The world, more than ever, has come to appreciate the power of self-branding. Take for example, Ernest and Young, a leading business consultancy firm. A few years back, they scrapped off the degree as a minimum qualification for employment. They opined that there was no correlation between academic qualifications and achievements later in life. PricewaterHouse Coopers, another multinational consultancy firm, followed suit.
Well, it seems there is a mismatch between what students go to college for and what they find once outside the college, especially here in Africa. It has become a normal occurrence in the streets of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to see young people carrying placards early in the morning on working days announcing their desire to secure jobs, listing their qualifications and their contact details. It just illustrates the dire situation facing the country and the continent at large – unemployment. The UN Human Development Index puts the country’s unemployment rate at 39.1%, the highest in the region. With over 400,000 graduates entering the job market annually, the situation is made even worse.
The alternative to employment has been said to be entrepreneurship. But then, statistics for Kenya put it that over 400,000 new enterprises fail to celebrate their second anniversary with 70% of all businesses started, failing in their first 36 months. Looks like a grim situation, isn’t it?
But we have to critically interrogate the reasons as to why this is so. Methinks it is a problem with how we present ourselves in entrepreneurial and professional occupations. Take for instance a business person who does not have a unique identity, how will he convince a potential client to take up his product? For those aspiring to be employed, as mentioned at the beginning of this write up, employers look at what value the employee would bring on board, but then, if you cannot exhibit this in a concise manner, regardless of how thick your resume is, you would not make the cut for that crucial job position!
And that’s why it was important to point out that without a unique identity and a personal brand, you are doomed to fail. But then it would be imperative that we clearly define what a personal brand is.
Think of yourself as a product. Why would anyone consider you above all the others? What would anyone, by looking at you, listening to you, or even hearing about you, get you to be? What image does the mention of your name or the appearance of your picture conjure in the image of your audience? If the behavioural show it propagates is positive, then it is a positive personal brand. Have you ever heard of people who have made great strides in the workplace without having the stereotyped requisite papers? For a fact, the chief executive officer of East and Central Africa’s most profitable company Safaricom does not have a degree! Such like people made it thanks to projecting a positive personal brand. Your personal brand is your selling proposition. What is that you can do better than anyone else?
That is the competitive advantage that you base on to develop a personal brand on. This is the reason why, when you do a job application, or even appear for an interview, the employer seeks to see that one good thing that stands out and that they will employ at their workplace to gain advantage from. If you cannot portray it well, you definitely as I said, miss out! It is what makes you stand out from the crowd. It is inherent and is not determined by any material acquisition like academic papers or such.
Businesses, too, thrive on the proprietor’s personal brand. Take any start up or established business and you will learn that the founder started off on the right footing – defining the values that the business would be anchored on. Unfortunately, most of us go into business with the ultimate aim of striking it rich and this is where we digress and condemn our outfits to only survive over the short term.
What is it that, in a pool of look alikes, would your product offering stand out? For the business enterprise, the potential consumer looks at what you offering would fulfil as a need in their lives. If this is packaged well, the message would be delivered and you will win over the potential consumer and hence, a sale. It is on record that most businesses fail because of lack of cash flows. If we as business people learnt how to package our personal values well into a brand, then we can reverse this grim trend being observed. For a business can only continue running with good traction in sales and this is anchored on the base of communicating its value proposition through branding.
Politicians and public figures have learnt this survival trick to garner maximum influence and traction in their endeavours. Take for example a Nairobi Gubernatorial candidate, Mike Mbuvi Sonko. Known as a maverick, an alleged drug dealer and jailbird, he chose to rebrand himself from a rough imaged politician, to a pimped up, suave and clean cut image of a technocrat months to the General Election. His opponents stuck to propagating his old image but then, by choosing to project an image of a deliverer, he won most hearts and sailed through to be the Governor elect of the City.
It may be in the way you dress, the way you speak, the content of the material you publish either in digital or print media, your packaging of your stuff, etc., but in any way possible, take care that you package yourself appropriately to ensure you project a Brand You suitable enough to the satisfaction of your audience. At the end of the day, always remember, that the human race is very irrational – it is not convinced by logic but by emotions. If you realise how to connect to the emotions of your target audience, you will always have your way through in all your endeavours.
It is not that jobs are scarce; neither is there a scarcity of customers to consume your product offering. The problem is in the way you project your special abilities that would enable you to clinch that position or win that customer.
Happy personal branding and happy selling of Brand YOU!
The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How to maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. Both books are available on Amazon. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Coach with PBL Africa. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:
Telegram Community: https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