How to Become a Brand, Not an Employee

Learn about the quick-hitting things you can do now to begin building your brand at work.

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By Kanika Tolver

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The following excerpt is from Kanika Tolver's book Career Rehab. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

When you're an employee, you often think you're expected to only do what you're told, and you don't always see your knowledge as valuable. The employee mindset doesn't challenge leadership or other team members to enhance or create a new, innovative way to perform an existing process.

When you have a branding mindset, on the other hand, you think of your expertise and knowledge like a product or service. Brands offer unique products or experiences that you can't get anywhere else. It's the same in the professional world: You have to go to work and provide expertise and unique experiences with your team members or clients that no one else offers. This personal branding can be experienced in the way you deliver your task, how you dress, or how you conduct yourself in meetings. People with a brand mindset present their best selves every day and constantly work to enhance their knowledge.

If you want to level up your mindset from an employee to a brand, you have to change the way you think about what you have to offer. Stop undervaluing your education, experience and expertise — they're your core edifiers. You're a brand, and you must learn how to edify yourself by identifying your brand.

To do that, use the Three Es:

  1. Education. High school diploma, college degree, or profes­sional certification
  2. Experience. Volunteer, internship, or work experience
  3. Expertise. Focused areas of knowledge, methodologies, tools and technologies

Allow your edifiers to build the foundation of your personal brand. This foundation will help you get noticed by career builders and career agents who are looking to staff new employees.

Related: 8 Questions That Will Help Diagnose Your Current Career Status

Then you can use these three ways to maximize your identifiers:

  1. Education. Always include your earned diplomas, college degrees and professional certifications on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and job board profiles.
  2. Experience. List and describe your volunteer and work experi­ence on your resume going back 15 years.
  3. Expertise. Be descriptive and tell how you were able to apply your education with your experience on a daily basis as you complete complex projects.

The next step is to let go of the employee mindset you have. Writing an email or answering a question in a meeting is a key opportunity for people to recognize your expertise and personality. When you rise above mediocrity every day, people will become a fan of your work ethic and start to love you as a person, too. Employees find a way to only do what's asked of them, but personal brands find a way to market themselves through their unique offerings and experiences.

Here are four ways to begin to let go of your employee mindset:

  1. Stop undervaluing the tasks you do every day.
  2. Value your relationships with internal stakeholders, external stakeholders and clients you meet with regularly.
  3. Start finding new ways to speak at staff meetings via presen­tations, briefings and conference calls.
  4. Go out of your way to attend all-hands meetings and work­place parties.

As you let go of your employee mindset, you'll begin to adopt a branding mindset. This personal brand needs to match your career goals, desires, and dreams.

Here are three ways to embrace a branding mindset:

  1. Big or small, everything you do at work is an asset; always deliver quality products, customer service and information.
  2. Display great communication skills in meetings, conference calls, phone calls and emails with everyone you come in contact with.
  3. Write down your weekly accomplishments and keep track of your performance metrics.

You add value in everything you do and everyone you come in contact with, even if it doesn't always feel like it. The best way to present your personal brand is to always strive to go above and beyond.

Related: How to Turn Your Work-Related Stress and Anxiety into Accomplishments

Build you, being you

As you build your personal brand, authenticity is a great asset. When you align with organizations that embrace your personality and expertise as a college graduate, professional, or retiree, it creates a smooth transition if leadership and colleagues feel comfortable with you displaying your personal brand at all times.

Not every company will like your authentic self, so it's important to assess the work environment and see how much it can handle of you simply being you. This isn't to say that you should have no filter on what you say or wear your pajamas to work. What it means is that you can bring your authentic self to work by taking part in personal enrichment activities that help build your brand and use those experiences as touchpoints in your daily work, whether in meetings or in personal conversations with colleagues. To that end, here are ten ways to build on your education, experience and expertise for your personal brand:

  1. Work on challenging work-related projects.
  2. Enroll in training related to your job or career goals.
  3. Earn more professional certifications.
  4. Read one industry-related book per month.
  5. Read one career-related blog or article per day.
  6. Watch one or two short industry-related videos on YouTube or Udemy per week.
  7. Listen to industry-related podcasts.
  8. Volunteer to work on cross-collaboration projects and detail opportunities.
  9. Attend free professional conferences, virtual webinars and workshops throughout the year.
  10. Connect with experts within your organization and pick their brains for new knowledge.

If you want a solid personal brand, you must go beyond the basics of getting a degree, a new job, or a certification and help your brand grow beyond the confines of your current cubicle. The best corporate brands keep advancing their products and services by offering new products, marketing those products in new ways, and collaborating with media outlets and companies to advance their brands. You have to do the same thing if you want to increase your compensation and succeed against your competition.

Kanika Tolver

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

CEO and Author of Career Rehab

Kanika Tolver is the CEO and founder of Career Rehab, LLC in Washington, D.C., where she helps clients transform their careers with coaching programs, events, webinars and digital resources to help people reach their career goals. An in-demand coach, consultant, speaker and thought leader, she has been featured on CNN, CNBC, CBS Radio, Yahoo!, Black Enterprise,,, The Washington Post and a variety of radio interviews and podcasts. Kanika is the author of the acclaimed title, 'Career Rehab: Rebuild Your Personal Brand and Rethink the Way You Work.' 

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