Posts tagged: personal branding

The Quiet Way

By , 12/09/2009
Green Bench by KennoJC

Green Bench by KennoJC

There’s an idea that crops up online from time to time, and lately it seems with more frequency: that if you don’t exist on Google, you don’t exist at all. I think part of this thought is tied to the idea of personal branding, this perceived need to stake a claim for oneself in the digital space in order to matter, to have relevance.

But there’s part of this concept I’m struggling with.

The thing is, I know lots of people that, if you were to do a Google search for them, you’d find very little – if any – information. These aren’t luddites or technophobes. These are people doing substantive, meaningful work, work that regularly has a direct impact on people’s lives. Teachers, educators, nonprofit employees, lawyers (yes, there are some lawyers who do meaningful, important work), doctors, artists… They work in what today’s age might be described as “quiet ways.” Neither they nor someone around them is documenting or sharing their every thought, action, accolade or attribute. But it doesn’t mean that they – or the work they do – is not important or crucial.

I knew someone from a previous job who was a prominent member of his community. In addition to his business and industry leadership, he gave generously to a number of causes. But his philanthropic contributions were all anonymous. His involvement in industry initiatives weren’t accompanied by fanfare. Odds are 9.9 out of 10 that you wouldn’t have ever heard of or recognize his name. His was a “quiet way.”

Maybe it’s me. Despite living in New York, I’m still a Minnesotan at heart, and there’s a general Midwesterness about not wanting to draw too much attention to oneself, or for reserving some skepticism for those who do. (Not to get too Garrison Keillor here.)

But public recognition doesn’t necessarily equal personal, or even professional, reward. And I worry what that means as I read some material with a college student audience, for example, directing them to “start building their personal brand today!”, this idea that somehow a lack of personal publicity is a measure of personal paucity.

Maybe it’s like any other kind of communication. Orators throughout history have demonstrated that there are times when words that speak the loudest are those delivered the softest. We need all types, to be sure. ¬†And there are some jobs or positions that cry out for a louder cry. But the work and the impact are the rewards in the end, aren’t they. Aren’t they?


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