How to Brand Yourself in the New Economy: be the Lemonade

How to Brand Yourself in the New Economy: be the Lemonade

This post was originally published with Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling, the ultimate resource for women in business, and with Talent Rocket.  


“The good news — and it is largely good news — is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills.  Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.”  Tom Peters


Now, more than ever, to navigate successfully in this new economy, we must brand our work in terms of the VALUE we bring to our target audience.  We have to show our target audience in their terms where and when we do our BEST work in the market.

What Branding Yourself Really Means 

In Tom Peter’s widely recognized Fast Company article, A Brand Called You, he writes, “It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.”

Branding yourself is all about describing your value in the market to sell yourself for a new job, promotion, or project.  When someone asks you what you do – how do you respond in one to two minutes?  In your networking discussions and cover e-mails, how do you describe your experiences, and what you can offer?

Are you describing yourself in terms of your skills? Or in terms of how you can solve their problem? 

Are you using your language?  Or are you using language that resonates with your customer? 

Are you talking about yourself first?  Or listening to your customer’s needs first?

In order to visualize yourself in a new job, promotion, or project, you have to know and agree to your OWN value proposition in the workforce.  The journey in our career is reflecting on our accomplishments, learning where and when we do our BEST work, and sharing that with our target audience to create our value proposition.

It is no longer enough to show and prove that you can do the job.  Rather, you must educate your target audience in their terms on what VALUE you can offer them.

Why Branding Yourself is Critical in the New Economy 

Let’s review some statistics:

  • By 2020, more than 40% of the US workforce will be so-called contingent workers, according to a study by Intuit.
  • According to a recent Gallup poll, only 13% of global employees are “highly engaged” in their jobs. This leaves 63% employees as “disengaged,” and 24% employees as “actively disengaged” in their jobs.
  • And, finally, this Market Watch article from last year reviews a study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012 that shows Americans are less likely to change jobs now than compared to the 1980s. Across all demographics, workers are staying in their jobs longer. People are holding on to their jobs not because they want to, but because they don’t have as much opportunity as they once did,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

When you look at these statistics, there is a story of workers who are disengaged, a shifting demand in the economy to freelance employment, and people now staying in their jobs longer across all demographics.  It would seem that disengaged people would move jobs but that isn’t the case.

Branding is your bridge to link your accomplishments to future possibilities.  To gain an edge on that project, promotion, or new job, branding will help you become visible for future internal and external opportunities.

Gone are the days of looking at job boards for a new position.  Even when you aren’t looking for the next move in your career, you can plant “branding” seeds along the way via coffee, lunch, and after-hours networking.   With 70% to 80% of filled jobs not publicly advertised, there is a clear personal and financial reason to integrate branding into our work and life.

Tom Peters further writes in A Brand Called You“The real action is at the other end: The main chance is becoming a free agent in an economy of free agents, looking to have the best season you can imagine in your field, looking to do your best work and chalk up a remarkable track record, and looking to establish your own micro equivalent of the Nike swoosh. Because if you do, you’ll not only reach out toward every opportunity within arm’s (or laptop’s) length, you’ll not only make a noteworthy contribution to your team’s success — you’ll also put yourself in a great bargaining position for next season’s free-agency market.”

How to Brand Yourself in Work and Life

1. Build Your Brand – from Tom Peters in A Brand Called You:

Standing Out

  • “What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out?”
  • “What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength?”
  • Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?”

Adding Value

  • “Ask yourself: What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value? Forget your job description.”
  • “Ask yourself: What do I do that I am most proud of? Most of all, forget about the standard rungs of progression you’ve climbed in your career up to now.”
  • “Burn that damnable “ladder” and ask yourself: What have I accomplished that I can unabashedly brag about? If you’re going to be a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, that you’re proud of, and most important, that you can shamelessly take credit for.”

Making Your Mark

  • “When you’ve done that, sit down and ask yourself one more question to define your brand: What do I want to be famous for?”

2. Build Your Campaign – Leverage Your Above Answers

What do you do?  

  • I help (who do you help – teams, people?with (what do you do for these people?)  
  • My expertise/specialties include (what are you known for – what would others say about your contribution at work?)
  • I recently supported/led (specific example of something that helped/you did/what this did?).

List your Top three most fulfilling accomplishments:

  • 1)
  • 2)
  • 3)

What are you interested in next? 

  • I am actually exploring opportunities in (what?)
  • I am interested in learning more about/looking to (what?) 

Where and when do you do your BEST work? Provide an example:

  • I do my best work when I am …

List your most challenging and rewarding work experiences:

  • My most challenging and rewarding work experiences are …

3. Be the Lemonade

Think of your offer like a kid’s lemonade stand down the street.  When kids are out there selling lemonade, they are having A LOT of fun.  They are always jumping around, waving signs, and drinking their lemonade.  They aren’t taking it personally when people don’t stop by.  And they aren’t worried about what they are charging customers either.  And they are SO excited when you stop to buy their lemonade. “It’s the BEST lemonade.” 

As you look at making your offer for a promotion, project, or new position, “Be The Lemonade.”  Be really excited about what you have to offer. Make the BEST ”lemonade signs,” i.e. through your resume and LinkedIn. Be outside your team sharing what your BEST work is, and where you do your BEST work.

Show up, connect with people, learn about their challenges, find your target audience, speak their language, and share what you have to offer. 



“If life gives you lemons, don’t settle for simply making lemonade – make a glorious scene at a lemonade stand.” Elizabeth Gilbert  



Kara Smith is a talent development / HR leader and is the founder of the Soul of Work project:, a think tank and not for profit learning lab.  The mission & intention of the Soul of Work project is to bring best practices, tools, and practical insights from thought leaders to help professionals get hired, build more sustainable economic fulfillment in both work & life, and do their best work.  As part of this mission, the Soul of Work project is dedicated to actively fundraise and donate to aligned non-profit organizations.  Learn more here:  Kara is a working mother who believes we do our BEST work when we align work with our life.