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What You Don't Understand About Personal Branding

The CEO of Mightybell argues your personal brand is probably built on a very shaky foundation and suggests a trick to shore it up.
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Creating a great personal brand, expert after expert will tell you, starts with knowing yourself. Here's a representative quote from author Dan Schawbel from a Personal Branding 101 post he wrote: "Brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision, and personal brand statement."

Who could possibly argue with self-knowledge? Everyone, down to a host of ancient sages, agrees that it is the cornerstone of the life well lived, but at least one personal branding expert is quibbling with how we go about acquiring this self-knowledge. On LinkedIn Influencer, Mightybell CEO Gina Bianchini, recently argued that most of us have the wrong approach when it comes to assembling this essential foundation for a solid personal brand.

Against Navel Gazing

According to Schawbel, reflection is the route to really knowing your own skills, passions and goals. But Bianchini isn't so sure. Why not? Most of us are terrible at judging our own character and abilities. "Personal branding is one thing that you just can't do well on your own. You are too close to it," she notes.

Whether you suffer the effects of the Dunning-Kruger effect and doubt your competency despite your high relative skill level (psychologists have proven common sense right: the least skilled are generally the most confident; the highly able are the most self critical) or have fallen prey to other common delusions (no, you really can't multitask), most of us are either too humble or too confused to be good judges of our best selling points.

Send Out a Survey

So what's the solution? Bianchini recommends that tried-and-tested method of market research, the survey. You can do this informally simply by phoning a few friends and asking them questions like 'What do you see as my superpower?' or 'What is the most memorable thing about me?' Or, if that's just too weird (or if your friends are too nice to give it to you straight), technology can make the exchange a little less strange and get your nearest and dearest to spill the real dirt on your skills.

"Recruit your friend to set up a SurveyMonkey," Bianchini suggests. "Then have your friend randomly select people in your address book to interview live on the phone. Have your friend stress anonymity. The key is that their answers won't be attributable to them. Your friend can compile the results and then share them with you." In exchange, don't forget to take that friend out for a meal or a drink, she stresses.

Does all this sound a little awkward? If so, fear not. Being a little uncomfortable is a sign that you're getting real, close-to-the-bone intel on your competencies and character. "At first, great personal branding will feel a bit uncomfortable. Why? Because you are extremely close to all the things that you want to do," writes Bianchini, but push through your doubts, and your personal brand will be the stronger for it, she insists.

Would you consider giving Bianchini's idea a try?

 

IMAGE: snbphotography / Flickr.com
Last updated: Jul 31, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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