How do you define yourself?

For many of us, it's all about what we do, where we work--our accomplishments and talents. You have a distinct personality, but often that can be lost or jumbled together with your job or the role assigned to you. However, in 2019, it's more important than ever that you define your personal brand as more than just a title or a job function.

Here's why.

Defining who you are is the most important differentiator you can make, and you have to avoid the trap of matching a job description. You have to work hard to make sure you are not pigeonholed by a boss simply because that helps the company the most or makes you part of an overall team. Sadly, letting someone else define you is going to become a recipe for disaster because it also makes you interchangeable and dispensable.

What works much better is for you to be the one who defines your personal brand, not anyone else. And a personal brand is about more than just a list of talents or unique attributes. It's about more than developing a few skills and creating a nice resume.

At the start of 2019, think about what defines you as a person, and don't limit yourself to a job description or a job function. Are you a people person? Analytical? Brilliant and insightful? A math whiz? OK, now broaden out and become more than that.

The concept of personal brand has been around a while, but from what I've seen, many people don't really define themselves holistically. They see themselves as a salesperson, or a writer, or a social media guru, or an accountant. Big mistake. In the current job market, where multiple skills and talents take you further than a deep dive (or you might say rabbit trail) into one specific area, you have to stay open-minded.

Those who stay specific will find they are not as valuable.

Here's what I mean by that. In my role mentoring college students, the ones who have the best chances of finding an amazing career someday are those who define themselves as multitalented, multiskilled, and open to any challenge. They stand out not because they are generalists who can do a few things with some proficiency but because they avoid being pigeonholed and can take on just about any task. They are really good at many things. They are highly employable, and they will have long, successful careers.

What separates them the most is that they have a rich, fully realized concept of their own identity and their own talents. By the way, this is the opposite of what it takes to build a successful company or brand. In marketing, you want to focus on the differentiators and the highly compelling attributes of a product. That's because customers choose specifics. But employers, more and more, will be looking for the multitalented. 

With a personal brand, you want to differentiate yourself by being absolutely amazing at everything. I like to tell young writers that the best way to have a successful writing career is to be perfect at everything--billing, relationships, grammar, insight, product research, social media. No pressure, right? I believe this applies to the workplace and to every person--become a genius at everything. Read six or eight books at a time. Explore a variety of fields and genres. Push yourself to grow as a person in all areas.

What's the alternative?

Some "career coaches" will tell you to specialize. I believe this is woefully misguided advice. When you are so specific, you will probably find a good job and will stay with that job a long time, but you won't really advance too far. Your personal brand will be stunted, you won't grow, and you won't explore new ideas. You'll also get really bored.

I wrote about this topic of career diversification not long ago, and within a day or two about 100 people wrote in to say they were stuck and bored. My advice to them at the time and my advice to you: Get out of the box. Redefine yourself in 2019 as someone who is open to exploring any new area, who can take on any task, and can excel at just about anything.

Published on: Jan 7, 2019