In a recent workshop, collegiate student-athletes were learning about the concept of one’s “Personal Brand”. This is not to suggest people should view themselves as a product like TIDE or a service such as the one provided by UPS, nor should they begin to refer to themselves in the third person. During the session, the definition of “Personal Brand” that was used was “The complete image portrayed by the individual and the perception others have of the individual.” Some attendees confused Reputation with Personal Brand – a common mistake – the differentiating factor is that one’s brand is defined by internal and external forces whereas reputation is an externally determined view of an individual.

That got everyone talking. What are the internal controls one has over one’s “Personal Brand”?

Internal Control

What do you do well? What skills do you have? What separates you from others? What differentiates you? What do you enjoy? In what areas do you excel? What do you think others would say about you? How would you like to be perceived?

These questions can help one begin to define what skills one has to offer an employer, areas that are of personal interest, and how an individual is unique/different from others (i.e. how can you differentiate yourself from the others who have a similar background). Holding a college degree is not enough in today’s job marketplace. One has to be able to define what one “brings to the table” to an employer or client in order to set oneself apart.

How do you dress? Is it reflective of how you wish to be perceived? Is your clothing, hair style, accessories out-of-date?

In 2011, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling starred in a movie entitled Crazy, Stupid, Love. In an early scene, Gosling tries to help Carell update his fashion. The scene may be difficult to watch because it may hit close to home for many of us. After dissecting Carell’s wardrobe and haircut, Gosling asked when Carell lost his manhood. “A good case can be made for 1984” was Carell’s response. Many of us fall victim to a certain time period of clothing and accessories, this can have a negative effect on one’s outwardly image.

Is your look dated? Facial hair, haircut, glasses – are they classic or circa 1984? Are you still trying to rock the same look from your senior year of college? Please know I am not implying that you need to dress in the latest styles or have trendy eyewear to make yourself more employable. Flash on the surface will not hide a candidate’s lack of depth. Still, a first impression is important. If your suit is dated – the employer may think your job skills may be dated as well. If your sideburns and mustache look like they belong to cast of Anchorman, an employer may think you operate other parts of your life (i.e. your job) like it was the mid-1970s.

Are you still using a velcro wallet? Enough said.

What are you saying about yourself online? What impression do you give others when they see your activity on the internet? Does your LinkedIn account reflect the career you want or career you currently have? The skills and differentiating factors you identified earlier – are they communicated on your profile? Have you Googled yourself?

I love when I work with young professionals who tell me they are innovative and savvy with social media technology. We go online to view how they are presenting themselves to the world. Often, the LinkedIn profile reflects the jobs they held in the past as opposed to careers they would like to have, the Twitter account is about personal messages between friends (often including questionable content), and they have no presence at all on professional discussion group threads. In short, they see themselves as leaders in social media, but their online presence does not reflect the image they wish to portray.

In today’s world of online presence, you must be sure your online reputation matches the message you portray in a resume and cover letter. Use your LinkedIn summary to communicate where you want to go (the next job, how you wish to be seen, what separates your business from others), contribute solid content on professional discussion boards; follow other industry experts via social media outlets to stay abreast of trends. In short, your application materials are no longer just a resume and cover letter. You must be sure your online profile matches the image you portray in your resume, cover letter and interviews.

You have some control over your Personal Brand. Take charge of these internal controls and work to ensure you put into action what you claim in your brand. If you take care of these pieces, the external reputation piece will follow and complete your Personal Brand.


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.