I watched an interesting TED Talk a few weeks back by Sherry Turkle called “Connected, but Alone“. In this lecture, she discussed how some people embrace online channels and social media because the can “edit” themselves. Online, you can portray the person you want to be and not necessarily the person you are. She contrasts this to real human interaction (i.e. conversation) where you are who you are – mistakes and all.
I see this need to create a “persona” frequently and not always online – although that is where this activity is naturally amplified.
It frequently happens with a person’s education or at least references to one’s education. I have an Economics degree – Agricultural Economics to be exact – but that does not make me an economist. This point was made very clear to me once at a dinner party I attended about 15 years ago when trying to win a debate on the economy by deploying my degree; it failed – quite rightly so. I am not an economist.
This is the same for those who have physics degrees who do not work in physics – despite their training, they are not physicists. Mathematics majors are not necessarily mathematicians, biology majors are not necessarily biologists and so on. This is just an attempt to edit the person you have become in one way or another, or perhaps simply a device to use to win an argument every now and then.
Similarly at work, your job title is not what defines you. What you achieve in that job or role once promoted is how you should be rewarded and remembered. This is your reputation, what you become known for.
It should always be your work and what you achieve as the standard for how you are measured. By this I don’t mean what actual job/vocation you do – that is irrelevant – but how you do that job. If you have a degree in English literature but are now a plumber – then be the best plumber you can be today, not reinvent the novelist you once longed to be.
Your personal brand is what you stand for and not just the edited version that you portray online.
Before the invention of the term Personal Branding, we called this your reputation. And this is the point I’d like to make here – that a reputation is earned through your actions – how you behave and what you do each and every day – and I think this should carry forth into social media and beyond.
You can edit what you say, but it is hard to edit what you do – and actions always speak louder than words.