How To Avoid The Five Worst Personal Branding Mistakes

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. Full bio

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com


Praising Adjectives are adjectives or descriptors that lots of job-seekers and working people  use to describe themselves. We have been taught to praise ourselves in our branding. That is a bad strategy because in normal life, we don’t praise ourselves.

We don’t say that we are smart and savvy or strategic. Only fearful people praise themselves. It is not different in the business or the working world but for a long time we’ve been taught that it is.

People who brand themselves using praising adjectives are saying to the reader “I hope these words tell you how smart and savvy I am. I am calling myself by those words because I don’t know to show you how I think.”

The number one rule of personal branding is “Show, Don’t Tell.”

If you are smart – and we know that you are – show us you are smart but don’t say “I am smart!”

The same goes for other praising adjectives. Tell a story that illustrates the quality you want to convey, rather than stooping to praising yourself in your branding.

The One is a branding choice for some people. They say “I’m the Chicago area’s greatest branding expert” or “I’m the Marketing Wizard.”

This is another branding trap, because anyone can call themselves a marketing wizard. It is a pasted-on brand rather than a brand that comes from you and your unique worldview.

It is an ongoing process to chip away at the layers that separate you, the real you behind the resume, from the people who would want to meet you if they knew more about you.

At Human Workplace we talk about this chipping-away process all the time. We call it Releasing Yourself from the Marble.

The analogy comes from a story about the artist Michelangelo. People asked Michelangelo how he could make such beautiful sculpture out of hard marble.

Here’s his quote:

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

We all have angels inside us that we are working to set free, chip by chip! Your best branding choice is a simple story about yourself — no praise, no trophies, just a story about why you do what you do. Here’s an example:

I’m a corporate Research Librarian who loves to organize and track down obscure information that helps leaders make better decisions.

Now it’s your turn!

Page 2 / 2
Comment on this story
More Trending Stories