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What Is The Difference Between Personal & Professional Branding

You may have heard people talk about your “personal brand” or your “professional brand” and wondered, “what is the difference?”. (If you are wondering what the definition of personal branding is, click here.)

For some, there is no difference. Some people use the terms interchangeably.

I believe there is a difference in your personal and professional brand. For me, there are consistent elements of my personality, character, and reputation across both. But they are manifested differently and I choose to show specific parts of myself more as a professional and other parts in my personal life.

I also believe we can’t talk about a professional brand and who we are as a professional before we know who we are at a personal level. I believe it starts with the personal. If we are talking about a person who is starting a new business or branding a small business, it starts with the person or people. If we are talking about an individual who is navigating their career and looking to grow as a professional, it starts with you, the person. On a personal level.

This is why I use the phrase personal branding and not professional branding.

In order for you to start strengthening your personal brand, I want you to ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Who are you in your personal life? How would your family/friends describe you? What are you known for?

  2. Who are you in your professional life? How would your co-workers, boss, or peers describe you? What are you known for?

  3. How are your descriptions from questions 1 & 2 similar or different?

These questions may have made you realize that you are 2 different people or it may have made you realize you want to change/strengthen some areas in one area of your life. Or you may just be aware of yourself now. All of these things are good.

When terms like branding, personal branding, professional branding get complicated, I take it back to a word we all understand and use frequently - reputation.

We all have a reputation. And we can control how we impact people, how we respond to situations, and how we treat others. Because remember your reputation precedes you all the time. Your reputation isn’t always established when you first meet someone or join a team. Your actions, lack of actions, and your words are noticed and experienced by others. And that forms a reputation that precedes you.

Because of this, I want to challenge you in 4 areas:

  1. Be aware – Of yourself and what is going on around you.

  2. Be prepared – You may have a great reputation already – that means people are going to approach you with opportunities – be prepared to share more!

  3. Be proactive – Don’t wait until you need your next job or client to think about this. Self-reflect, learn from your mistakes, take courses, find a mentor.

  4. Be strategic – Consistently communicate and show up – otherwise how will anyone know, or consider you for opportunities?

So Because your reputation precedes you,

It's not just about who you know, it is about who knows you.

If you haven’t thought about it like this. Let it sink in. And then realize that you have control and can do something about it. It may take some hard work and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. But I promise you it will pay off now AND later…in ways you never expected.

That’s why personal branding should be practiced throughout your entire life and career. If you wait until you are on the job hunt, you have missed opportunities. You haven’t been communicating who you are, what you have done, what you are good at, and what you want. So no one will know and no one can think about you for an opportunity.

The best jobs and collaborative opportunities I have ever experienced did NOT happen because I applied for them. I was recommended or approached by the company. Because I knew everything I did was preparing for the next step or steps of my career.

This approach is a long game approach BUT more rewarding and successful.


We're here to help! If you have any questions about branding yourself or your business, reach out.

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