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How to Keep it Real and Build Your Brand at Work

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Are you secretly wondering if you are managing your brand all wrong? Branding seems to be the double edge sword that can make or break careers. Are you putting too much or not enough energy into defining what makes you unique? Even with the best intentions, by the time people meet you, they’ve already decided how they feel about you based on your appearance, attitude, and even your word choice.

As I started in corporate America, a place where I assumed everyone would be the same, I initially found some of my colleagues’ creativity to be a bit of a shock. They ate, slept, and drank creatively. In the office, I saw everything from hammer pants and platform shoes made of doll parts to people making stews on desktop warmers. Talented people are expected to be non-traditional- it’s part of the appeal- and it’s widely accepted that high performers are allowed to be exotic and make demands to create their ideal work environment.

The longer I paid attention, the more I was inspired by people who brought their whole selves to work. It began to sink into me that innovation was a lifestyle, not merely a product. The idea that within the workplace, we were as safe as we were in our homes, or even more safe to take risks, changed my opinion of work.

Innovation and personal expression all have to do with an ethic of self-care. When I change my hair, wear colorful floral jumpsuits, show people my tattoos, or change my appearance in any other way that makes me more comfortable. I am doing so with integrity and authenticity because it’s in my best interest and who I am, and it makes me feel freer to be more productive and creative at work.

Of course, you can’t take this too far- if everyone can do whatever they want in the workplace in the name of “freedom,” it’s anarchy, not a corporation. And it is possible to delude yourself into thinking that doing whatever you want is an expression of creativity when you’re not really finding innovative ways to do much of anything. You can’t merely wear personality quirks as a surface decoration- you must apply your mindset to things beyond personal appearance and behavior.

Do you complain endlessly or only talk about your drinking exploits? Do you dress like a banker, an artist, or a future tech founder?

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