“Does this fit my personal brand?” How to test drive a new career

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Your job, career or vocation is a huge part of your personal brand which means that when you start thinking about changing it, the question “does this fit my personal brand?” has to come into the equation. One woman who is trying to make this easier for us is occupational psychologist Lucy Standing, founder of job shadowing service and career change website ViewVO. I spoke to Lucy about how you can use job shadowing to help scope out whether a new job, career or starting a business is for you…

Tell us a little bit about you and the concept behind ViewVO?

I’m a psychologist by background.  I used to run graduate recruitment for an investment bank and found interns we recruited were performing better than graduates – the key difference being interns had experienced working in the bank, so knew more about what to expect. Importantly, they weren’t just performing better, they were happier.  It shouldn’t be a shock or surprise to anyone that we make better decisions about what we want to do when we experience it.  I wanted to make it possible for more people to experience jobs they were thinking of doing because in a world where there is no ‘job for life’ anymore, the need to change jobs is going to increase, but there is still not enough practical help or opportunities to get access to this experience. ViewVo – which stands for ‘view a vocation’ is changing this.

Photo: blog.Viewvo.com

This sounds like it’s a good way to tell if a job is authentically you…are there any things you should be looking for during your experience or questions you should be looking for or asking to help determine that?

Yes – as much as possible you want to use this as a chance to get as much information as you can.  Being too prescriptive when every role is different is not helpful, but if we look at what the key things are that correlate with happiness in a role, we can see it’s helpful to ask questions around:

  • How much autonomy there is in the role.
  • What the barriers to entry real and unwritten.
  • The income.  I don’t ask any of my career mentors to share their income, but I do ask them to review and point all our clients in the right direction.
  • The team/the social side of the work.  One of the biggest drivers of the satisfaction we have at work is those we work with.  If you’re applying for a straightforward role, I’d always ask to come and meet the rest of the team, shadow a day in the office/dial into a meeting.  You’ll get a good sense of the atmosphere and what sort of level of informality there is.
  • The main skills needed/the tools you need to use. People overestimate the value of knowledge and underestimate the value of skill.  If you understand what knowledge is needed and what skills are useful (driven in some cases by the tools you’ll need to use) then you’re already in a better position to evaluate your strengths relative to the work.
  • Related to autonomy is the flexibility/work life piece.  This is such an important driver for most people, but it’s the area they feel least comfortable asking about during an interview.  The reality behind the website or JD is so much more helpful than the sales picture often painted!

If you have little to no experience when entering a new job, what’s the best way to build confidence and not feel like an “imposter”?

You have to do it.  You can power pose all you like and convince yourself to spend lots of money on coaching yourself into a confident mindset, but it won’t work.  You need to accept at the beginning you won’t know it all and that’s not just OK, it’s normal.  Your first attempt at peeling a potato was probably terrible.  You improve over time. With things like jobs, which have a huge complexity of people, tasks, skills and knowledge, there is always a learning curve.  You will not be as effective at the start as you will be once you’ve got your head around things. So in answer to your question, I’d say you will feel like an imposter, but why on earth is feeling like an imposter bad?  If you’re new in a role, it’s the only way you will feel.  It’s only when you’ve got stuck in and got your head around things, that you will start to feel more comfortable.  Your discomfort is useful: when you feel exposed because you don’t have the knowledge, accept it and ask for help.   If this is a new role and you have no experience, acting as though you do is inauthentic and looks ridiculous.  Embrace your imposter!

If  an employee would like to shadow a job of someone more senior in their organisation, what’s the best way to ask for that without sounding like you want to steal it away from them?

My response is to ask: do you want to steal it away from them? If you do, I think an honest approach is always best.  The reality is, you may want to steal it away, but you don’t control that, so wanting it and getting it are two different things.  An approach along the lines of: ‘I really want to do your job one day, but to work out if it would be right for me and to understand more about what I’m missing, it would be really helpful for me if I could shadow you at work’.

