The Future Of Personal Branding Is Now. Here’s What It Means For Your Career

Personal branding is a powerful tool that allows you to advance your career while increasing your happiness at work. That’s because it’s all about aligning your authentic brand with your career activities and aspirations. And as we move into the hybrid world of work, we’re entering an exciting new phase of personal branding—Personal Branding 3.0 (PB3.0).

How did we get here?

In the beginning, personal branding was a sometimes misunderstood concept, a prediction from a leading management teacher, Tom Peters. When he published his manifesto “The Brand Called YOU” in Fast Company magazine, he talked about a future workplace where career success would be contingent upon successful personal branding. That was way back in the 20th century (1997 to be exact).

Today, personal branding is recognized by professionals as an essential career management approach and by companies as a tool for supporting, developing and advancing their talent. But the path to personal branding became ubiquitous was neither quick nor direct. In the beginning, the only people who embraced it were senior executives. After all, they’re used to being the face of their organizations. In fact, in the earliest days of personal branding, some companies started investing in increasing the visibility of their C-suite as a strategy for standing out from competitors.

Back then, many leaders and HR executives saw company-wide personal branding as a threat. They thought, “If I help my people build their brands, they’ll be poached by the competition. And besides, we have one company brand we’re building; we don’t want 10,000 individual brands out in the marketplace.”

Fast forward to Personal Branding 2.0., when senior leadership finally realized that when you invest in your people and help them align how they work with who they are, they’ll increase their performance and their loyalty to your company because of your investment in their career success and happiness.

Personal Branding 2.0 was ushered in thanks to one major milestone: LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s launch in 2003 confirmed for career-minded professionals that they are in charge of their careers, not their employers, and that in order to be successful they need to proactively manage their careers to achieve their goals.

And because LinkedIn was an online platform, this milestone also sparked the move from real world branding (which mainly took place at the office, at networking events and when presenting at conferences) to digital personal branding. PB2.0 ignited a movement to banish conformity and embrace individuality—helping organizations get the best from their people and increasing professionals’ success.

The pandemic cemented the move to the virtual world, where first impressions are formed entirely online and Zoom meetings becoming a place where professionals interact and showcase their brand.

As the pendulum has swung back to include some real-world connections, while we’ve learned to manage so many of the challenges we’ve faced because of the pandemic, the new hybrid workplace has brought us to the next frontier: PB3.0.

Personal branding is now a global phenomenon. Companies are no longer afraid of their people building their own brands; they’ve seen the light and are encouraging them to celebrate their individual strengths and integrate them into the external brand communications strategy. Digital brand stewardship is becoming a part of everyone’s job. Companies know that customers and prospective employees trust what’s shared by employees more than what’s broadcast in their official communications channels.

Best of all, this new incarnation of personal branding takes into account the significant humanity deficit at work. The rapid proliferation of tech in the workplace (including the dreaded Zoom meetings) has been paired with reduced human interaction in virtual and hybrid environments, and PB3.0 rectifies the fallout from that. In addition, the cultural importance of DEIB is perfectly aligned with the promise of personal branding, which has always embraced diversity down to the individual level. And with the workforce makeup increasingly Gen Y and Z, PB3. 0 is aligned with the workforce’s desire to be recognized for their unique contributions to the organization.

What does this mean for you? Here’s how to succeed in the environment of Personal Branding 3.0.

  • Practice the three Cs of personal branding. Be clear about your unique promise of value. Be Consistent—remain true to yourself. And Be Constant. Strong brands don’t go into hiding.
  • Get your digital brand in order. Your first impressions and your efforts to build relationships, learn and grow are all happening online. Translate the real you to the virtual world so you can capture it on the small screen.
  • Video masters. Video is the most powerful communication medium we have when we can’t be there in person—so make your synchronous communications (online meetings and presentations) compelling. On the flip side, in your asynchronous communications, use video (YouTube channels, video messages) to deliver a richer, more convincing message.
  • Be extra human. Virtual/hybrid work and new tech have created a humanity deficit. To be real and build meaningful connections, amp up the emotion, check in with others, be generous with acknowledgments and praise, and be vulnerable.
  • Deliver value. Strong brands are always visible, available and valuable to the people they seek to influence, impact and impress. Put your stamp on everything you do and deliver exceptional value always.

Personal branding has always had the potential to transform individual careers and entire corporate cultures. Thanks to the groundbreaking attitudes and aptitudes of PB3. 0, that potential is now a breathtaking new reality.

William Arruda is a keynote speakersco-founder of CareerBlast. TV and co-creator of the Personal Brand Power Audit – a complimentary quiz that helps you measure the strength of your personal brand.

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