The Exaggerated Importance of Personal Branding

Written By: Chuck Brotman


September 6, 2022

Influencers frequently share that “building your personal brand” is really important to a job search today. The messaging typically looks something like this:

  • Getting a great job today is more “about who you know” than ever before
  • Everyone should post content and engage others on LinkedIn frequently
  • Telling personal stories matters; get your voice heard now
  • Increase your follower count and connections as a priority
  • In today’s economy, developing your own “brand” is the best guarantee of long-term career success

There’s some truth here. Over the past several years, some sales professionals have accelerated their growth by networking on platforms like LinkedIn and using it as a channel to build deeper relationships with potential employers and prospects. Many company leaders hire based on their networks; if talent is not working to expand relationships digitally, they risk losing out to less capable peers who invested more time in connections and reputation building.

That said, it’s possible to exaggerate the importance of networking to the job search, and also to lose sight of some other considerations.

Appearances can be deceiving on social networks (no surprise!). Many of those with large followings who evangelize for the importance of personal branding do so, in part, because it feeds their business. In the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of solopreneurs and side hustlers who make money either by selling ‘personal branding’ services, or by promoting this as part of a service offering. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself, but it raises questions about their ability to offer impartial advice on the topic.

Instead of focusing on your personal brand as a starting point to a job search, consider defining your career narrative and future career goals.

  1. What business or societal challenges do you feel need to be solved more today than yesterday? Why? What companies do you see solving these problems and producing uniquely important future outcomes?
  2. Which specific business roles most excite you? Do you enjoy work to create awareness and education at the top of the funnel? Great! Perhaps marketing or sales development work might be fulfilling. Or, are you at your best when working directly with customers to achieve specific outcomes using products? Then, perhaps you want to pursue Customer Success roles.
  3. Do you want to work with early-stage companies that offer opportunities to ‘wear multiple hats’ and contribute in numerous ways? Or, would you be more fulfilled in a mature organization with structured onboarding to learn a function?

Once you have nailed the roles and types of companies you want to pursue based on your experience AND passions, you’ll be in a great position to create content and build relationships digitally.

Your ‘personal brand’ becomes an OUTCOME of your intentional career focus, not a starting point. By approaching career networking in this fashion, you’re more likely to make a deeper impact and credibly find the best career opportunities in the market today.