Have you ever thought about how you would explain this phase of our lives that we are currently going through to your children or grandchildren long after we conquer COVID-19? Scrolling through pictures, with surgical masks replacing our smiles and perhaps spotting a sanitising station point, somewhere in the background as well as archived boomerangs with the hashtag, #IGotVaccinated…

The pandemic has indeed slowed down major aspects of our daily lives. Sometimes, I find myself reminiscing about the good old, pre-corona days. However, one of the things the pandemic would never take away from us, is our ability to adapt and train our muscles to innovate and grow ourselves, in our personal lives, as well as in our careers.

Through the increased consumption of online use and access to information that could potentially help us to grow, one thing that I have seen a lot of people leverage on is setting themselves up on a great trajectory in their careers, through personal branding.

We’ve seen doctors, lawyers, thought leaders and other professionals – take their personal brands beyond just their career. This has not only exposed us to their spaces of influence but also changed and shaped how we perceive them as well. So, why is now the perfect time to not get left behind and position yourself in a way that will attract the opportunities you’d like to see manifest in your life?

We spoke to Vumile Msweli, Chief Executive Officer at Hesed Consulting and career coach about why now is the best time to birth, grow and take your personal brand to greater heights.

What is Personal Branding?

Msweli defines personal branding as the positioning, marketing and how the world perceives you as an individual. It can be intentional or unintentional and it is in essence built by every interaction. “There are two main components of personal branding. Positioning and perception. When we talk about positioning, we are referring to how you want to be perceived and placed by others. Perception is how you are seen and experienced, by other people, she explains. “Individuals such as Oprah and Beyonce are fantastic examples of this, there is consistency in experience and fulfilment of expectation when thinking or engaging their brand,” she adds.

In a conversation Olwethu Leshabane had with CEO of The Loeries and Brand Innovation, Analyst, Preetesh Sewraj, on The Sit Down, Preetesh indicated that there’s always a noise out there where people argue that an individual cannot be a brand. “As an individual, you can be a brand, and you can stand for something, regardless of which sphere it is – be it in your personal life, business life or community involvement. Think about your image and what you stand for as a brand and how you ensure that everything you do goes towards reinforcing those brand values. A lot of people focus on the brand as “people know me” – it should rather be about the fact that people know that you stand for something,” he explains.

Why You Should Not Get Left Behind.

The world of work is constantly evolving and with technology, social media, and the fast tracking of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it may seem as though personal branding in general is crucial for career growth. “We interact with the world most of the time in the digital arena. The decision to not engage online, is to not participate in 80% in the world of work,” says Msweli.

Answering the question, why is a job, not just a job in the modern world, Msweli insists that a job is still a job, but if no one knows how well you do that job, the value you bring is extinct in the modern world. “There is a reason why large corporations invest in marketing, how well they solve a particular problem, and the value they bring. The same is what individuals are doing on platforms such as LinkedIn,” she explains.

Should Your Personal Brand Be Built Separate From Your Employment?

“Your personal brand should always be built separately from the organisation. You should be marketing the services you fulfil and value you bring to the organisation and not the organisation you work for. So, you can continue to build your brand regardless of your organisation,” Msweli advises.

When it comes to being employed, it’s easy to get lost in the identity of the organisation you’re employed in. It is important to set yourself apart and still develop your personal brand outside of your specific job. “The organisation will stand and continue long after you have left it, the same should be true for yourself as a brand,” she adds. 

How Can You Rebrand If You’re Feeling Stuck Or Would Like To Further Grow Your Career?

Through her TedTalk, Msweli shared four things to keep in mind in the face of a changing world, and the uncertain future of work.

1. Bona (See): Where is your destination? What does that look like and what gaps are there between where you are and where you want to be? Use where you are to fill up those skills gaps.

2. Buza (Ask): Ask for a mentor. Someone who can use their experience to leapfrog your learning. Ask for a sponsor – someone who opens doors you cannot go into and be your advocate, giving you opportunities that you would ordinarily have no access to. Ask for a coach, someone who allows you to roll out your strategy for your career.

3. Ubuntu (I am because, we are): How are you serving mankind? How are you showing up at work that it’s more than just a paycheck? Ubuntu gives us a sense of purpose.

4. Bhadalwa (You must get paid) … because that’s how you get the nice shoes, she concludes, jokingly.

She shares the following tips if you’re feeling lost in your identity as a brand or generally feel stuck.  

·   Go back to basics. Who are you? Who do you want to be? 

·   Determine where you want to be in your career.

·   Assess how you got to this place.

·   Get help and hire a career coach.

And if you’d like to further grow and rebrand,

·   Conduct a brand audit.

·   Determine where you want your brand to be.

·   Get help and hire a career coach.

How Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome With Your Personal Brand?

Sewraj also highlighted that a lot of people think imposter syndrome is something that they experience on their own, and they don’t realise that the person next to them is also experiencing this. “I’ve been chatting with a lot of senior people who have managed to achieve amazing things and they also still sometimes feel like they got to where they are because of luck and that someday, someone would catch them out that they don’t really deserve to be where they are. One of the things you need to do to overcome imposter syndrome is owning your results. You did not get there by accident. You deserve the results you got and it’s time you recognise it,” he says.

I’ll conclude this with the words of Oprah Winfrey, “…each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.’’

 Catch more of the conversation Olwethu had with Preetesh here.