The relationships, reputation, expertise and network you build over time are critical to your success. This is your personal brand.

It’s hard to believe that not all companies are supportive of their employees having a personal brand, even if what they discuss aligns with the organization’s mission.

Some employers do not want their people to be visible, because it could increase the likelihood they’ll be poached by another employer.

Other employers may be uncomfortable with their employees being visible, and may perceive it as they are not working hard enough or not being focused on their job. Maybe they are worried you are not dedicated to your job or you’re giving away too much free advice to other people. Maybe there is one executive at the company who scoffs at having someone who is so visible because it makes them feel bad that they’re not.

But when a company nurtures employee personal brands and encourages its people to engage on social media, the rewards far outweigh the risks.

When employees have strong personal brands, it creates a new channel for your organization to generate real authentic ROI. Today, people often turn to social media and online reviews to make buying decisions, so word-of-mouth marketing is more powerful than ever. That’s why it is smart to have trusted and respected employees posting positive things about your company online.

Employees with strong personal brands also establish themselves as subject matter experts and thought leaders, giving your organization more authority and credibility. This can lead to greater visibility for your brand, which is good for your business.

Employees with strong personal brands can help your company with:

  • More brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Greater earned media value
  • Increased pipeline
  • Stronger brand positioning that helps the company stand out from the competition
  • Improved employer brand
  • Stronger recruitment pipeline
  • Higher employee engagement

I personally think this is very shortsighted today, because there are many ways to balance having a personal brand with having a job, especially since none of us are defined by current job.

Understanding what’s OK and what’s not OK with your employer to do with regard to building your personal brand is not always black-and-white.

Some individuals at the company may be more comfortable than others with your personal branding pursuits. That being said, you don’t want to put your job at risk, but you also want to be authentic to who you are.

One of the smartest things a company can do is to create social media guidelines for its employees. This would provide a blueprint of how employees could and should use social media to promote the organization and themselves, and also what is permissible and not permissible from the company’s point of view.

Here are ways you can build your personal brand when your company is not supportive of it:

  1. Network Within Your Industry: Attend conferences, industry events and professional meetups to expand your network. Engage with other professionals in your field and build relationships that can help you grow in your career.
  2. Publish Industry-Relevant Content: If your company allows it, consider writing articles, blog posts or opinion pieces on professional platforms or industry websites. Share your expertise and insights on topics related to your field. Be sure to adhere to any guidelines or approval processes your company has in place.
  3. Engage in Online Discussions: Participate in professional online communities, forums or social media groups related to your industry. Contribute valuable insights and actively engage in discussions to build your reputation as a knowledgeable professional.
  4. Seek Speaking Opportunities: Look for opportunities to speak at industry conferences, webinars, podcasts or panel discussions. Sharing your expertise as a speaker can help raise your professional profile and demonstrate your knowledge to a wider audience. Again, adhere to any guidelines or approval processes your company has in place.
  5. Professional Certifications: Pursue relevant certifications or additional educational opportunities to enhance your skills and demonstrate your commitment to professional development.
  6. Volunteer or Join Professional Associations: Engage in volunteer work or join professional associations in your industry. This can provide you with opportunities to network, learn and contribute to your field, even if it’s not directly associated with your current company.
  7. Internal Marketing: Make sure the people inside your company, especially stakeholders and key decision makers, know about all the great things you’ve been doing. And it’s important to do this, while not sounding overly boastful, or taking all of the credit. Make others aware of your contributions via regular reporting and communication. Bolster your brand by taking the time to intentionally build relationships with key people in your company.

If your company does not want you to have a personal brand on social media, you may not be able to build a personal brand in the traditional sense, but there are still ways to engage with social media professionally and appropriately.

  • Utilize LinkedIn as a professional networking platform. Share industry news, engage with others’ posts and maintain an updated and polished profile that highlights your skills and achievements.
  • Industry News and Insights: Share relevant articles, news or updates about your industry. This shows that you’re staying informed and engaged in your field.
  • Professional Development: Highlight any conferences, workshops or webinars you attend to demonstrate your commitment to professional growth and learning.
  • Company Updates: Share exciting news or achievements about your company.
  • Thoughtful Commentary: Offer thoughtful insights or opinions on industry trends or topics without directly associating it with yourself or your personal brand.
  • Non-Work Interests: Share posts about hobbies, community events or philanthropic activities that are not directly related to your work but still showcase your personality and values.
  • Inspirational Quotes: Share motivational or inspirational quotes that align with your professional values and aspirations.
  • Engage with Others: Like, comment and share posts from colleagues, industry experts or relevant influencers to engage in conversations and demonstrate your involvement in the professional community.
  • Lifestyle Tips: Offer practical tips or advice related to work-life balance, stress management, productivity or career development, focusing on general insights rather than personal experiences.

Remember that it’s so important to find an employer that allows you to be YOU.

If building your personal brand is important to you, ensure that your employer is supportive of that from the beginning.

Ask the right questions during the interview process and make sure you have in writing what is permissible to do (speaking at conferences, appearing on podcasts, writing articles, posting on social media, getting involved in a trade association, etc.).

You don’t want to learn the hard way that you don’t see eye to eye with your employer on this issue.

Here’s a video with more on this topic.