Ready to build your personal brand?

Edward P. Salek, CAE, Executive Director | TLT Headquarters Report July 2019

Make it an exercise in collaboration, not self-promotion, says management guru.

As you move through the stages of your career, says business author and consultant Tom Peters, it’s not the products and promotions you’ll remember but the people, particularly the young ones, you worked with and helped.

While doing some online reading, I came across an interview with Tom Peters, the long-time business consulting guru and author who has been an advocate for what’s known as personal branding. In short, the term means intentionally creating desired perceptions of who you are and what you can bring to the table in your career.

“Back in the days when engineers still wore pocket protectors, I did some consulting at Hewlett-Packard,” Peters began, “One of the people I worked with had a badge with the number 129 printed on it. He was proud of it, but I thought: This is your claim to fame? That you’re the 129th employee HP ever hired? People should stand out, I thought, for a better reason. Everyone should be known for being special at something.”

Peters was quoted in a May 2019 blog post titled Rethinking Brand You, written by Art Kleiner, editor-in-chief of STRATEGY+BUSINESS, a digital newsletter. Many people, Kleiner among them, have criticized Peters’ for his advocacy of personal branding. They ask how an organization can function if everyone is focused on building their own brand. In the interview, Peters’ responds to the challenge by stressing that this is a misconception, and that personal branding can be an exercise in collaboration, not self-promotion.

Reading further got me thinking about the relationship between STLE and this style of personal branding. Active participation in a group like STLE is a place to build a personal brand and still be viewed as a team player.

One way to stand out, according to Peters, is if people around you think you’re smart and good to work with. “Your reputation spreads accordingly, and others want you to work on their teams,” he says.

Well, what better way to build this into your brand than taking advantage of STLE’s many technical information and professional development resources? Reading this magazine every month or working through the Learning Pathways program at would be a good start!

Mentoring is another way to build a personal brand while contributing to overall objectives. In Peters’ words, “What will you remember about your career? It’s not your promotions or your bonus or the products you launched. You’ll remember the people you helped: the younger team members who were doing incredibly good work for you. Or you’ll remember the people who might be doing things differently because of a conversation you had with them.”

In addition to mentoring opportunities within your own company or organization, STLE offers the opportunity to have this type of impact at both our national and local section meetings. For example, more than 150 students attended the 2019 Annual Meeting in Nashville earlier this year. Many of them brought poster presentations to display and demonstrate their future potential. Imagine the impact of a more experienced technical professional stopping by to listen, comment and offer encouragement. Now that’s building a personal brand. 

Finally, Peters’ emphasizes that people building a personal brand can achieve success “…not by making great speeches to thousands of people, but in conversation after conversation, one by one by one, making a small difference each time.” STLE is an organization that’s small enough to offer those not destined to build a brand around oratory to have these direct encounters that will make sincere and honest communication part of your personal brand. 

The STRATEGY+BUSINESS newsletter is always a great read on topics like this one, and it is available for free online. Check it out at
You can reach Certified Association Executive Ed Salek at