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Employee vs. Personal Branding Mindset on the Job

Personal branding experts agree that it is important to stand out: You need to be visible so that people know you have something unique to offer on the job. Standing out doesn’t mean that you don’t get along with coworkers or that you don’t fit in.

But standing out means that your let your skills and personality — your uniqueness — shine through. In the days of factory jobs and typing pools, fitting in was critical to keeping your job. These days, times have drastically changed.

Renowned business author, futurist, and speaker Tom Peters says in “The Brand Called You” in Fast Company magazine, August 31, 1997:

You’re hired, you report to work, you join a team — and you immediately start figuring out how to deliver value to the customer. Along the way, you learn stuff, develop your skills, hone your abilities, move from project to project.
And if you’re really smart, you figure out how to distinguish yourself from all the other very smart people walking around with $1,500 suits, high-powered laptops, and well-polished resumes. Along the way, if you’re really smart, you figure out what it takes to create a distinctive role for yourself — you create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You.

The employee mindset is all about fitting in; the personal branding mindset is about standing out from the crowd and more closely resembles how an entrepreneur looks at her work. These mindsets are outlined in the table.

When you initially peruse the table, it may be scary to think that the ways of the workplace are changing so quickly. The Chinese character for crisis is a combination of the symbol for danger and the symbol for opportunity. By being proactive in the self-management of your career, you can charge forward with opportunity.

The Employee Versus Personal Branding Mindset
The Employee Mindset The Personal Branding Mindset
Blending in Having a distinct personal identity
Seeking job security Seeking employability security (the ability to find work)
Sticking to a linear, predictable career path Looking for the next career opportunity; being open to alternate paths
Emphasizing company loyalty Focusing on loyalty to a project, to your profession, to your coworkers, and to yourself
Striving for career success Aiming for work/life balance (holistic life success)
Being a “company person" (merging your identity with your company values) Understanding how you and your personal brand fit in with your company’s work culture
Relying on academic degrees to open doors Building on lifelong learning
Seeking a particular position or title Showcasing your competencies
Depending on full-time employment Embracing fluid, "gig" employment — Hollywood style
Hoping for a single job to carry you through your career Knowing you’ll have multiple positions in your work life
Creating an externally driven career Creating a self-driven career
Waiting for annual reviews to see how you’re succeeding Gauging success based on your own personal career strategy
Playing office politics to get ahead Building relationships on trust and authenticity
Holding a labeled, stagnant title “Labeling” yourself with an ever-evolving personal brand
Fitting in to a boss/employee hierarchy Understanding the complex web of ever-changing reporting relationships
Working on a project that someone else owns Taking personal ownership of everything you do
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