Brian Kush

The Brand YOU

What is a personal brand, why does it matter and how can it help you advance your career?

July 18, 2011
by Brian Kush, CPA, CLC

A personal brand helps you … distinguish yourself. It helps you stand out from the crowd.

Quite simply it helps you attract more opportunities.

A strong personal brand is also WHAT distinguishes you. Your brand is made up of your specific characteristics and skills that help you excel and they are what make you unique from everyone else. In a professional environment, a personal brand represents expectations or a promise. The promise is what others will uniquely experience from working with you.

Reader Note: Don’t miss Brian Kush’s session at the upcoming AICPA E.D.G.E. Conference in New Orleans, LA, August 10-12.

Being unique and promoting that uniqueness is even more important in an ever-changing business environment. Conforming to your company “norm” is not valued today like it was 20 years ago when many people climbed the corporate ladder the exact same way and stayed with one organization for a much longer part of their career. Now you need to distinguish yourself. It’s not about being another company clone, but rather a unique company asset.

We work in organizations that live in an ad-hoc project-based world in which teams have to be flexible in their formation and resilient in obtaining the skills needed to succeed. How many different “teams” have you been a part of lately? Did one cross department lines? Did one cross company lines? People are being asked to do more, earlier in their career in an ever-changing business environment. Unique, specialized skills and characteristics are needed everywhere.

Simply being a CPA as part of your brand that is on your résumé, on your business card and in your bio is not enough. You must distinguish yourself from all your fellow CPAs.

As you uncover, declare and promote your personal brand correctly, it will help you attract the opportunities you want. These opportunities can come in the form of a new relationship, a new client, a new project, a new role and even a new job or career opportunity … inside or outside your current organization.

The Brand Challenge

Your brand is developing in the minds of all those around you every single day, whether you like it or not. So, if you seek meaningful opportunities and results, become more intentional about taking control of your personal brand. That is what your personal brand needs: an OWNER. And the only person in the world that can “own” your personal brand is you.

So, while you cannot control others' perceptions, which presents a challenge, you do have a lot of control over the messages you send.

Uncover Your Current Brand

A lot of the work should be fun. This is all about you. You will need to reveal what makes you authentic, peculiar and interesting. You will need to divulge your strengths, skills and interests. And finally you will need to find your “calling.” Your brand “calling” answers questions such as: What and who do I want my brand to attract in my life? What are the big goals I want to accomplish with the help of my unique brand?

  • Take what is already great about you and become better known for it.
  • The first part of personal branding is about self-discovery. You need to uncover and clarify your current personal brand.
  • Start with yourself. Ask yourself:
  • What is fabulous about me?
  • What am I so good at that everyone takes notice?
  • What do I love to do?
  • When I am part of successful teams that get great results, what is my unique contribution?
  • But be wary of “blind-spots.” You cannot uncover your brand by yourself.
  • You have a brand right now in the eyes of all those you work with, play with, and even in the eyes of the person you just met 10 minutes ago!

A personal brand “blind-spot” is where a difference exists between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you.

You need to solicit and obtain feedback from others on your current brand. Like effective communication, it’s not what you intend to say but rather what is received by others that leads to a better understanding. It may not matter what you believe or want or intend your personal brand to be but rather, what others’ current perceptions are. What is your professional reputation? When others think of you, what goes through their minds?

Declare Your Personal Brand

Once you have uncovered your current personal brand based on self assessments and feedback from others, you need to decide what you want your brand to be going forward. You need to declare it, own it and live it.

And if there is a gap between the inner you and the outer you, then there is some work to be done! You will need to really reflect and decide what you want your brand to be. You will need to reconcile the difference in perceptions of you and your brand observers who have provided you with feedback.

You will also need to answer a few questions, such as, “How do I explain (declare) my brand to someone?” Albert Einstein once said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it enough.” Take the time to uncover and understand your brand thoroughly before you explain it to others so it is crystal clear to everyone.

Promote Your Personal Brand

Once you have uncovered and declared your personal brand, it’s time to promote it continuously. You need to spread the word. This allows you to:

  • Match your strengths and skills best to your current job to make the maximum contribution to your current employer, and maximize your upward mobility and earnings potential.
  • Avoid the roles, positions and projects that don’t bring out the best in you. If you can’t always do that, think how you can best bring your authentic brand characteristics and skills to them.
  • Be ready for the “next” assignment or opportunity where your skills can be best utilized and you can gain fulfillment in your work.

When promoting your brand, answer some of these questions:

  • What is my brand community?
    This will help you identify your target audience … the people to whom you want your brand known.
  • What is included in my brand collateral?
    Your brand collateral will include many traditional things, such as, business cards and your bio. But there can be much more to it than that.
  • How do I reach my brand community with my message?
    There are numerous options available to you on the Internet today, but you must first understand your audience so that you are better equipped in utilizing your time and resources.


Promoting your brand is important and will create demand for it and lead to the opportunities and results you desire.

Branding is mostly about living your brand through your actions, not your intentions. Advertise your brand at every opportunity you can, including every encounter with another person both offline and online. Others will judge you and create their perceptions much more by what they see than what you “meant.”

And whether you work in a large organization, a small organization or own your own business is irrelevant. Your career is your own business, and your personal brand is the catalyst for advancing it.

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Brian Kush, CPA.CITP, CLC, CISA helps professionals obtain new meaningful results and increase their leadership capacity forever. He is a leadership coach with 15 years of experience and authored the book Auditing Leadership (Wiley, 2009). Kush is a commitment to all the possibilities when you lead with your authentic heart.