Are you making this critical mistake in your career transition?

Are you putting two and two together and ending up with a big mess?

This is what I’m talking about: some of you think you need to turn your renaissance personality into a brand when you’re changing jobs or careers.


Let’s separate the two (renaissance personality and personal brand):

A renaissance personality is just that; a personality type. You either are one or you’re not. You can’t develop this and turn into one if you’re not, and if you are, you can’t try pretending you’re more of a specialist. (Well, you could pretend, but let me assure you that disaster will be the result of your effort.)

A personal brand is what makes an employer salivate to hire you. It’s what really sets you apart and that has bottom-line value to an employer. It’s also something you do consistently.

Yes, your personal brand can also be based on your personality, but most often it is a combination of a specific skill or ability and the way you generate results.

The most important thing to understand is that your personal brand should always be tied in with your “audience.” If you’re going after a marketing position, you’d want to craft a different brand and brand statement than when you’re tapping into your nonprofit fundraising skills.

Being a renaissance man or woman has nothing to do with this.

Unless, of course, in the very unusual event an employer is looking for someone with your eclectic background, skills, and interests. (Hint: this is an anomaly.)

What’s more: you don’t need to tell any prospective employer about your being a renaissance person. They won’t get it. All they may get out of that is the question “when will you leave us to pursue your next passion?”

Always put yourself in the shoes of the hiring person/the employer. What’s in it for them? They want to know why they should hire you. Are you worth your keep – and more? What “problem” can you solve for this organization?

Here’s what you need to understand:

–          A “renaissance personality” is not a brand. It’s simply who you are. (Or who you’re not.)

–          Your brand and brand statement need to change according to your “audience.”

–          As a renaissance personality, you’ll simply have more versions of your personal brand than most people. (But if you’re only after one particular position right now, you’ll only have one version of your brand.)

Again; it’s about being strategic and selective – just as it is for every job seeker. An employer does not need to know about all the different things you’ve done. They should hear about your qualifications that are relevant to them and the position you’re interested in.

One more time…please repeat after me:

Renaissance personality = part of your natural character.

Personal brand = the main things that make you different from the next person in the same job and that would make an employer chase you down the block to offer you a position.


:   )


  1. Ilona,

    That was a fantastic explanation of the differences between the renaissance personality and branding. It was concise and to the point. Love it.

    Comment by Lisa Adams — May 26, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

  2. Nice presentation of the contrast between two terms: personal brand and renaissance personality. I’m wondering if this is something people often get confused. It all seemed reasonably clear to me…

    Have you seen too many branding statements that are too broad, like “I’m good at everything all the time.” Is that why the clarification is necessary?

    Comment by Raj — May 26, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

  3. I’ve always had a problem with the notion of a personal brand anyway. That connotes delivery of a promise or experience on a consistent (and repetitive) basis even when you’re not there. You might be able to deliver on this once you start putting out products or books and tapes in your name, but maybe not before.
    In bridging the gap between the renaissance personality and the brand, I tell people I’m a custom product, not a brand. Just like the one-off gift shop I frequented in my youth where you could buy, well, brands! of tableware, house decor, etc., but with the custom wrap-around of that shop’s unique service and consultative small-town approach.
    By the way, I consult to producers who have more high variety, low volume-high turnover products than repetitively produced commodities, so there is some philosophical consistency in what I do and think!

    Comment by Kent — May 27, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  4. Ilona, I liked how you make the distinction between a personality trait and personal branding! While I knew that when applying for a job, the employer is looking at the experience and skills that relate to the job itself, I’d never thought of it this way. I still make the mistake of trying to fit everything into my resume and then highlighting what I think is important in the cover letter. I might have to change that approach. Thanks for clarifying this!

    Comment by Dutch.British.Love — May 27, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  5. Thanks Lisa – glad you enjoyed it! : )

    Comment by careerbranches — May 27, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  6. Hey Raj,

    No – I got several questions and comments from people that indicated they thought that being a “renaissance personality” is a brand and could be used as such.

    : )

    Comment by careerbranches — May 27, 2010 @ 11:33 am

  7. Hi Kent,

    Another way of looking at a personal brand is this:

    It’s all about perception.

    No matter what you do, people will always have a certain perception of you. “The quiet guy.” “The colorful guy who’s outgoing and gregarious.” “The person who always knows just what to say and do so everyone on his team loves working for him.” (just some random examples).

    When I talk about personal branding, it’s about finding those things that naturally stand out about a person – this could be a combination of skills/personality, etc.

    Then, it’s about highlighting those … in the resume, cover letter, online…making sure the person conveys a consistent “message” also in the way he or she dresses and acts.

    As personal brands are to be authentic, this should not be that hard. What’s hard for most people is uncovering their brand as they’re too close to the source to see it!

    It’s actually the opposite of a commodity. It’s what’s unique about a person relevant to a specific field.

    Maybe it’s the term “brand” that threw you for a loop?

    Comment by careerbranches — May 27, 2010 @ 11:48 am

  8. Ilona, interesting concept, I like the “what stands out about a person” thought.
    Have you come across some good examples on how to articulate the personal brand as a supercondensed version of what a normal resume profile would read like – without risking it being perceived as “big-ego self-promotion” ?

