You have a personal brand. Is it by design? Or default?

I used to hate the idea of personal branding. I associated it with social media influencers who use overly styled images and cliché messages to attract a fan-base. I was too authentic for that(!) and didn’t want to share a one-dimensional version of myself for someone’s consumption. I resisted the nudges from Internet Authorities to develop my personal brand because I wanted to preserve an authentic and elusive identity.

While I commend my need for self-preservation, I also sound reminiscent of a high school “player.” They also want to be elusive and hard to figure out. Or maybe that’s not their goal, but it’s how they behave and acquire a reputation by default. Keywords: BY DEFAULT.

I’ve spent a decade in recruitment to discover that you actually can’t avoid a personal brand and WILL inherit one by default if you don’t intentionally create one. At least, not when it comes to your career and resume. Your brand is either intentional and cohesive or random and haphazard. You either choose to share your career thoughtfully and in prioritization of what matters to you and the companies you want to join, or you just accumulate jobs and bullet points on a resume that spill over onto multiple pages.

What if we replace “personal brand” with “core values”? It re-frames the idea of authenticity. Frankly, the woman who wanted to be elusive and resist personal branding just didn’t know who she was, and she was unconsciously defensive about it. Authenticity isn’t vague and unidentifiable; it’s a way of communicating what’s important with actions that are congruent with those core values.

Your resume reflects those core values in the career choices you’ve made over time, so if you say “I value loyalty” but you’ve held 6 jobs in 5 years, hiring managers are unlikely to find that plausible. That’s not to say life doesn’t happen and there are usually good reasons for transitions, so it’s important you tell us why you’ve moved around. I preach about that in my resume class. (Check it out here:

Keep in mind, 1st impressions inform decisions around offers, so your personal brand is not only important for landing interviews, but how you position yourself for an exciting offer.

With so much uncertainty right now, take comfort in what you can control. Decide how you can make the best possible 1st impression with employers online and through your resume. Reflect on your personal brand. Is it clear? What does it say about you? Is it appealing to your ideal, potential employers? If you want to drink the Kool-aid and become intentional about your marketability, start here:

  • Extract the decisions you’ve made on your resume, e.g., why you chose the area of study you did, why you moved from job to job. What do those decisions say about your “Why,” your core values?

  • Does the presentation of your resume (how it’s written, how you made use of the page, if you have typos, chose to include everything across your career or only what’s relevant) reflect intentionality and self-awareness?

  • Is your online presence consistent with the quality of your resume? Your personal brand bleeds into every aspect of your life – virtual and in-person, so take stock of your brand everywhere.