Career Brand Management – Strategic Approach to Your Career

Career Brand Management – Strategic Approach to Your Career

Having a list of New Year’s Resolutions? Well, how about your professional goals? Have you thought about your career in 2017?
It is time for Your Career Brand Management.

This series of articles is designed to help you create, manage, and communicate a strong career brand for professional growth and career success.

Research shows people do not spend much time on planning their professional career. And they should, because the job market changed dramatically in the last decade. People change jobs more often than in the past and have to put more effort to manage their own employability. A degree is no longer a guarantee of the career success. Many professionals work in positions that have nothing or very little to do with their academic qualifications and the career pathways became non-linear. Job market is more competitive and less secure.

So how can you succeed in the race and achieve a competitive edge in the job market?

The term career management is often used to describe workforce development programs undertaken by corporations or organizations and aimed at managing the careers of their employees. For many individuals, participation in such a program can be very beneficial. Yet, many people either are not given such an opportunity, or simply relies on company navigating their career without much planning. Often people just take a tactical approach, jump into opportunities or take immediate actions for quick payoffs. A strategic approach is focused on long-term goals, and career planning decisions.


Career Brand is a perception of someone’s work related capabilities and expertise by various audiences, most notably employers.

Career brand has two components:
– a functional component
– an emotional component

Career Brand Components


Functional component is your marketable skills. Those are generally divided into two categories:
– hard skills – Hard skills are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify. They might be specific to an industry, trade or a profession.
– soft skills – non cognitive skills or personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. They are desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on an acquired knowledge.

An emotional component is your Image. Your image is a combination of 3 elements:
– Appereance
– Behaviour
– Communication

Your image is a critical part of your career brand and has to be consistent with your functional component, and has to support your professional goals. Most importantly, both personal skills and image can be successfully self-managed and self-marketed in a strategic way.

A strong brand is one that is based on a strong skill portfolio and is reinforced by a powerful personal image.

Skills alone, are not a guarantee of success, neither is your degree nor years of experience. You need to find a way to effectively market yourself. On the other hand, heavily promoted personal image, that is not rooted in real skills, may vanish quickly.

To maintain your own employability, you need to focus on 3 areas:
– you need to assess your skills portfolio and develop those, which are necessary for career success
– you need to develop capabilities to acquire new skills on your own
– you need to market yourself effectively

But before you start working on a critical skill set, you should be able to set yourself career goals.
This brings us to the first practical exercise I have for you. Sounds simple, but often turns to be quite a challenge. Since it is a beginning of the year, I would like you to answer this question:

What is your career goal? Who would you like to be in 3, 5, 10 years career wise?
Define: What position would like to be in? What company? What industry?

If you have a clear answer for this, second question is why?
Why would you like to become that person?
Answer: What impact you would make? How your life would change? What would you achieve?

Take your time to answer those 2 critical questions, because your goal and motivation should be a driving force behind everything you do. Think, if the career goals reflect your personality and your values? Think of the steps you would need to take to reach your professional goal? Think of what would stop you from achieving your goal?

Next week we will focus on skills portfolio and skills gap analysis. I will also explain the difference between skill based and competency based job ads, and show you how to read the job ads and create CV and motivational letter, that best address the requirements, but also is a best way to market yourself.

Image of a leader – your executive presence

Image of a leader – your executive presence

Executive presence is an unwritten competency for leaders and in today’s economy, it is a must if you want to accelerate in your career. Studies* among 4000 professionals show that executive presence constitutes 25% of what it takes to get promoted and equally important skills and qualities.


If you want to be a leader, you have to look like a leader and it goes beyond the appearance. Your presence has to combine those four elements:

  • How you look
  • How you act
  • How you communicate
  • Gravitas



How you look – the appearance

Your appearance is a door to your success. Your outer presence simply reflects your qualities. Polished look, neat grooming and attention to details makes a positive impact and creates trust. You appear reliable, organized, tasteful. It is not the most important quality, but it is a good start.

How you act – behavior and nonverbal communication

The minute you walk through the door you make an impact. Your body speaks volume and before you get a chance to introduce yourself, your posture, movements and gestures are noticed. Handshake, tone of voice, face expressions adds to the first impression you make. The way you conduct yourself and your manners are part of the picture. If your body language supports what you are saying, you are doing really good.

How you communicate – verbal communication

Being able to express yourself clearly and in a nice manner, presenting facts and figures, but also being able to have small talk are a key to being listened to. If someone enjoys conversation with you, you are winning the game.

Your values – gravitas

Whether you are an entrepreneur, CEO or manager, people around you are looking for what constitutes you as a person and what brings the value to the group. They are looking for your ‘gravitas’. The ancient gravitas were authority, dignity, devotion, power and virtues.

