I get the pleasure of working with professionals all over the world, helping them to build their personal brands. It’s a real honor to work with some of the highest caliber people anywhere on the planet and I get asked a lot of questions in the process.
One important question I get asked on a regular basis is this:
“Rachel, how can I share my authentic voice and personal brand while I’m working for a company? I’m not always in 100% alignment with some of the company’s interests and I’m concerned that sharing my real, genuine self might not go over well and get me into trouble.”
It’s a fantastic question and super relevant right now. I know exactly how it feels too.
I’ve had my fair share of hobbies, personal interests and side hustles that may or may not have been toeing the company line. I worried about what my colleagues and (of course) management might think of my personal life outside work. In fact, it’s a large part of why I left the corporate world. I felt throttled and unable to share my authentic voice. Ultimately it just wasn’t worth it and I personally don’t think any job or company is worth sacrificing our core values and purpose.
But… You got bills to pay just like everyone else and it might not be a convenient time for you to drop your two week notice. I totally get it. You have to find that delicate balance to continue your personal journey throughout your professional journey.
So what can to do to stay out of hot water with your employer, especially in this super exposed age of digital and social media?
Here are my 5 ways to protect your personal brand and be an awesome employee:
1 – Find Your Voice and Know the Rules
Speaking of social media – you absolutely have to be mindful of your company’s social media policies. No kidding, this one is huge. If you don’t know what they are or if your company has them, seriously drop what you’re doing and ask your supervisor or manager. You get to find your voice and share what you care about while being mindful of the company policies. This is about quality content that shows your expertise and passion versus over sharing that doesn’t support your professional goals.
Look, I know you want to post that EPIC pic of you and your friends at never ending Mai Tai night, but especially if you work for a socially conservative company or brand, I wouldn’t suggest it. ( I know, I know it was EPIC, but still!)
2 – Protect Yourself
Next check your profiles and your posts and be certain to include a disclaimer. Something like “My thoughts and viewpoints are my own and not in any way related to the company I work for.” Say it in your profile, when you’re speaking at an event, sing it loud and clear to protect your voice. You need to make sure that all throughout your content people fully understand that no matter your viewpoint it’s You vs. Company X.
3 – Less is More
Make it a point to talk to your manager or even potentially your Ombudsman to make sure you know their rules. It’s way better for you to know the obstacles or restrictions, so you can play at the edge of your company’s comfort zone because at the end of the day your voice matters! Your sharing is actually a critical part of your employer’s branding.
Know that in a social media driven world, less is more. When you’re working for a company, whether you like it or not, you’re representing them and their brand’s mission at all times so be mindful of that. I mean they’re paying your salary, so it pays for you to be smart and careful.
As long as you’re working “for the man” you’ll have to think before you speak. Although these days even if you do work for yourself or own your own company it still pays dividends to choose your words and posts carefully. (But at least in that case you probably won’t get fired for speaking your truth!)
Also, consider how you use your social channels. These days they’re a huge part of showing who you are to the world in all your quirky, multifaceted glory.
Case in point –
I was giving a workshop to Kristina Cleary’s Women’s Group called Velocity recently and discovered that one of the women had several degrees in finance and accounting, which is great right? Then she shared that she also owned (wait for it…) an alpaca farm! I was like wait, what?
How amazing and slightly bizarre is that? And it’s not something she’d shared on her social media so I told her there were different places to share different parts of her personality and life. I suggested LinkedIn to help build her thought leadership and credibility in the world of finance, along with a small part of her personal life. I also told her that Instagram could be the other side of her social equation where she could share a lot more about her lifestyle and personal interests and that rockin’ alpaca farm!
This is the exact strategy I used to transition out of my corporate life. I used Instagram and Clubhouse to share my personal interests and find an audience outside of my 9 to 5 and I continued to use LinkedIn to build my authority, advocate for my company and share my expertise as a brand marketer.
4 – Leverage, Leverage, Leverage
It’s all in how you use the specific platforms for the best leverage.
So, about leverage… no matter what kind of company you work for, leverage their company name. Don’t play the victim and sulk in silence if their values don’t exactly align with yours. Instead figure out how you can truly advocate for the company and represent them so it builds your personal brand AND the company brand.
Here’s what I mean: I used to work for Microsoft. It was interesting, but as you can imagine super difficult to stand out or promote your personal brand in a giant international corporate conglomerate.
So I hatched a little plan for myself.
I decided to become the “go to” person for ANYTHING related to social media in the Microsoft Partner world.
I took ANY and every chance to be on any of their social channels and I mean every single chance I got.
When they launched the Microsoft Partner Network podcast, I grabbed it by the reins and took ownership of it and even asked to be the host. Thanks to my advocacy and eagerness to further their social media, they let me be the host! It was a HUGE step in getting more exposure inside the company and out, while helping me build MY brand and promoting the company. Win win!
Finally if there’s ONE single takeaway from this article it’s this:
5 – Be Authentic, Be YOU (Always!)
Always be YOU. Don’t lose yourself in the muck of corporate culture. If you genuinely feel handcuffed and suffocated because of the company you work for… I highly suggest finding another company who’s more aligned with your values and brands.
It might seem like a daunting idea but hear me out. We’re living in a pretty strange time right now. COVID has upset the corporate apple cart (hopefully for good!)
You, as a talented professional are in HIGH demand. More people have quit their jobs or gone elsewhere for a better fit than at any other time in history. Finally companies are having to adjust to employee’s needs as opposed to their own, especially when looking for top talent.
The rules are changing rapidly and you have more power and control over your own career path and journey than ever before.
Look, if you hate healthcare, but you’re working at a healthcare company because it’s a decent job… stop the madness!
It’s time for you to take full control of your personal brand and mission. If you hate where you’re working, get out there and find a company that shares your personal values, your brand, and your ideals.
I promise it’s out there.
If you’re wanting some more tactical support in building your personal brand strategy and wondering about Facebook, don’t miss our November 16th event at 10:30amCST. Register Below!