    Comment by Joe — May 27, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

  9. Ilona:

    As usual, your insights are spot on. It’s easy to get confused as to who you are when you are applying for multiple jobs, with differing requirements, and you are trying to tailor your resume to each one.

    It’s important to remember that although what you do may change, who you are does not.

    Comment by Michael Selland — May 28, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  10. Thanks for this interesting article. But there’s something that I’m not sure I’ve understood. In the article you say “Your brand and brand statement need to change according to your “audience.”

    My question: how can you have more than one brand and still be authentic?

    For example, if X is a maverick rule-breaker who uses a blend of intuition and fearsome intellect to solve problems, then X is certainly not going to be able to rewrite his personal strengths and values to appeal to a company that respects hierarchy and procedures – and still remain authentic.

    Could you clarify? Is adapting your brand just a question of highlighting different qualities / skills, for example?

    Many thanks!

    Comment by Clare — May 28, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

  11. Hey Jadyn,

    Yes, definitely make sure to tailor your resume as cover letters often don’t get read. Your resume needs to be able to stand on its own!

    (Btw; don’t let the fact that few people still read cover letters deter you from writing one. NOT submitting a cover letter can be reason to dismiss your application altogether!)

    On another note: were you in Amsterdam when the garbage was piling up? We were for one day and it was unreal. No smell though – the weirdest thing!

    : )

    Comment by Ilona — May 29, 2010 @ 6:10 am

  12. Hi Joe,

    What’s more – I write them for my clients! : )

    They come in all sorts and shapes so there is not a simple formula to copy, unfortunately.

    Or maybe that’s a good thing as otherwise they’d all sounds the same again, right?

    I’ll have some resume samples up on my new site, so please check in a few weeks.

    In the interim: remember it’s about uncovering what it is that sets you apart and not so much about the form. You can write it in a sentence, or give yourself an interesting title, such as “the 80% converter” as I did with a client.

    Or it could simply be a few phrases grouped together that clarify your brand.

    The bottom line is that uncovering your brand is where you need to focus – this is by far the hardest part.

    Comment by Ilona — May 29, 2010 @ 6:15 am

  13. Thanks Michael. And you’re absolutely right!

    You’re just tapping into different parts and skills sets of yourself.

    Thanks for clarifying this point!

    Comment by Ilona — May 29, 2010 @ 6:16 am

  14. Hi Clare,

    Really great question – thanks for asking!

    And yes, you hit the nail on the head.

    A person’s brand and brand statement is likely to remain very similar even when applied to different opportunities.

    It all depends on what you come up with for your brand. Some people’s brands are so all-encompassing and tied into their personality that they are more “generic” in that sense. And this may work.

    Other people’s brands can be focused more on skills and a track record. In these cases, you’d tweak it as appropriate so it’s relevant to your target “audience” and still in alignment with something about you that is unique.

    And it’s always important to research the companies you are going to approach. You want to make sure it’s a great cultural fit.

    It never works trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. (I can assure you first-hand this is to no avail as my 1.5 year-old tries doing this ad nauseum.) ; )

    Comment by Ilona — May 29, 2010 @ 6:23 am

  15. Hi Ilona! Thanks for the tip on the resume and cover letter issue. I will keep it in mind next time I apply for a job.

    And yes, there were huge piles of garbage when I was in Amsterdam. You’re right, though, it didn’t smell bad – strange. That might change if the weather warms up though…

    Do you live pretty close to Amsterdam? I love that city!


    Comment by Dutch.British.Love — May 29, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

  16. Jadyn: I’m in the Hague. And the second time we went to Amsterdam, the garbage was gone. : ) I love it too. Always something cute to discover..

    Comment by careerbranches — June 3, 2010 @ 6:34 am

  17. I think where the problem comes in is in extrapolating from commercial brands to personal ones. If you’re BP, your brand image was a benevolent giant represented by green and yellow flowers with soaring talk about alternative energy sources. Cut to the present and it’s bumbling and dissembling and crony capitalism.

    Individuals are even more variegated with different impressions conveyed to different audiences. The “colorful guy who’s outgoing and gregarious” (hardly a unique description) may also be someone who runs fast while wearing all the latest high-tech togs or who tends to minute detail as shown by his hobbies in miniatures and writing. Those different and separate facets of his makeup may still be part and parcel of a personal brand and self image, as long as he wasn’t caught being withdrawn and grouchy, spending time tottering with a cane, or kicking over sand castles. Then he might be accused of undermining his brand or simply coming across as a common flawed human with some unique interests and talents, and we’d be back to our “custom product” individual.

    Comment by Kent — June 3, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  18. Kent: Just to clarify…I would never advise anyone to adopt “outgoing and gregarious guy” as a brand. That was just an example of how people may perceive someone, resulting in an involuntary “brand.”

    You’re right: each person has tons of aspects and facets. In career coaching, though, we uncover a brand that is based on more than just a personality trait, but on something that the person does that relates to the position and to solving that position’s main “problem.”

    Comment by Ilona — June 10, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

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