Along with the skills required for the job, you need to be able to present your gravitas. In every action you take and word you say, people have to see those values. It is important that you emphasize your positive traits and characteristics. This what makes you stand out, and this is what constitutes a leader. Recognition of your gravitas builds a respect for you and people naturally starts being attracted to you.

If you want to be a leader you have to make people follow you, you have to appeal to them on many levels. The executive presence is a competency that you can learn.


*2012 Report made by Center for Talent Innovation (CTI)

Why your image matters?

Why your image matters?

Your image is a very first thing that is available to others and is immediately evaluated and judged. Even if you truly believe you care more for someone’s values, personality and character, you also judge others based on their appearance. It happens instantly and subconsciously. It is not about rational reasons, but about emotions and impressions. It just feels right or not.

Your image reflects who you are, not only your personality and lifestyle, but also your values and goals. It is a way of communication and says about you much more than you may think. Reflect for a minute on your image…

  • Are you easily approachable or rather to be avoided?
  • Do you appear confident or shy and timid?
  • Do you look trustworthy or irresponsible?
  • Do you appear competent and intelligent or inadequate and irrational?


There is no one right image. There is no good or bad image. There is an image that either supports or doesn’t your career and personal goals. Your image matters because it can help you accelerate in your professional and private life. And image is much more than the appearance. It is also about how you act and communicate. It matters because it is about You.



As an entrepreneur or a corporate executive, you are the business card of the company you represent. And before anyone does business with you, they must first like you and trust you. Now think, does your image and the first impression you make actually can attract people. Can it open them to you, to spend time with you, have a conversation? How likeable are you? How do you make people feel around you? How do you want them to feel?

Image matters because it is about trust. From the first impression you make, you must take responsibility for the way you are perceived. And you are the only person that is in control of it. If your outer presence reflects your qualities, then it is extremely important that your appearance supports the message of authenticity, honesty and reliability.

Image matters because it is one of the pillars of your personal branding. And if you feel confident about the appearance, you feel confident about your actions and you are more willing to take on challenges. Look good and feel good is a simple recipe for success. And it is not about the clothes you are wearing, but the general impression you make.

Image is about the outer presence, while the personal branding is all about the value. Your image is like a packaging for the product, it is either attractive or discouraging. And before people check what’s inside, they have to judge the product by its look. You have a choice to have a great packaging or a poor one. You decide what you communicate via your image. That’s why it matters…

Neuroscience of first impression

Neuroscience of first impression

Image perception and first impression creation process is somehow similar to the decision-making process when it comes to buying products. Economics Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman describes the decision making process theory in his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’.

While we would like to believe that we make decisions based on calculation of needs, price and product benefits, we actually based on our intuition and emotions. Kahneman describes two systems: System 1 is the lazy one – intuitive and emotional, the one he calls ‘a machine for jumping into conclusion’.

The conscious assessment of product features and benefits, comes later and requires effort and energy. That process is a rational system 2. As Kahneman says: ‘You generally believe your impressions and act on your desires’.

This is exactly what happens when it comes to first impression. The intuition, feelings and desires take over and we jump into conclusion. We do not have time to analyze all elements, it is the general feel that is created instantly that impacts us the most.

Similarly to packaging of the product and information the package contains. Customers rarely spend time to look at the detailed information. Our brain actively seeks information that confirms its view of the world, and if the information is not available or missing, it simply fills the gaps by making up the stories, that it can access from its own memory.

First impession cognitive systems

When it comes to first impression of someone, we base our opinion on very little information. But our brain needs to fill the gaps, so it draws conclusions to create a full picture. That picture is a result of a person’s previous experience, hence the created image might be different and is more a reflection of own beliefs, values, expectations than the reality.

The more information we have about the other person, the more contacts and interactions, the more detailed the picture is. Another important factor is time. With time we can actually think and assess the information. We suppress the first impression and feelings and we start rationalizing.

It is striking, how many resemblances it has with a buying process. The less information and time we have to make a buying decision, the more likely we are to make an intuitive, emotional purchase. The cheaper the product, the more likely we are to make the quick decision. If we are buying an expensive product like a house or a car, we take our time, we analyze and compare.

Very similarly we react to people. We heavily rely on first impression and we quickly jump into conclusions based on persons appearance and behavior. But when it comes to important matters like choosing an employee, we run an extensive process. We gather information, conduct meetings, compare and evaluate. The first impression gives us the feel, that impacts the way we perceive the candidate.  If it is positive we are more likely to interpret the other information to his or her benefit. If the impression is not positive, even best resume will not convince us.

Intuition is your sixth sense

Personal Branding

Branding is a term associated with products and services, but when we talk about personal branding, you need to understand it is all about You. And by all I mean every single detail that is associated with you. From your business attire, the look of your office to a small detail like your business card.

If you think about branding yourself, you need to start thinking strategically about your image by creating it and managing to achieve success. And by success I mean to achieve goals you set for yourself.

