12 Reasons why you may not be focusing on "Personal Branding"

In simple terms – a brand is a promise that you make to the world. So, since you keep making promises to the world anyway, whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand. Whether it’s effective or not depends on how much time and energy you put in your own growth and in building your personal brand. At the outset, it seems like it’s a “no-brainer” to invest in yourself and in your personal brand. When I started probing further to find out why very few people invest in this journey, I discovered a few things. This article is my attempt to highlight some of those reasons.

1. Culture

I was born and brought up in India and was almost “trained” to be humble. My parents didn’t want me to get carried away by anything that I thought was an achievement. I would always be told that bigger things are yet to come and I should continue to work hard. Every achievement was a stepping stone. So, celebrating moderate successes was not an option. I don’t blame anyone but that’s the way life was. Everyone around us were doing the same thing to their kids. The culture was to not make a big deal about every other success. That in itself is not a problem but growing up, you get used to what you learn when you are young. You take it to another extreme and not make a big deal about any of your achievements. Hence, personal branding takes a back seat.

Having lived and worked in five different countries other than India and United States, I can say that what I talked about culture is not unique to India alone. There are many other places where humility is taken to an extreme.

2. Borrowing brand power and getting used to it

Last month I was in India and spoke at several companies. I got to meet a number of software professionals as a group and also got to talk to some of them 1-1. A simple question like “What do you do” would almost elicit a standard response from many young folks there – something like “I work for IBM” or “I work for Infosys”

It was almost as if they didn’t want to go into the details of what exactly they do but they were just proud that they were working for a respectable company such as IBM or Infosys. Hats off to those companies for making their employees feel that way. It takes a lot of hard work.

While I agree that you should be proud of who you work for, you should not get carried away to permanently borrow your company’s brand. You will get used to it. How about making sure that your company is also proud of the fact that you are working for them? That will be the beginnings of building a personal brand.

3. Don’t want to “show off”

Personal branding and “showing off” are different. Many people that I talk to don’t want to “show off” and since they can’t really make out the difference, they put off building their personal brand. For now, think of “showing off” as being in the lowest (or negative) end of the “Personal Branding” scale.

4. Lack of Training

I have not seen “Personal Branding” as a subject that is being taught anywhere. There are not many classes that are out there that cover this topic. So, the quick way is to go and figure it out yourself by reading books, blogs, mentors and other resources. I am confident that with training, it gets easier to build a personal brand. The bigger problem though is “What would motivate you to look for that training?”

5. No short-term benefits

When you say it takes nine months for a baby from concept to completion 🙂 nobody has a problem. When it takes years for a tree to bear fruits, again nobody has a problem. However, if I say it takes years before you see benefits from a personal branding exercise people somehow don’t like that idea. There are a number of things that may yield “short-term benefits” but personal branding is not one of them.

6. Not a requirement to succeed

If you look at any job application, you will see that they don’t typically look for the strength of your personal brand. It is not a requirement to succeed in life. However, if you want to thrive then the game is different. The rules are different.

Personal branding can accelerate your journey there. Many times we look at things that are required to succeed and not focus on things that are required to thrive. No wonder they say “Good is the enemy of the Best.”

7. Not comfortable with lot of attention

I have met so many people who are extremely successful but don’t want the attention that comes with personal branding. They don’t want to talk to the press, give intereviews, share their stories – they just want to lead a good life. This is a valid reason and if you are one of them, it’s easy to understand why the personal branding journey is not for you.

8. Fear of losing friends

I have heard this several times. There are some people in your life who will disappear if you are not one of them. Once you start focusing personal branding, there is no option but to grow. If your friends are not growing as fast as you are growing, chances are that some of them will be not uncomfortable with you anymore. You may be perfectly OK to continue your friendship with them but friendship is not a one-way street. So, rather than suffering that loss, you might as well go slow on the personal branding journey a bit is what you think.

9. It’s hard work!

Yes, I have heard this reason too. You may already be working nights and weekends in your job. It may be taxing on you and your family to take on this journey. This is perfectly understandable. Although, I have to say that personal branding is not hard work if you establish the right configurations and get high leverage on everything that you do. Well, that’s a separate discussion for some other time.

10. Don’t think it’s important

You just don’t think that personal branding is important. You have heard about it from different sources and read about it but you are not sold on the fact that you need to put in time and energy towards this.

11. No time!

You are swamped with work and you have absolutely no time to devote to this exercise. When you get done with your immediate projects, you plan to look into this in detail.

12. Not having enough accomplishments!

Personal branding is of no use if you don’t have the “stuff” to support your promise. It is important for you to GROW and BECOME that someone that is worth creating a personal brand for. An entrepreneur can build a personal brand for himself provided he has some valued accomplishments in building successful companies. It looks obvious – but I have seen many people trying to build a brand that is out of sync with the speed at which they are growing. It is almost similar to trying to build a super structure on a foundation that can hold only a single family home. Won’t work 🙁

Of course, as always – this list is not complete. This is compiled from my observations and interactions with a few people during my speaking engagements.