You also have to accept having someone shadow you is a complete hassle.  There is very little in it for the person offering the shadowing and whilst many people are orientated to help others, what you are asking for is a big deal. On ViewVo I ask people to pay for the day to help compensate for the hassle factor. If it’s someone internally, then I wonder what else you could offer in return?  Do you have a skill set you can offer to them as payment (e.g., proofreading a document, testing a website as a user, reviewing their recruitment interview questions).  Whatever the skill set, the point is, you rarely get something for nothing.  So acknowledge the hassle and think of how you can compensate others for this.

How best should an interested participant prepare for a shadowing opportunity, with you or otherwise?

I’d refer to the question above on thinking of the sort of areas you can ensure you get some coverage.  If you are meeting a business owner, take a business plan with you (Virgin start up do a great one: https://www.virginstartup.org/how-to/virgin-startup-business-plan-template).

Before a shadowing opportunity, I always get everyone to start with a phone call, so the career expert gets time to get their head around what you most want information about.  For example, I had a client who wanted a book published, so she wanted to shadow a book publisher.  She spoke to him beforehand and when they met, he’d brought with him two other editors.  He’d also asked her to send over a chapter before they met, so the meeting was then more focused on which sort of publishers she needed to approach and what changes she needed to make before she’d be ready to do that.  It was a great way to make the time more productive.

Photo: www.odscore.com

What are some things you should consider reflecting on after your shadowing experience?

Most of the time, shadowing someone does inform your thinking.  Even if it’s ‘I know I don’t want to do that’ you’ve moved forward massively.  Knowing what you don’t like is almost as useful as knowing what you do.  You should be prepared to be disappointed, but disappointment with an idea, is a heck of a lot more comfortable than feeling scared because you’ve just invested life savings into something you realise you don’t enjoy.  As long as you are learning and gathering data, this is a valuable process.  You should also be prepared for that big imposter.  Remember,  you won’t do a job you love.  Over time, as you work more in a field of work, you develop skills and strengths which become and are unique. As your expertise develops, so does your confidence.  The more entrenched you are with your work, the more you’ll feel a sense of ‘love’ and commitment.  This is where you will end up – but it won’t be where you start.

Tell us a little about the charity side of ViewVo. Sustainability and charity is a big part of my brand so I’m always keen to hear how others incorporate that into their own brands…

I didn’t even start ViewVo until I got clearance from HMRC that organisations that use this can donate the funds to charity.  When I started talking to potential mentors, it became clear that whilst not all of them wanted ‘paying’, they did want commitment and value from the person doing the shadowing.  The mentors might not need the money, but if they knew a fee would be supporting a charity for example, this convinced many they’d want to get involved.  Certainly, if I’m getting mentors from a larger corporate, they can’t ‘earn’ a fee on the side whilst working during employers hours.  What they can do however, is a charity day/volunteer day. ViewVo gives them a chance to donate their time for free – but their fee is donated by ViewVo on their behalf to a charity of their choice.  In effect, we are the first organisation who encourages a ‘give as you learn’ philosophy.



To learn more about Lucy Standing and ViewVo, be sure to check out Viewvo.com, or connect over Instagram @viewvo.uk  or on Twitter @viewvo




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The “Brand of the Month” goes to…

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Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. As it’s December, I wanted to select someone who truly shined; a strong, glimmering personal brand to bring 2018 to a close. And the winner is…


Here’s why…
Of course our Queen Bey is immensely talented; ever since her beginnings with girl-group Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé’s music has been universally acclaimed.  But her talent is just one dimension of what makes her brand so extraordinary.

A big part of Beyoncé allure comes from the balancing and melding of two personas within one brand.  For one, there’s the hyper-sexualized “Pop Goddess” image she projects in the limelight, contrasted with the maternal figure portrayed with her family. She has become shiny example of a woman who can be both sexy and maternal.

But there’s another interesting phenomenon going on here.