Building personal brand is a process, which starts with the evaluation of your current image and the way you are perceived by other people. You need to remember that you can control the way you dress, behave, communicate, but you cannot control the way people perceive it, because each person add a different meaning to your image. It is simply the matter of interpretation. That interpretation is based on a person’s experience, beliefs and values. Your image cannot be good or bad, it simply can be helpful or distracting tool to achieve your goals.

Brand and Image are sometimes used interchangeably, but I like to differentiate those two, as they relate to two different areas. Image is more visual representation of a person, while the brand has broadened meaning and is related to values and exists in the heart and the mind of your audience.

To be successful you need to be in control of your total image and every single element of it. This cannot be created against your own nature, against your values. This has to come from within and needs to be constructed on fundaments that are immanent part of you.  You can work on certain elements by focusing on developing your strengths and controlling your weaknesses and unsupportive behaviors to increase professional effectiveness and better your social life.

When planning your brand identity, you need to ask yourself; ‘what I want to tell my audience about myself, how I want to be perceived. What is my message?

Whether you are meeting business partners, new clients or going for a job interview, you need to answer those questions. The deal will be closed, new clients acquired and you get your new job if your image perceives the positive values those people are looking for. As I said, it cannot be good or bad, it simply matches your audience expectations of a perfect business partner or executive or not. So you need to realize your image and the way you are perceived is a matter of establishing trust in business relationships.

People do business with people they know, like and trust. And sometimes you have very little time to convince someone. Visual impressions are important and are part of the process of communication. You need more time to present yourself and show your value, so you need to buy yourself time.

Dave van Hose from Speaking Empire, with whom I organized a couple of events in Europe, says; ‘Show up like no other’. This is exactly the point. The first impression has to be remarkable and memorable. Be positive, confident, decisive, honest and pleasant. Gain people’s heart before you talk to their mind. If they experience you positively on an emotional level, they will be more open on intellectual level. And if you control your identity, you can control your career and your personal life.

Offline vs. Online Personal Branding

Offline vs. Online Personal Branding

If you wonder whether you have or not your personal brand, I can assure you have one. And if you wonder what it is, well… this is simply “what people are saying about you when you are not in the room”.

It is your reputation and how you are perceived by others. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a brand, you may only not be in control of it, but your appearance and behavior are constantly evaluated by people around you.

So the question is: are you managing your reputation? Do you do it proactively? Or you let other people to decide for you?

The way you dress, present yourself on the phone, what you say on your resume when applying for a job, but also how you present yourself online – via social media or personal blog – it all creates an image of you.
You need to ensure that the information about you in online world is aligned with your brand and your offline image.

Your personal brand starts offline and later can be mirrored online. If you create a great image online that is in no way close to real life, you probably won’t be able to maintain your brand. Because brand is about the values and trust. You need to be honest with yourself and present yourself in an authentic way. It is crucial to build your brand from inside out in a way it represents the best of you in a way it is relevant and meaningful to your target audience.

You should think about your branding statement, a value you want to deliver to people around you – whether on personal or professional level.
Decide who you are and what you want, what you are good and passionate about and most importantly how can you help others.

Every interaction is a branding opportunity, so you want to make the most of it. If you have a message, find a way to communicate it. To do it, you need to consider the offline world – your appearance, behavior, communication style as well as online channels. Look at your blog, Facebook, Twitter and see what your post are saying about you, what is communicated by the photos you add. What image emerges from all those channels together? Is it a consistent image, does that image support your personal and professional goals?

Fake image

„An image” means a subjective perception of a given person; it is a picture created by fragmentary and random capture of particular features and details of an appearance and behaviour, and resulting from a relation we are in with a given person.

It means that celebrities’, stars’ or politicians’ image is only a fragmentary picture created on the basis of how these people present themselves or how are presented in media – on television, in the press or on the Internet. Seldom do we have an opportunity to meet them in person and spend enough time to state that we know a given person very well.

What is a fake image then? It is an image created in a fake way, for example for the purposes of promotion of a certain art work, or a political campaign. Such falsification will be planned and consistently conducted and can be particularly successful, which can be exemplified by Andrzej Lepper’s image, who gained the position of the vice-Prime Minister wearing branded suits, expensive shoes, and even more expensive watch. This image was fake from the very beginning. It was created for the purposes of the political campaign, promoted widely in many areas, which consequently helped Samoobrona’s leader to climb the political career ladder.   

