How NOT to brand yourself.

Reblogged by Keith Dickinson



If Famous People Branded Themselves Like We Do

by Liz Ryan 


June 29, 2013 


My daughter is with her friends in LA this week, taking in a Beyonce concert and doing whatever unsupervised 19-year-olds do. It’s a good thing Beyonce has never been to a corporate outplacement workshop or sat down with a traditional career coach, or she might brand herself

“Self-motivated dancer, singer and actress with exceptional audience-engagement skills and a strong results orientation.”

Or imagine Winston Churchill’s LinkedIn profile, if dear Winston hadn’t been lucky enough to pass on before the era of Humans Trying to Sound Like Zombies in Their Branding started:

“Results-oriented statesman and leader with background in government, writing and negotiation. Can-do attitude and experience leading cross-functional teams to defeat Nazi Germany.”

It would be even tougher on poor Abe Lincoln, who didn’t have time during his brief but spectacular run to learn Adobe Photoshop, Ruby on Rails or any of the skills Black Hole recruiting systems crave these days:

“Savvy, legally-trained administrator with a bottom line orientation and excellent debating skills combined with portfolio of folksy anecdotes.”

Zombie branding sucks the juice and power out of people like Beyonce, Winston and Abe — and it sucks away your juice and power, too. You have much more spark and heft to convey than robotic Battle Drone branding protocols can handle.

If someone asked Sir Winston Churchill to describe himself, he’d be likely to say something self-effacing like “I keep the ship moving in the right direction.” He wouldn’t brag or trumpet his own fabulousness. Amazing people never do. The Dalai Lama doesn’t say “Guru and spiritual leader to millions” on his LinkedIn profile, and not merely because he doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile, as far as I know.

That kind of look-at-me branding isn’t the Dalai Lama’s style. It doesn’t suit him, and it doesn’t suit you, either.

Who brags about him- or herself? The insecure kids in fifth grade do it. Insecure forty-five-year-olds do the same thing. People who sit comfortably in their power don’t need to – they can simply tell their story.

“I started out in Accounting and ran a Tax and Audit team before I figured out I loved Sales. Now, I run the western region for Acme Explosives, helping our customers hit their financial plans.”

Two little sentences give us this salesperson’s story, a bit of his personality, and a sense of his spin on his own role. At Human Workplace, we call that perspective Altitude. You can talk about what you do at a very low, task-y level a la “I spin, I weave and I sew, your Majesty” or we can talk about what we do from altitude.

All of a sudden, the work you do and the value of your work snaps into focus:

“As Project Manager for the Humane Society I run our fund-raising partnerships, affiliate programs and other relationships that bring us awareness, volunteers and donations. My job is to seek out and orchestrate partnerships that benefit our partners and the animals in our care.”

We never, ever need to say in a resume or profile, “I’m smart” or “I’m savvy.” We don’t need to brag, and we don’t want to, because it diminishes your power to praise yourself like that. You are amazing, just as you are. You don’t need to claim things that aren’t claimable in any case.

(It isn’t our privilege to say “I am smart” or “I am savvy.” Attributes like intelligence and savviness are in the eye of the beholder. Have you ever seen a Personals ad that claimed “I’m so sexy, chicks dig me” or “Guys say I look half my age?” Doesn’t your soul shrivel up just a bit when you read something like that? We know what solid people look like and sound like. We know what pain and fear sound like and feel like, and you just read two good examples in those two Personals ads.)

People in their power don’t stoop to praise themselves. We don’t need to brag, and we don’t need to grovel and beg, either. The right employers, clients and partners will find you without your needing to tell them “I’m awesome!”

You can put a human voice in your resume and in your branding in general. You can sound like yourself, address the reader as a friend, and get out of the zombiespeak moshpit. Try it!

If you send me a LinkedIn invitation at, I’ll accept it if you also send me a joke. I am running out of jokes, but here is one to get you through the weekend:

Q. What does a nosy pepper do?

A. it gets jalapeno business.


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