As a society we’re bombarded 24/7 by brands on a mission to promote their message and image, and achieve recognition and success. But how much time to we set aside to think about our own personal brand? And how can we use this in the corporate world to achieve success?
This was the discussion topic for the Imperial Women’s Network seminar, 9 February 2017, who with the help of guest speaker Alicia Thakrar and panel members, provided some inspiring insight into how to create our own personal brand and identify personal values.
Alicia opened with a definition of brand as being ‘deliberate differentiation’. This is not without its challenges she explained, as it requires us to expose ourselves, which goes again our innate instincts. But Alicia believes this is all part of the personal branding journey. “Fear might certainly come out to play along the way, but this is a necessary and natural part of the process. You need to acknowledge it, being aware it can take many different guises, but don’t let it get in your way.” Alicia discussed how by knowing our values, and what we are uncompromising on, we can start to build our own personal brand. She recommended three key steps to achieving this:
- Dive Deep – what makes you, you? Your brand is you at your best, the essence of you at your highest potential.
- Strategise – what lifts you out of ordinary? “Take off the layers you have adopted from others as to what success looks like – nice house, fancy car, good job, happy family etc, and review what success means to you,” advised Alicia
- Live True – apply the things you have learned about yourself to actualise your image of success. Use this information to live the life you want and work for the companies that align with your values and brand.
Alicia believes that by following these three steps you can create an internal compass which will help navigate your direction and energy and that we can all “become masters of our own desire.”
To follow up this inspirational talk, the Network opened the floor up to a panel of successful business women who discussed what personal brand means to them as well as advice on how to apply this to career choices and within a corporate culture.
The panel members were:
- Jennifer Midura: Former Head of Strategy and M&A at AkzoNobel, a Dutch multi-national chemicals business with revenue of €14 billion. Also an ex-McKinsey Consultant and UCLA MBA
- Grace Maa: Former Asset manager, now empowering women through the personal finance at the Isabella Forum
- Michele Chang: Partner at the Innovation Consultancy ReD Associates
- Mandip Sahota: CEO of the Baroness Warsi Foundation, a charity supporting and developing programmes which aim to improve social mobility, gender equality and religious understanding
The panel discussed several issues around carving a career around personal brand and what personal success looks like. This included a look back on some of their personal career ‘mistakes’, such as moving to Edinburgh from New York, aged just 21 to set up a start-up, to working for a boss to took all the credit, but how these in fact made them stronger and more determined.
There are some experiences you have to go through to get to the other side,” commented Jennifer. “By exposing ourselves to different experiences, it will help you understand how you stand out from others
The panel all agreed that ‘mistakes’ can be turned into strengths and points of learning, creating a launch pad for change. There as a word of caution from Grace however who warned that no one should be “unhappy for too long in one place – life is too short!”
The key themes that came out of the panel discussion were:
- Know your values and boundaries, and if you find yourself being pushed past these to a place you feel uncomfortable, then leave
- Remember it is a journey, and you will learn many things about yourself along the way
- Have courage to know who you are and have self-belief
- Self-promote in the work place, distinguish yourself and this will open doors for you
- Always remain curious and be sincere
“Feeling energised, challenged and inspired after a fantastic Imperial Women’s Network seminar on personal branding,” commented Salma Suleyman (Mechanical Engineering 2011), one of the 25 alumni to attend the seminar. “The evening started with a talk from branding consultant Alicia Thakrar, then a discussion on managing identity and your unique brand in corporate cultures, when you have children and when you’re just starting out.”
Our thanks to all the speakers and alumni who attended the event and helped to make it such a great success. The Imperial Women’s Network was launched by four Business School alumni, who are have hosted several events already on the theme of personal. To find out about more upcoming events please visit the website or join the LinkedIn group.