 I will refer to my definition of an image again, that is to three elements:

Appearance, behaviour and individual features

  • Appearance can be relatively easily changed – a visit at a stylist’s, hairdresser’s and make-up artist can work wonders.
  • A second step is working on non-verbal communication – also referred to as body language: mimics, gestures, posture, walk, as well as verbal one – speech, intonation, vocabulary. What is required is both the whole body training and a speech organ, classes on movement will be necessary, a bit of knowledge about acting and classes on rhetoric and voice emission (timbre, intonation, breath).
  • Finally, the last step is related to individual features which are strictly related to our personality and upbringing, and contain the whole system of values, our convictions and life attitudes. This element of the image is also associated with the knowledge and competences we gained. Since creation of this element took a number of years, it’s difficult to interfere with it and flexibly change unlike haircut or clothes. This element is the one which viewers recognise with regard to a longer meeting with another person or during a long exposure of a given person in media.

When the first element of the image is created and audience pays attention to it, we talk about extrinsic features, that somebody is elegant, neat, presents well, is classy and stylish etc.

Considering the second element, a viewer captures the attitude and the behaviour: behaves like a typical politician, statesman, is charismatic, draws attention.

When the third element is spotted, then personality traits, knowledge and skills are defined – smart, knowledgeable, able to discuss, firm or sensitive, authoritative or friendly etc.

But the consistency of all these elements provides the final picture of a given person (yet in the case of people popular in media it will be a media picture, not a real picture).

 Is it feasible to falsify an image? Yes, in particular the first and second element, the third one is a way more difficult, which can explain the success of Andrzej Lepper and his collapse. A viewer, who initially bought a new image of Samoobrona’s leader, was disappointed in the course of time.

A fake image can be built also in relations with people, when we aim to be considered somebody else. Frequently, we just attempt to do good, e.g. during a job interview. We add several details to a CV, which is supposed to present a person in a positive light, yet not necessarily real light.

Similarly, in female-male relations, we want to stand out somehow, add some additional features, underline that we know somebody who is famous or important. It is also falsifying an image because we make another person create a different perception of us.

A problem of the fake image is the fact that it is particularly hard to maintain it, which sooner or later results in its disappearance. Disappointment is directly proportional to the scale of falsification. While we can forgive one’s weakness or mistakes, a deliberate falsification cannot be easily forgiven. Therefore genuineness and consistency of an image are fundamental if one aims to achieve success, according to the rule “What you see is what you get”.

Image – definition

A word „image” has a broader meaning and denotes a subjective perception of a given person, an image created by fragmentary and random capture of particular features and details of the appearance and behaviour, and resulting from the relation in which we leave a given person. An image is a multi-layered and dynamic construct which is permanently changing. Our knowledge about a given person expands, we can notice new features, therefore our subjective perception changes, yet it is remains a mosaic of many details. However, it never is a real picture, but it serves as the point of reference in our social or professional contacts.

A particularly important element of the image is appearance, which encompasses three types of features – 1) permanent, unchangeable features, 2) relatively changeable features, and 3) easily changeable features. Height is a permanent feature, whereas hair colour, weight, posture are changeable; nevertheless, the possibility of modifying these elements is limited. What can be fully modified and changed are clothes, make-up and haircut.

Attributes of the appearance can be recognised within the first few second, and their perception creates the so-called “first impression” and determines the way of perceiving a given person for a longer period of time. The appearance is frequently understood and interpreted in the way which goes beyond the sphere of clothes, make-up and haircut. It is a carrier of information, which is not expressed directly, but associated with a certain appearance. These associations are based on stereotypical convictions related to certain elements of appearance and our tendency to drawing simple conclusions basing on the extrinsic features.       

Another element of the image is behaviour, which reveals person’s nature and personal traits. By means of speech, walk, gestures and the whole range of non-verbal signs, we learn person’s internal construction. It is not enough to spend a while in order to construe this code. It consists of a number of signs and contrary to the appearance, it is not unequivocally interpreted.

The process of perceiving another person does not only involve observation of the appearance and the behaviour, but primarily interpretation and drawing conclusions regarding intrinsic features which are not directly exposed.  

The last element of the image are individual features of personality, predispositions, competences and knowledge. These, however, take its target form in the long process of upbringing and socialisation, and are dependent on the length and quality of the process of education. They have however a considerable impact on man’s identity and the way it is perceived by our surrounding. Similarly, a family and financial status, as well as professional position will influence the assessment of the image.

In order to render the image convincing, it must be complete, consistent and real. A suitable clothes cannot make up for gaps with respect to behaviour and education, but competences devoid of a suitable appearance cannot evoke trust. Elements of the image, being in harmony and real, have a positive influence on the way of behaving and relations with the surrounding. They strengthen the sense of self-esteem and help overcome the sense of uncertainty with regard to contacts with other people.

The image is not a regular label we are provided with. Changing and reshaping it, we can have an influence on the way other people perceive us. Particular elements can be subject to transformation. Some of them can be quickly changed, others are time-consuming and require hard work and significant financial input. The most important is that all of our actions, aimed at shaping our positive image, are taken consciously, deliberately and consistently. This is the reason for taking professionals’ pieces of advice.