‘name search’ you, land on your LinkedIn profile, and figure out your other online utterings that may support their decision to meet you.
At that point, if you were only sparsely ‘present’ online, they may draw a blank about you. But you have an opportunity to avoid the blank, and leave them with something tangible about yourself.
When was the last time you ‘posted’ on LinkedIn? Was it 3 months ago? 6 months ago? 2 years ago? All of these lack recency, on whatever you are talking about. But if you have something fresh, week after week, if not more than once a week, the person looking down the rabbit hole, digging up from the many crumbs, left by you, that says something about you. Of course, they wouldn’t be looking at everything out there, but a trail is good to make them understand your consistency and interest areas broadly.
The best part is that you could direct them yourself to go on this trail! How? By letting them know! 🙂
Most people add a link to their blog, if they have one, or their LinkedIn profile on their CVs. But these are just links and may not compel recruiters or hiring managers to click on them. So, what do you do?
If it is a blog, and you have a bank of content that is recent, and consistently updated, describe it by theme. For instance, you could add a context that the blog is a collection of your perspectives in the product management space, featuring brands like X, Y, and Z. That should get anyone’s attention to ‘click’.
Ok, a blog may seem outdated – you’d be wondering, ‘Blog… in the world of Insta reels?’. Fair enough 🙂
Consider your LinkedIn profile. What do you do, usually? You link the main LinkedIn profile page – and LinkedIn even asks you to create a short, custom URL.
But that’s not enough. And is actually pointless. Why? Because your CV would have exactly the same details as your LinkedIn profile that you are driving that person to!
So, instead of driving them to the main profile page, lead them to your ‘posts’ page! Here is mine, for example.
The interesting nuance here is that LinkedIn does not give you access to the posts page URL via the mobile app. You can get it only from the web version!
What does this do? Together with the CV and the LinkedIn posts page link, you are offering a glimpse of,
a. who and what you are
b. what your ongoing perspectives are, in the areas of your professional interest
These, of course, won’t just land you the job. Not at all. But, they bolster your chances and make you stand out. At the very least, you may be ‘remembered’ a lot more than all those people who haven’t thought at this level.
Back to insurance! So, have you paid your ‘premium’ this week? Last week? Last month?
If you haven’t, you have no ‘insurance’ for your career!
But personal branding is not just a ‘career insurance’. It’s much broader than that – it’s an insurance for your identity.
Why? Because personal branding need not only be about career, profession, etc. It can be about completely personal topics too. You could build your personal brand around hobbies, interests, indulgences, etc. too, far removed from your income-generating capabilities.
How would the ‘insurance’ work in a non-professional area?
Imagine yourself looking to publish a book on a non-professional topic. You think you have a good grasp of the subject and have interesting points to extend in the book. But how would you convince a publisher?
You could send your book summary and excerpts but they work on a limited basis. What if you can drive the publisher to a set of thoughts that you have been publicly sharing week after week? The prior body of online utterings join the summary and excerpt and makes a disproportionate impact in the mind of the publisher. They, together, show your seriousness and depth in the topic.
Does it mean you would get to publish your book easily? Hardly! But they would surely bolster your pitch a lot more forcefully than those who only have a summary.
Personal branding is a form of insurance. Call it ‘career insurance’ or ‘identity insurance’. But they add ‘prior context’ about you for those looking for it.
Consider another scenario: what if no one is looking for you? How can you steer opportunities towards you?
If you keep paying your premium week after week, you attract people who are interested in that topic. They remember you for the topics that you often talk about. The more strangers (you don’t know them; they think they know you, based on the limited topics you share online) remember you and associate your name with certain topics, the more the chances of them pointing a finger at you when someone else is looking for someone like you.
So, even when you are not actively looking at something, opportunities may knock on your door.
Think of when you consider insuring your life, health, house, etc. Is it when you are in trouble? Nope. You consider insurance when you have the money. When things are going well. But you consider a scenario when things could go wrong—beyond our control, after all—and plan for such a situation by insuring.
Similarly, think of personal branding when you are doing well in your chosen career, whatever it may be. You are in a well-paying job, you like what you are doing, your work-circle peers and colleagues are good… and things are generally good. This is precisely the time for you to seriously consider personal branding. Meaning: start paying your ‘premium’ periodically – daily, weekly, etc.
Like insurance, you start your work on personal branding before things (can) go wrong. Or before you realize that you need something.
From this vantage point, if I say that personal branding is like insurance, that would be akin to saying ‘brushing your teeth twice, daily, is insuring your teeth’. Or, exercising every day is insuring your overall health!
The problem is that people think that their ‘work’ would do the talking. It may, but in an incredibly busy world where people are overloaded with things to consume, you need to make your work shout to be heard.
It’s good to remember the most basic tenet of personal branding: it is not for people who already know you. It is for people who do not know you.
The former—people who already know you—is a very small group. The kind of opportunities this group can offer you is relatively limited.
The latter—people who do not know you—is infinitely larger. The kind of opportunities this group can expose you to is disproportionately larger.
So, are you ready to start paying the ‘premiums’ to insure your career and/or identity?
But do you know what the premium amount is? Meaning: Have you defined your personal brand sharply enough so that you can start saying something along those lines frequently?
Don’t know how to calculate the premium? Start here!