Personal Branding

This essay was written for my Intercultural Management and International Management class, under Prof. Ricardo Altimira, PhD. It is a resumé of several references on personal branding. | November 19, 2016

Now more than ever, the world’s markets are changing – with exponential technological developments, more demanding customers, and emerging countries around the world. Now more than ever, innovation is more important for companies – not only for growth, but also for survival. In a survey done by PricewaterhouseCoopers of 246 CEOs from around the world, 75% said that innovation is a priority. Within that group, around half believe that innovation will affect the way they do business in the near future (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2012).

Innovation, however, is not only applicable to products and businesses. Because of the dynamic business environments, of globalization and the hyper-interconnectivity of everything and everyone, it is harder and harder to stand out. Excellent grades, extra-curricular activities, and work experience are not enough to ensure a progressive career. We must build, maintain, and continuously innovate our personal brand. What is our “personal brand”? It’s offering who we are in what we do, such that we establish a unique selling proposition as an individual (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2015). For example, are you known as the “reliable worker” or the “collaborative leader”?

Innovating your personal brand is especially important when working in intercultural environments. Harvard Business Review’s interview of over 200 senior executives and survey of over 5,000 managers across United States, Europe, and Asia showed that managers with good track record at home don’t necessarily translate into great global leaders (Javidan, Teagarden, & Bowen, 2010). This is because they are unable to adapt their personal brand with their new environment.

Herewith, I discuss how to build a personal brand, focusing on innovation and multicultural adaptability. These are based on the previous works of authors who analyzed the characteristics of successful global leaders and innovators, and of consultants specializing on human capacity.

Building a Personal Brand

  1. Assess Yourself

The first step in building your brand is knowing what you have to offer in the first place. Here, you have to be honest and objective. Identify your key strengths and weaknesses. Get input from your colleagues, family, and friends. See if your self-perception is consistent with what you actually do, and what you put out to the world. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Personal Brand Workbook lists down a list of questions you can ask yourself and others, in order to help you with your self-assessment. These include:

  • What 7 words best describe me?
  • What values are important for me?
  • What was the most difficult challenge I have faced and how was I able to overcome it?
  • What skills do I enjoy using repeatedly, regardless of the task?
  • What should I do more of/less of in order to become successful?
  1. Define Your Goals

What do you want to get out of this exercise? Do you want to change your colleagues’ bad impression of you – or expand your network with people outside your immediate circle? Do you want to completely switch careers – or plant yourself as an expert in your field? Do you want to poise yourself for a global career – or establish your position in your country? How you present yourself varies on your audience, and the message you want to get across.

What characteristics should you consider in building your ideal self? Here are some traits possessed by successful global leaders and innovators:


To succeed in an international environment, you must be genuinely interested in learning about other cultures – including their history, geography, economy, and politics. You must be willing to immerse yourself in “their world”. This gives you the ability to connect with people on a deeper level, and thus find solutions and add value to them – because you know exactly where they are coming from (Javidan, Teagarden, & Bowen, 2010).


Leaving your comfort zone and coming up with something innovative requires a small dose of craziness. You must appreciate being in unpredictable and complex environments. Experimenting on your ideas, failing, and then trying again – should be risks you are willing to take (Javidan, Teagarden, & Bowen, 2010) and (Dyer, Gregersen, & Christensen, 2009).


Curious people never settle for what is available, for the status quo. They always ask – “Why?”, “Why not?”, and “What if?”. Michael Dell, for example, had the idea of starting his company by questioning why computers cost much more than the sum of their parts (Dyer, Gregersen, & Christensen, 2009).


A report published by McKinsey in 2015 on 366 companies showed that companies who are more diverse – both in race and gender – were more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. Diverse teams are more objective and innovative because everyone comes from a different point of view (Rock & Grant Halvorson, 2016). To become a successful global leader, you must be able to harness this diversity – and embrace it. Innovative entrepreneurs often network with people outside their industry, and apply technologies from other fields into their own ideas. CPS Technologies (a ceramic composite company), for example, used Polaroid film technology to make stronger ceramics, and used sperm-freezing technology to prevent ice crystal growth in its manufacturing process (Dyer, Gregersen, & Christensen, 2009).

 Cognitive Complexity

In short, leaders must be smart. Innovators and global leaders can make associations with seemingly unrelated concepts. They are able to process multiple scenarios happening with their environment at the same time. They have a clear view of the global picture, while simultaneously understanding the subculture they are immersed in – so they can quickly change gears when needed – and lead everyone to the solution or the direction they want to go (Dyer, Gregersen, & Christensen, 2009) and (Rock & Grant Halvorson, 2016).

It is important to remember though, that although you aspire to have these characteristics, you must be authentic. The idea of having a personal brand is channeling your strengths, and not changing who you are to please other people. If you try to “fake it ‘til you make it”, people will know. And this can even be more problematic (Smale, 2015).

  1. Chart Concrete Steps to Reach Your Goal

Now that you have identified your goals, and know where you stand –  create a plan to bridge the gap. How will you fortify your strengths? How will you work on your weaknesses? Remember that your plans must be actionable (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2015). For example, a strength and weakness I identified about myself is being analytical but aloof. My plan to further develop my analytical capability is setting aside thirty minutes every day to read news on Energy (my area of interest). To make sure that I understand the issues, I will get the opinion of my colleagues from the countries involved. This way, I can also work on my social skills and build my relationship with them.

Three main steps you can do are (Smale, 2015 and Hyder, 2014):


Putting together your personal brand statement is useless if no one experiences it. Meet and work with people from all over the world, across all walks of life. Make every encounter a chance to build an impression. Give value to other people by sharing with them your expertise. Get value by asking questions and being genuinely interested in them.

Build your online presence

As I said in the beginning, everyone is connected. Utilize and update social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) to build your brand. Make every post purposeful. Who knows – your future business partner or employer can be looking at your profile right now.

Continuously learn

Again, as I said in the beginning, the world is changing now more than ever. If you settle with your current knowledge, skills, and connections, you will be left behind. Study on your own. Learn from other people. Observe and analyze the world, and always challenge yourself to make it better.

  1. Do

Just do it. You can have the most flowery brand statement and the most elaborate game plan, but if you don’t put it into action consistently, they are useless. Police yourself, or ask a friend or use a mobile app to make sure you are making progress.

  1. Start Back at #1

Finally, check yourself regularly to see if you are actually meeting your goals, or if you still have the same goals as the ones you started out with. How are people actually perceiving you now? Have you evolved as a leader? Innovating yourself, especially in a multicultural environment, is not a one-time-big-time exercise. It is iterative and adaptive. The key point is to have a strong sense-of-self, optimize this, and effectively communicate it, in order to bring value to your team – wherever you may go. ♦



PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. (2012). Innovation Imperative: Keeping Your Company Relevant. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from PricewaterhouseCoopers:

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. (2015). Your Personal Brand: Workbook. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from PricewaterhouseCoopers:

Smale, T. (2015, September 23). 5 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand. Entrepreneur.

Rock, D., & Grant Halvorson, H. (2016, November 4). Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter. Harvard Business Review.

Javidan, M., Teagarden, M., & Bowen, D. (2010, April). Managing Yourself: Making It Overseas. Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Review.

Hyder, S. (2014, August 18). 7 Things You Can Do To Build An Awesome Personal Brand. Forbes.

Dyer, J., Gregersen, H., & Christensen, C. (2009, December). The Innovator’s DNA. Harvard Business Review.


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