Don't Fit In? Lead with Your Personal Brand

Susan Hall
Slide Show

If the Job Fits

Five questions you should ask before accepting your next IT job.

If you're in a job in which your skills are not being valued, talent development consultant Patty Azzarello advises leading with your personal brand.


Too old? Not technical enough? You could work harder to try to fit in, but if you really don't fit in, you're trying to gain favor on other people's terms. It's better to be respected on your own terms.


Companies increasingly are focused on hiring for cultural fit - people who will fit in - but hiring people like those you already have can mean <strong>getting the same sort of results</strong>. Being hired to shake things up can be exciting, but also lonely.


Azzarello writes:

Having your personal brand defined lets you put your best foot forward with great confidence all of the time, especially when you are in a situation or environment where you are not comfortable.


If you are clear about your personal brand, you don't need to be defensive when you don't fit. You can use it to sell your strong points.

You'll be more confident and more impressive.

So what is a personal brand? I like this definition by Donna Rachelson, founder of the South African company Branding & Marketing YOU:

Personal branding focuses on your USP (unique selling proposition) ... Personal branding and marketing is about knowing yourself and understanding what differentiates you from others with similar qualifications and experience.

Azzarello offers three examples:


  • "Boring old person" in an Internet startup - A woman much older than the hip twentysomethings at a startup decided not to worry about fitting in. Instead, she led with her strengths: maintaining focus, achieving clarity and translating ideas into revenue. As Azzarello put it:
  • She was able to demonstrate truly authentic confidence. Instead of being cautious and defensive and trying to earn their respect on their terms, she wowed them on her terms. She got the job.
  • Business person in a technology organization - This was the author herself, who talked about how the organization already had plenty of tech folks. Her specialty was translating that technology into things people care about and are willing to spend money on.


  • Program manager in an engineering organization - This person freely admitted she wasn't an engineer. Her specialty was driving projects to completion, on time and on budget.


Confidence breeds confidence, and the way to show confidence, she says, is by being clear about who you are and what you bring to the organization.

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