Many times when I present programs or seminars on the topic of personal branding, someone in the room apprehensively raises their hand and asks, “Are you suggesting I change who I am to be more successful at work?”

Not at all. Personal branding is not about changing you or your beliefs, values or identity. Your brand sits in your identity, and is expressed through your behavior. Your behavior is often affected and driven by the role that you serve – boss, mother, wife, colleague or student, for instance. Your identity and your role are separate, although they intersect and overlap.

Clear as mud?

Let me put it another way. Your identity is who you are – it is the culmination of your values, beliefs, goals, dreams and passion. It defines you. If your identity changed, you would not be you as we know you.

Your roles, however, do change. We go from being a boss to being unemployed; from a mother to a stepmother; from a husband to a divorcee.  Many of those roles are outside of our control.

Your identity and how you show up in the world is within your control. You can control what you make of your past, how you express your experiences, and how you share your expertise. That is all within your power.  How you behave and express your identity is where others form perceptions about you – as someone who is trustworthy, passionate and loyal or as someone who is fearful, not confident and suspicious. Perception is formed on behavior using what we know and how we feel.

I recommend you take the pressure off believing you must change who you are to effectively manage and drive your compelling and valuable personal brand. You are who you are and that’s the beauty of it all! As your roles change and evolve over time, you learn how to maximize the value of your contribution, and minimize the negative (and less desirable) aspects of who you are and what you’ve done.

Have you seen times where your role and your identity overlap or conflict? I’d love to hear about them.