Bey the Paradox

Beyoncé personifies effort and effortlessness simultaneously. VOX magazine called this phenomenon the “Bey Paradox”. Referencing her performance at Coachella 2018, the article makes note that Beyoncé never once let her audience forget how much work she was putting into her two hour performance, yet simultaneously created the illusion that that it all just flawlessly emerged with little effort.

Beyoncé at Coachella 2018. Photo:Raven Varona/Parkwood Entertainment

This paradox, the hardest-working woman in the business and someone who achieves effortless, natural perfection, is a fascinating and powerful differentiating dimension to her brand, one that provides an element of surprise, mystery and magic. She is effort and effortlessness all at once.

Beyoncé at the Formation World Tour, 2016 in Paris, France. Photo: Daniela Vesco/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images

Bey the Feminist

Beyoncé also brings a strong feminist and activist angle to her branding, albeit one presented in a glamourous pop-star package. She literally spelled this out for audiences in 2014 when performing in front of a screen emblazoned with ‘FEMINIST’ in giant wording during her Mrs Carter world tour and at the MTV VMAs.

Beyoncé at the 2014 VMAs. Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images

While the media had lots to say about this, it started a dialog about feminism, which, as Beyoncé shared, was the purpose behind the messaging. “I put the definition of feminist in my song and on my tour, not for propaganda or to proclaim to the world that I’m a feminist, but to give clarity to the true meaning,” she explained to ELLE magazine. “I’m not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women.”

Photo: newsnation.in

By embracing the issue of feminism, Beyoncé has created a strong brand association with it, one that helps to differentiates her brand from other pop celebs. There’s also little doubt what Beyoncé’s brand has done for black female identity in particular. Even President Obama has hailed her as the perfect role model for his daughters.

Bey the Business Woman

In a male-dominated corporate world, Beyoncé distinguishes herself as the founder and CEO of her own record label and production company, Parkwood Entertainment. An astute business woman, Beyoncé isn’t afraid to take risks and shake up the music industry. For example, there was her decision to release her innovative self-titled album (2013) directly to iTunes in the dead of night without any promotion, which became the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store at the time.

Beyoncé has also demonstrated tremendous marketing savvy, particularly in the art of effectively communicating her brand to her target audience. She has gone on to create a global brand for herself, with her name appearing on everything from perfume and fashion to Pepsi commercials. She was also executive producer of her own HBO documentary “Life Is But A Dream” (2013), which offers a rare glimpse into her private life. She’s masterfully positioned her brand so it reaches the right consumers…or target audience.

Until just this year, Beyoncé was the highest paid female performer in the world (Katy Perry snatched the title last month), and has shone a spotlight on issues ranging from sexism to racial identity in ways never before seen in the mainstream music industry.

And let’s not forget Bey’s co-branding.

Beyoncé shares that she’s “Crazy in Love” with one of the most powerful men in music, Jay-Z. These two powerhouses certainly create one explosive co-brand. At the same time, our Bey still projects a fierce, independent personal brand. Beyoncé managed to become the biggest female pop star in the world while cultivating her marriage and her role as mother. Which brings us to…

Beyoncé and Jay-Z perform at FedEx Field, 2018. Photo: Raven Varona/Parkwood/PictureGroup

Bey the Total Package

Perhaps this describes Bey’s brand the best. With Beyoncé’s brand spanning the worlds of art, entrepreneurship, activism, and family, we get the total package, a Renaissance woman…and an icon with a devout cult following.

And what a shinning example of personal branding to end 2018!

Happy New Year from all of us at Golden Notebook!



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Adding a Hint of Edginess to Your Brand

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When it comes to personal branding, one way to catch people’s attention is to add a hint of an “edge”, or a dash of controversy. You can do this by the way you look of course, as many people do with piercings, hairstyles or the way you dress. Another approach is to play around with the language you use perhaps a term when it’s least expected. I’ve been particularly intrigued by some people who have brought it into their work, adding a touch of edginess to their business, their events, and even their Masters dissertation.

