Identity Evolution: As we grow, our personal brand grows with us

Last week, we reframed the concept of personal branding. It’s not about creating a fake persona, but rather about aligning who you are with what people experience when they interact with or hear about you. If you missed it, you can read more here.

As we develop our understanding of personal branding further, it’s important to know that personal branding is not a one-time exercise. As you develop, learn and advance in your career, your identity – who you are – will adapt to changing circumstances, and evolve as your skill set expands. If your brand is going to remain authentic, then it needs to evolve in line with your personal growth.

The ideal time for a personal brand evaluation

Transition points in your career are obvious moments for a personal brand tune up. Take the most common career transition point as an example: promotion. When you’re an individual contributor, you will likely want to position yourself as a ‘doer’: as the person management can rely on to make things happen. When you secure a promotion, this should trigger a transition. Now, you will want to reprioritize your strengths, to move from ‘doing things’, to ‘getting things done’: to being a leader who can inspire their team to action, and manage relationships effectively.

As you progress, the strengths that were critical to your previous success may become less important. These skills don’t go away, they just take a back seat to make way for the strengths that will serve you, your team, and your organization best in your current position. 

The nuances of personal branding

There’s an inherent conflict in the notion of adapting your brand at transition points. Career progression takes you to the edge of your comfort zone, triggering a process of learning and developing the qualities, attitudes or capabilities that your new role requires. In the early stages of transition to a new role, or indeed a more significant career change, you will be likely thrown into the unfamiliar territory of feeling consciously incompetent.  This is where it’s important to remember that your personal brand should reflect the best version of yourself. Rather than letting the whole world know you feel out of your depth, instead show the world your self-efficacy – your belief in your ability to succeed, even if it’s unchartered territory – and your enthusiasm for learning whatever is required of you now.

You’ll still be carrying your existing personal brand with you into this new role, so you’ll need to formulate a strategy: Do you want to make a disconnect at this point and make immediate changes to what you’re portraying on the surface? Or do you want to hold off until you feel like your new skills are honed enough to be considered an authentic part of you?

This is where another nuance of personal branding becomes important. Your personal brand is not ONLY about who you are (your authentic self), but it’s also about what’s appropriate to your role and status within your organization. Many people miss this aspect of creating their personal brand, particularly after a promotion or role change. It’s for this reason that I am so often called on by clients to coach and train on Executive Presence. Look around at people you admire and respect in your own organization and you’ll probably notice that their behavior, style, speech etc. align well with their position and responsibilities within the company.

Embrace your personal evolution

To build a successful personal brand, you need to have a solid grasp on your identity, and embrace the evolution. Give yourself permission to let your old strengths go, to grow into your new role, and focus on what really adds value in the here and now. You may have some work to do if you realize that the skills that will add the most value aren’t in your arsenal yet, but that’s all part of your personal evolution.

Personal branding is about knowing yourself, and pulling the right levers according to your circumstances to position yourself for success. If you can successfully navigate that internal identity shift, and embrace your new circumstances, then how you are presenting yourself to the world will be much easier to manage, and your personal brand will stay authentic as you grow.

Are you facing a transition point in your career? Do you feel like your personal brand needs some fine tuning? We can help. Contact us.