December 2017

Demystifying personal brand for resources professionals

  • By Dave Yeates, Design Thinking and Digital Strategist, D.Why

The importance of building and maintaining your own personal brand

Perhaps the best way to start explaining what personal brand is, and why it is important, is by sharing a personal anecdote.

I once stepped into an elevator with a famous musician. I was startled and managed a smile and a nod to him as we stepped inside. My wife, oblivious to this person’s fame, said ‘Hi!’ and followed up with some elevator small talk. As the musician disembarked at his floor and the doors shut, I looked at my wife in expectation: ‘Do you know who that was?’

When discussing personal brand, it helps to have that simple question in mind: do people know who you are?

Personal brand applies to every professional in the working world – including those who work in the mining industry. When there is an appreciation of just how much a career can be developed and accelerated by taking control of that personal brand, it can help people rethink how they invest in it. A well-established personal brand can prove pivotal in finding new work, gaining the attention of your superiors or becoming recognised and acknowledged for your own technical expertise.

For technical professionals, it would be reasonable to expect a level of scepticism and criticism on this topic. For individuals focussed on best practice and the continuous development of skills and knowledge, a conversation about ‘personal brand’ precipitates questions that may make them feel vulnerable, such as:

  • ‘How many followers do I have?’
  • ‘How famous am I?’
  • ‘How often do I speak in public?’

The pursuit of a ‘personal brand’ may seem overly self-serving; but let me reassure you: None of the ‘metrics’ associated with a successful public profile are linchpins in building a personal brand that can help you in your
own career.

My wife had no idea who that person in the elevator was. And that’s OK. Because to me, that guy was special – important even. So, the next time you’re weighing up whether your personal brand is important, remember this: your partner may not recognise the people you look up to. But a crucial question to keep in mind is: what are you going to do for the small group of people who might be looking
up to you?

As further explanation of how to build a strong personal brand, and why it is important, allow me to deconstruct some myths.

Myth #1. You have to be famous or important

The funny thing with famous people is that, once upon a time, they weren’t. At a certain point in their career
– some before their ‘big break’ and others afterward – they chose to invest in a personal brand that would ensure they were noticeable, memorable and interesting. Yes, celebrities do have strong personal brands; but they are not alone. Stop thinking about celebrities and start to think about interesting people in your own industry. What makes them interesting? It’s not about being famous, rich or important – it’s about being remembered for something.

Myth #2. You need a high-profile, successful career

Well, if it’s not fame, then it’s success? Right? Wrong. The personal brand of a professional in the resources industry exists whether you’re a first year graduate or a technical expert with 40 years’ experience. It’s the product of you ‘doing your thing’. The difference between those with a powerful brand, and those with none at all, is the conscious decision to invest in it. This requires an investment of time, resources and risk-taking. It’s not about a high-flying career; just find your audience and be interesting to those you wish to influence or impress.

Myth #3. You have to be a millennial (with Instagram)

Personal branding has been around long before Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. You don’t need to be a tech-savvy, whimsical millennial who likes to travel the world and not commit to anything. While social media is beneficial in building connections and audiences, it is not the be all and end all of personal brand. In fact, a resources professional might instead build a profoundly powerful personal brand by simply showing up to every industry event and technical meeting. Capture attention and provide your audience with the gems they need from you. Do this and your age and proclivity to use Instagram becomes secondary.

Myth #4. You can’t be yourself

Some clever people have managed to build extraordinary careers out of caricatures of their lives or personalities. But that work and that commitment takes serious effort made possible by the talented few. A strong personal brand may be more easily built around a genuine and interesting personality. Again, think about the people you know, or know of, in your industry – people you might not call celebrities, but who maintain their own professional profile and respect across their industry. Who are they? What makes them interesting? What makes them known and respected? Chances are they have strong sense of self-belief, and are good at combining their best work with a personality that people want to get to know.

Myth #5. You need to be a speaker, author or entrepreneur

Some of the most powerful personal brands in the world are the senior executives in the corporations around us. They’ve built excellence into their career by delivering value consistently, invested in their profile, become interesting and noticeable in some way and have used all of those things to ensure people value their thoughts, opinions and insights in the workplace. Professionals don’t have to be keynote speakers or entrepreneurs to have a personal brand. You already have one.

Summary

Here are some key points to remember when thinking about your own personal brand:

  • it’s not about being famous, it’s about being remembered
  • it’s not about a high-flying career, just be interesting to someone
  • focus on the audience, let the channels choose themselves
  • capture attention and give your audience the gems they need from you
  • combine your best work with a personality that people want to get to know
  • be yourself
  • invest in your profile.

It is worth thinking about your own personal brand and the sphere of influence you command today. Where do you do excellent work? Where are people listening to you? Where do you need to grow, both in expertise, and in profile?

Beginning with these questions will give you a solid starting point to commence developing and investing in your own personal brand.

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