Being a living, breathing brand has never been more crucial for career success. Stylist meets four women who mean business on every level.
Words: Katie O’Malley, Photography: Mark Harrison
Hair and make up: Lou Box at S management using Kevyn Aucoin and Redken, Digital artwork: Rob Dewey @ Happy Finish / happyfinish.com
Take a minute to consider how you present yourself at work.
Does your executive suit confuse clients who thought they were meeting up with a creative designer? What about your updates on Instagram? Does your last post at 2am on Saturday night while locked out of your flat, complete with half-eaten kebab in hand, fit your reputation as a successful family lawyer?
As the ‘job for life’ fades into antiquity and more of us think about branching out on our own – be it via vlogging, launching an interior design business or working from home as a freelancer – the need to mould our own personal brand is becoming as vital as writing a good CV. We can no longer hide under the protection of a huge corporate company. ‘Branding’ – once a word only attributed to fashion ranges and hotel stationery – now applies very readily to people.
Even those climbing the career ladder within a structured company are using the technique to give them the edge in an increasingly competitive environment. Yes, it takes a steely focus and clear strategy, but experts agree that carefully curating what we say in public, how we look and where we’re seen, all contribute to how others view us and radically change the opportunities that come our way.
“Personal branding is not a new concept – people buy people, they always have,” explains Jennifer Holloway, author of Personal Branding For Brits. “But we’re now so much more conscious of it. A good way to start thinking about your brand is to ask yourself, ‘If you wanted people to know three things about you, what would they be?’ Then you have to work out how to communicate those messages.”
And that’s where so many of us fall down. “So many women think, ‘If I do a good job, I’ll get noticed’ but that’s rubbish,” continues Holloway. “Loads of people do a good job. You need to stand out. There may not be any direct correlation between higher wages and a strong personal brand but 80% of people find a job with someone they know. If you can communicate effectively who you are and stay on people’s radars, you’ll more readily come to mind when an opportunity pops up.”
So, how does creating and maintaining a brand identity work in real life? Stylist asks four women who have made it their business to truly live their brand for the rules they live by.
Katie Tasker, 28, investment manager
Katie is an investment manager at Charles Stanley, a wealth management firm that looks after the assets of high-net-worth individuals. She is dedicated to growing her reputation and increasing her client base
1. “I attend one networking event a week. I’ll travel there by whichever way is quickest – efficiency is part of my image so I try not to waste time by taking taxis when walking is faster. I’ll thank the organiser for inviting me when I first arrive as they’ll usually know which people will be the most useful for me to meet.”
2. “At every event, I speak to at least one individual who I could build a business relationship with over the next 40 years. In asset management, people tend to do the same job for their whole career, so building these lasting relationships is hugely important. I use LinkedIn to add any connections I’ve met.”
3. “I never dress too flashily. I shop in high street stores such as Reiss and Marks & Spencer that have business collections. My clients want to see that I’m sensible with money – it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to be dressed in labels. Clients have worked hard to earn their money; they want to be assured I will look after it.”
4. “I meet my mentor every three months. He’s a director in my company and we meet to discuss issues such as how I can grow my client base and which network events I should attend to help progress my career. Coupled with his experience in the industry, this helps me keep perspective on how my brand is developing.”
5. “I always wear heels. This gives me height so that, for my clients, I’m equal to my male colleagues in stature – both literally and psychologically.”
6. “I check LinkedIn twice a day and I update it every two weeks with my news and achievements, such as when I received the highest mark in one of my exam papers. But I focus on quality not quantity with these updates – it would be unprofessional to overshare.”
Emma Pinchbeck, 29, head of climate change at WWF-UK
As head of climate change and energy at WWF-UK, Emma leads a team of experts to push for more ambitious action to tackle climate change. Her aim is to get more women supporting big moments of change, including WWF’s annual global campaign Earth Hour
1. “I tweet on average three times a day. Influencing others is a crucial part of what I do and social media enables me to put pressure on officials directly. I rarely tweet references to my personal life – I reserve any personal updates for Facebook.”
2. “I network three to four times a week with my peers. Climate change is a contentious issue so I must appear confident, well-informed and argue articulately. Hearing people’s opinions and keeping up-to-date with industry news lets me do that.”
3. “I never swear in meetings. I’m conscious that I represent an important international organisation so I would never lose control. And I’d never show that I was upset as the job has to come first. It’s very important for my team to see that I’m present and upbeat.”
