Personal Branding and Your Career
Every security professional should plan their career objectives and develop a broad range of experience and competencies. This is a proven method for achieving your career goals. Development of a personal brand is equally important and should occur simultaneously. It will positively affect both your reputation and your marketability.
Personal branding is a complex topic, so I will divide it into two segments. In this month’s first installment, I will discuss the basic underpinnings of branding: what it is, what good brands have in common, how to define yourself and develop your brand, and the overall importance of branding and its relevance today.
What Does Personal Branding Mean?
Branding is an image created in someone’s mind. It is both the tangible and intangible characteristics of a product or service that make it unique. Products associated with good brands are regularly chosen over similar non-brand products because the branded item is perceived as being better or more valuable.
When you face a choice between a name brand and an off-brand in a store, which item will you choose? Even when there are price differences that favor the off-brand, recognized brands are more often chosen because of their implied value.
Branding is not just for products anymore, nor has it been for quite some time. Yet it is still one of the most under-developed marketing tools security job seekers continue to neglect.
Consider the way major sports, entertainment and political figures have branded themselves. Establish a similar career brand for yourself by starting your own business: “Me, Inc.”
What Do Good Brands Have in Common?
A brand is a tool used in business to describe all the information or perceptions that relate to the product or service. Really good brands bring certain expectations to mind just by viewing their logo or company name. For instance, Starbucks or Tim Hortons – specialty coffee; Walmart – lower prices; Apple – electronics. You associate these concepts, thoughts and images with each of the brands because each company has established perception through effective branding.
Define Yourself and Your Brand
Developing a personal brand helps to define who you are, what you are about and helps clarify for an employer why they should hire you. It is a way of associating quality and value with you.
Branding yourself is not about getting an employer to select you above your competition. Rather, it is a way to cause the potential employer to see you as the only solution to the problem they are trying to solve or as the successful candidate for the security job they are trying to fill.
Branding is Relevant Today
While the concept of personal branding is not new, it remains important and relevant. Trust is essential in the corporate world and especially within the security profession. People want to do business with, support, hire and promote people they both know and feel good about.
People change jobs an average of eight times during their careers. A strong, personal brand can carry over with you from employer to employer. If your brand portrays you as an ethical, adaptable, hard-working individual, that may give you access to roles that are different than ones you’ve had previously.
Branding can also positively impact how you deal with the changes in how people communicate. Positive first impressions still count and are harder to achieve if your first exchange with a potential employer is by email or if an initial interview is by telephone.
Many security practitioners spend their professional lives trying not to draw attention to themselves. The idea of developing a personal brand and putting it out there for the world to see may be counterintuitive to the nature of the profession. It is important to get the balance right. You require appropriate, effective branding without appearing narcissistic or self-aggrandizing.
In next month’s column, I will address the specific steps you can take to build your personal brand, including the use of technology and metrics.
About the Columnist
Jerry Brennan is CEO of the Security Management Resources Group of Companies (www.smrgroup.com), the leading global executive search practice focused exclusively on corporate and information security positions.