2022 marked the 25th anniversary of personal branding. Fitting that it was the year that moved rapidly toward making business more human. Ironic as well that more and more technology permeated the workforce. Or maybe not ironic. Perhaps it was a reaction to the tech or a counterpoint to the loss of human connection at work thanks to the virtual workplace.
The 25th anniversary, along with the move to hybrid work, is ushering in personal branding 3.0—a new way of looking at and building your personal brand, along with renewed interest in the topic from employers who wisely believe that their people are their most valuable assets.
The overarching message for this year’s personal branding trends is about being extra human. Here are the ten most important personal branding trends as we move into PB 3.0 and personal branding’s 26th year.
1. The Emergence of the Post-Covid Leader
The essential leadership style moves drastically toward inspiration and coaching built on a foundation of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is one of the most important skills for leaders, whose roles will undergo tremendous evolution. Effective management will mean becoming so much more than a results-driven keeper of productivity and execution. The new, modern leader will be described with words like compassion, empathy, humility, vulnerability, caring, inclusivity. We’ll start to see more of these “human” attributes in job postings, on resumes, in LinkedIn profiles and in leadership development programs that focus on the human side of business.
2. LinkedIn Gets Personal
You’ve likely started to see more and more content in your LinkedIn feed that’s personal—images of people with their kids, heartwarming stories of people doing good for their community, people sharing pics of their adventure-filled vacation in the Maldives. Expect more of it. LinkedIn, with its nearly 1 billion members, will remain the de facto professional social media platform, but this move toward an integration of personal content with the traditional work stories is in response to the rapidly dissolving line that separates work and life. And that’s good for business. The artificial wall that created the work version of You and the real-life You has all but disappeared, giving people permission to bring their full selves to work every day.
3. Your Company Needs You . . .
. . . to be the voice of the brand with all external constituencies. With people working from home partly or entirely, the opportunity to be immersed in your company culture is waning. You aren’t surrounded by the corporate brand logo and colors, and your senses are not breathing in the corporate essence. Yet you have become a more important part of the company’s brand strategy. That’s because data show that when you engage in brand communications for the organization, it’s more believable and becomes more viral than if the marketing department does it. Company branding programs and employer branding efforts will star YOU. When you become a digital brand ambassador for your organization, you forge a deeper connection with the organization, demonstrate your loyalty and create visibility for both your brand and the company’s.
4. Meetings Get a Major Makeover
When Covid hit, we made an immediate and rocky but doable move to virtual meetings; but we didn’t really master what it takes to lead and participate in meetings that take place on our 13” screens (much less the ones that fit in the palm of a hand). Now it’s clear that the dreaded Zoom meeting is here to stay, and the things we hate about online meetings will get fixed. Well, some of them. Specifically, this means new technology and tools to make staring at that screen more captivating. It also means building new skills as meeting leaders and participants try to master these complex meetings that include people in a conference room and others who are in home offices, shared workspaces and Starbucks. Meetings remain one of the most powerful ways to build your personal brand. They allow you to strut your stuff in front of the people you need to impact and influence. The meetings of the future will be marked by shorter durations, increased interaction, and an improved experience through tech, along with a huge dose of humanity. Those who master these meetings will make their mark and get noticed.
5. Personalization of the Employee Experience
Work when you want, where you want, how you want is the new mantra. Expect more flexibility to accommodate your work style along with opportunities to customize benefits and perks. Google launched 20% time back in 2004, which allows employees to focus a day a week on projects that are important to them. Expect similar opportunities. This includes your professional development. There will be more variety in learning topics and formats than ever before. The ultimate in personalization of learning will allow you to decide what and how to learn. Expect to see learning stipends that let you choose the learning programs that align with what interests you and what you want to do next.
6. In-Person Takes Priority
As virtual/hybrid takes over, in-person activities actually become more important than ever. In the past, we took it for granted that we would go to the office. We didn’t really acknowledge the value of working alongside our colleagues, and we didn’t understand how critical those visceral human connections were to our ability to nurture relationships and feel fulfilled. Now that in-person activities for many companies are rare, those moments will take on an outsized importance. This means you need to maximize the times when you’re with your colleagues in person for all-team meetings, learning and development programs, events and trade shows. Solo tasks should and will be reserved for those moments when you’re working from home or from your third place.
7. Quality and Focus Are Key to Being Seen
We are overwhelmed with all the content that’s clogging our social media feeds. There’s so much noise, it’s harder and harder to get our stuff seen. That means quality and consistency of your thought leadership material will be essential. The same goes for having a steadfast focus on your target audience so you can be visible, available and valuable to the people you seek to engage in your content. Without this focus, you’ll get little return on your communications investment.
8. Feedback Gets Forgotten
Feedback has always been important for building your brand and creating a career that’s fulfilling and successful. In fact, half of the brand discovery part of personal branding is focused on getting input from others to validate your self-reflection. Beyond that formal personal branding activity, day-to-day feedback has been valuable way to know if you’re staying on brand. The challenge over the past few years is the loss of those informal feedback moments that are hard to recreate in the virtual world. You know: the head that pops in your door saying, “Nice job with the client meeting today. You gave them a reason to pick us.” Or the nod from your boss on the other side of a conference table, showing approval of how you’re leading a meeting. These moments don’t translate for the virtual world because you can’t really see expressions on people’s faces in the postage-stamp Zoom windows and it’s weird to call someone after a meeting to say, “Hey, nice job.” In fact, when you close one Zoom session, you’re likely just opening the next. We’ll all need to become proactive to seek the feedback we need.
9. Communications Become Hybrid or Multimedia Mashup
As we become “hybrid employees,” our communications will become hybrid as well. When we write a report, we’ll include a video exec summary and perhaps some infographics. This applies to all types of communications, especially meetings. The new format for meetings will involve pre-work that could include reading, videos, data, etc. followed by a potent, live, interactive session capped off by meeting summaries and post-work content.
10. Relationships Will Rule
It’s harder to build relationships when most of our interactions are through Zoom, Slack and email. Yet relationships are even more important than ever. That’s because there’s a humanity deficit at work, and it’s effecting the mental health and engagement of workers. The virtual/hybrid work environment doesn’t make relationships less important, it just makes them harder to maintain. That means successful companies will prioritize relationship building and be deliberate about devoting time to foster connections that are based in authenticity. When I interviewed Tom Peters for this 25th Anniversary of personal branding article, he put it this way, “The future of work is about Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.”
William Arruda is a keynote speaker, co-founder of CareerBlast.TV and co-creator of the Personal Brand Power Audit – a complimentary quiz that helps you measure the strength of personal brand.