4. “Colleagues will never see me looking casual. I once met Al Gore in jeans, which I’ve always regretted. I work a lot with politicians and they often expect someone in my role to wear sandals and socks. Looking smart implies that I’m serious and well-informed.”
5. “My golden rule is to always ask at least one question at an event. It shows others that I’m present, knowledgeable and prepared. By doing so, people know who I am, the organisation I work for and that I have a handle on government policy before I even get a response.”
6. “I always wear one statement item. If I dress all in black I’ll wear red lipstick, orange shoes or some statement jewellery. I don’t want anyone to think I’m wholly corporate. It’s important to have some personality to reflect the brilliant and diverse corporation I work for.”
7. “I live what I preach. I shop in second hand shops, which keeps the carbon footprint of my clothes low, buy all of my beauty products from Neal’s Yard, Lush and Aveda and commute to work by bike. There’s consistency between my actions and how I advise the government to act.”
Freddie Tiétcheu, 28, stylist, confidence coach and blogger
Freddie is the founder of the She Unleashed campaign, which aims to empower women to unlock their inner positivity through fashion. Her blog, FreddieHarrel.com (formerly I Go By Frankie), has over 50,000 followers
1. “My signature look is gold eye pencil – it’s what I feel confident in and finding confidence through fashion is the main message of my brand. My style consciously reflects my creative personality. I love to mix and match colours. In fact, my style is a real mix of everything. I love unflattering jeans, high heels, trainers, floral dresses or dressing like a boy in suits and oversized shirts.”
2. “A huge part of my brand is my hair. It’s the first thing you notice about me. It’s so big, it reflects my bubbly nature. Empowering women to be true to themselves is my core message.”
3. “I use clothes to convey how I want to be seen. For example, if I want to feel powerful, then I’ll go for smart trousers and brogues. Sometimes I feel quite fierce and to channel my inner Beyoncé, I’ll go for heeled boots and skinny jeans. My outfits change my mindset – they work as a support. If I need to achieve a lot, feel motivated and determined, I will always choose an outfit to strengthen that feeling.”
4. “I actively support my peer network and follow other bloggers who share my brand message (such as Gary Pepper Girl). That way I show my followers that I admire other women with different style identities, which reinforces my brand message. I like to see others experimenting; exactly what I promote to my followers.”
5. “I use mantras before every meeting to feel confident. I repeat out loud to myself, that I am smart, capable, beautiful and that everything I want to do, I can do. I also raise my shoulders, stand upright and feel determined. It sounds silly but it does the trick. The brain is an easily influenced organ. So tell yourself you’re an amazing person, walk with confidence and the rest follows.”
Lily Pebbles, 27, beauty and lifestyle blogger
Lily runs beauty and lifestyle blog, What I Heart Today. She started it in January 2010 while at university and now has over 100,000 Twitter followers and 320,000 YouTube subscribers
1. “I wear exactly the same make-up for all my videos: my favourite berry-lip colour and mascara. My viewers know my favourite nail polish is Essie Maximillian Strasse and I always use Nars Sheer Glow foundation. The consistency in my use of products reinforces my taste and reliability.”
2. “I post three videos a week and blog every other day. Being consistent in my output shows I’m reliable and running a credible business. I often save photos to post later on Instagram and schedule three posts a day on Twitter and one on Facebook to promote my blog and video content.”
3. “I ensure I give an opinion in all my videos. My opinion is my most vital asset and I am 100% honest. Anyone can find out beauty product prices and formulas, but only I can give my opinion. That’s what makes my posts unique.”
4. “I’m consistent. I keep the background for my videos the same for a few months at a time – it’s nice for viewers to have the familiarity, very much like a favourite TV show. I will change it eventually so people don’t get bored. When I first started out, I tried a plain background but I found it impersonal. It didn’t add anything to my personality. I like to add objects such as candles and plants that give people insight into my home.”
5. “I use a private Facebook account for personal posts. It’s not necessarily about censoring myself, rather presenting the best version of myself to followers. So I would never post drunk pictures of myself on my professional social media accounts.”
6. “I have very clear goals about who I want to reach. My ambition is to get my content to the right people. One of my main aims is to get people over the age of 25 using YouTube. So I take part in talks and panel discussions with companies like Google. It’s about growing the whole industry rather than just my own business.”