A brand goes both ways; it can help you, or it can hurt you. Sometimes it can be both, and it pays to understand what it’s doing for you. The brand, or the impressions you make, can determine where you go, or don’t go, so be aware of what impression you are making.
I have a personal story here, and I hope it makes some sense.
I have a fairly large brand for the average person. I’m not well known around the world like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, and I’m not even that well known in the technical world like a Joel Spolsky or a Tim O’Reilly, but in my own niche of technology, I have a fairly well known presence.
I think most people view me as a thinker, as a helper, as someone that can be outspoken and have strong opinions. I’m someone that speaks their mind, and has a fairly raw way of expressing myself. I do think about what I write and say, but I try to leave some emotion and passion in it.
Is that good or bad?
As with everything, or most things, it depends. In a recent case it held me back. I have been publically critical of some people, and I stand by what I wrote, but I believe it bit me in the proverbial behind. I was rejected from an opportunity, and it stung.
Is my brand bad? I don’t think so, despite what happened. I think that someone had power over me, and exercised it, using their opinion that I would be a bad fit in the opportunity. I can’t control that, and I live with it.
However if I were applying for something different, say a management job, a project lead, I think that my raw expression, my honesty, my ability to communicate, and the willingness to do so, would help me. Many people see those things as positive strengths.
If I were applying to be a member of a technical team, that might hurt me. Perhaps a manager would think that I might take over the team, or might not be able to work well with others.
You can’t control what others do, and no matter what you think, at some point you will need to give someone else control over your life. They’ll have the ability to exercise some power over which direction you move, or more likely, don’t move.
Knowing your brand, and understanding how it is perceived, will help you to determine which directions you should move in. And if you can emphasize parts of your brand, some of your skills and experiences differently, you can present the image you need for a particular opportunity.