In the world of personal branding, there are influences on your brand that you may not realize. In a post from a few weeks ago, Branding By Association, I referenced how your associates can influence how others consider you. Associating yourself with certain groups will affect how you are perceived – both positively and negatively. Today I offer that your place of employment (or school or other organization you associate yourself with) will also affect your brand.
Consider the following scenario, you work for an organization that is known to be have a strong leadership development program. When others learn that you are an employee of that company, they will associate those leadership program learnings with you. The opposite scenario is true as well. If your firm has a negative reputation (unsavory sales tactics, pushing the legal limits of the financial world, being an ambulance chaser) – it affects your personal brand. Enron, Worldcom, Madoff Investment Securities, Lehman Bros. – these firms do not have the sterling reputations you want on your resume and your brand could suffer because of them. While there is little you can do to alter the overall perception of a company or organization, knowing your brand is affected by your firm’s brand will allow you to take the following actions.
- Build the Personal Network: While your organization’s reputation may be mud, your’s does not have to be. Building your positive reputation with your network of contacts can help counter negative associations from your employer’s brand. Having influencers who can communicate with decision makers at other companies can counter a negative corporate brand. “Jack, I know Megacorp is known for shady deals, but Mary is a shining star. You should really consider her for the XYZ opening.” Building your personal profile with your contacts is very important if you are part of poor-performing division – don’t let the poor performance of the division sink you. Have your key contacts be your mouthpiece to others about your personal brand.
- Anticipate the Assumptions: If your organization is associated with certain attributes, anticipate this and use it to your advantage when possible. I work at a university that is known for its technical prowess and innovation – thus employers assume most, if not all, students are technically innovative. Knowing this, students can use that positive association to be noticed for opportunities. However, if one is not interested in pursuing technical opportunities, students at this university need to be prepared to counter the assumptions an employer will make. Anticipating assumptions is particularly important in the interviewing process where a recruiter may gloss over an item assuming you fall into a particular stereotype.
- Accentuate the Positive: Most of my post has focused on countering negative stereotypes or impressions – however, you may benefit from your former employer’s reputation as well. In this case, associate yourself with the positive attributes of the company. Was the firm known for its strong ethics? This reputation can be associated with you as well to your benefit and use this association to your advantage.
When you are building your brand, consider the effect your employer’s brand has on your personal one.
Kevin Monahan is the Associate Director of the Notre Dame Career Center. In this role, he leads the center’s employer relations efforts in addition to coaching young professionals in career management and career change capacities. He combines career consulting services with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituencies. He is the author of the Career Seeker’s Guide blog.