Jenn Hyman is the CEO and co-founder of Rent the Runway. Before that she went to Harvard Business School (and Harvard for undergrad too, NBD). She’s writing a column for us that we’re calling Fashionpreneur. In it she’ll dole out advice and lessons learned on everything from raising funds, branding yourself, sales and generally managing a business. She’s also taking your questions.
YOU are a brand.
But, you already know that. You untag yourself from the less flattering shots on Facebook (you and me both baby!), you cultivate aspirational boards that reflect the style you wish you had on Pinterest and you buy clothes that send an overt message of who you are (or who you wish you were!). You heard it here first—in order to get and sometimes even to keep a job, you must create your personal brand. Think of your brand as "THE THREE WORDS YOU WANT YOUR EMPLOYER TO BELIEVE ABOUT YOU." Let's break it down…
Three Words: It's very important that you cultivate a concise and clear vision of who you are.
A few examples:
- Innovative, execution-oriented marketer - Charismatic people person - Go-getting, analytical merchant
Most people are unable to process all the nuances of who you are immediately. They need time to learn that not only are you an innovative, execution-oriented marketer but you also are a trend-spotting, wannabe American Idol who dreams of helping the disabled and dabbles in journalism. Right, you're already exhausted from reading that. Because, however amazing you are—it's exhausting to learn about new people, especially if you're interviewing hundreds. So, keep it simple: Three main points. People will remember them, most importantly, and second, the other details (i.e. American Idol and journalism) won't dilute the clear message you are trying to get across—YOU ARE A MARKETER!
Despite what they teach you at Harvard (to be the best all-around athlete), in a workplace, I've learned that it's way better to do one or two things insanely well than to be ok at dozens of things (this is unless you are a CEO). If it wasn't the case that companies wanted you to focus, they wouldn't create departments like technology or product that are inherently specialized. (Click through for the next point.)
Communicating The Three Words On a resume, make sure the qualities you're looking to highlight come across through multiple stories you tell about yourself. If you want to brand yourself as a people-manager, you might use words like “led”, “motivated” and “coached” on your resume.
You Want Your Employer to Know Again, I know you are a nuanced, multi-talented person. But, please only bring some of that to work— and this will vary greatly based on how open your work environment in.
Examples: - You're a musician - check - You're warm and funny - bring it on - You're desperate for a husband - probably only appropriate at Rent the Runway - You can't remember what you did on Saturday night – never
Yes, I want to know the real you but don't hurt your personal brand with unnecessary TMI.
Where revelations to your employer are helpful is when you communicate how you want to grow at the company or the other passions you'd like to pursue. I just had a lunch this week with one of our amazing PR managers at Rent the Runway where she told me she loves building company culture and making sure people are happy. Amazing! I now see this as part of her personal brand and will actively create opportunities for her to build those skills.
Believe About You The most important part of personal brand is truth. If you're branding yourself as a big thinker and you get to my company with no big thoughts, I will be much quicker to dismiss you as a phony. Be authentic to who you are and where you are in your career. If you just graduated from college or are early in your career, no one will have the expectation that you have any hard skills—so don't pretend that you do. Instead, you may want to brand yourself as a great communicator or a problem solver.
Sometimes, personal brands are humble enough to showcase the areas you are developing. Let's take me as an example—I'm a leader of a growing company and it's a personal goal of mine to become a more compassionate, inspiring leader that empowers my team every day. I'm not at the peak yet–I'm learning and growing and making mistakes. This is ok. Be real and half the battle will be won.
Finally, branding yourself is not bad, fake, or self-promotional–-view it as showing off the very best of who you are and the person you will bring into the office every day. And for the rest of you, leave that for Saturday night.