I decided to dig a little deeper by getting to know some “edgy” women…

Michelle Minnikin

Michelle Minnikin of Insights Psychologyis a business psychologist: a group of people you would imagine have to be seen as being extremely professional and even traditional. Michelle, along with a colleague, has built up a strong following for her Newcastle based events which they have titled Don’t Be A Dick.

Michelle explains: “We basically share the common truth that HR and recruitment isn’t that complicated. Are you treating this person fairly? Are you listening to X? No, then you’re being a dick. Stop being a dick. It all started when people kept saying you should meet Rob Baker, founder of Tailored Thinking, you’d get on like a house on fire. Finally, when we did get together at Newcastle Start up Week, we were challenged to come up with a proactive new brand and Don’t Be A Dick was a result of that.  In start-up culture swear words aren’t that uncommon, after all people are putting two fingers up to corporate life in most cases, but it can be surprising for those who don’t come from that background.

The name has a multitude of uses. As well as catching the eye, it also acts as a filter, sifting out those fussy stuffy clients who wouldn’t want to work me with anyway. I can be quite sweary and loud. I’m chatty and informal, certainly not corporate. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m not afraid to get excited, be messy, be vulnerable. I’ve worked in construction and engineering and can banter with the best of them.  You get a flavour of me. The real me.

In marketing the only problem anyone has is obscurity and the more controversial and shocking you are, the more chance you have of being noticed. I’m increasingly becoming more comfortable with the fact that you can’t please everyone all the time, and so more comfortable being me. There is a caveat to this though – this is the authentic Michelle. I think if you’re being edgy and it’s not authentic, not really you, then not only will you come across an inauthentic but you just won’t feel comfortable yourself.”

Annie Brooks

Annie Brooks is the co-founder of women’s business club Sister Snog.  Annie and her business partner Hela Wozniak-Kay first used “Snog” for their branding consultancy “Snog the Agency” and Sister Snog was the natural choice when they started their business club for women.

She admits that the reactions they’ve had have been mixed: “Some women love it. They’re on our wavelength and we know they’ve got us. Some people, ask if we are a gay club. My response is “the membership criteria are that you are a remarkable woman in business, who is a decision maker with an entrepreneurial spirit, we have no interest in our members’ sexual preferences!”  What it does do is wheedle out the women that aren’t right for us, saving us, and them, lots of time and energy.

I probably see it as more memorable than controversial and that was the aim behind the name. 20 years ago, when we first started, it stood out more. Today, it’s not so unusual. When we chose the name we wanted something that would be remembered and Snog ticked that box. It was cheeky without being vulgar. We also liked that it felt a bit retro. It also has that Virgin element to it, in that it can be used as the parent brand for other businesses. Indeed, you can see parallels with the Virgin name, as that was deemed outlandish when it first came out, now no one blinks an eye about it. It’s mainstream.

It does, however, help sum up our brand identity. We are distinctive. Remarkable. Unconventional and not at all like other women’s business clubs or networking clubs. We’ve loved creating a brand we can live by and we don’t deviate from it. We are big, big brand advocates and live it every day.”

Paula Gardner

Paula Gardner is a business psychologist and coach and the founder of The Bitch Network, an online platform and club coaching women around confidence, self-esteem and assertiveness.

“I had been running women’s events for over a year but changed venue to a private club and needed a name for the evening that was a little more edgy and controversial to fit in with the club’s brand. I chose The Bitch Night. The response was amazing; three times the usual amount of guests. There wasn’t enough room for people to sit and we even had men join us, which was a first.

After that evening, people started asking me to do more along similar lines, and it was on a business retreat with psychologists, which included Michelle Minnikin of Don’t be A Dick fame, that the idea for The Bitch Network was born. I remember Michelle getting quite nervous that I hadn’t registered the domain!

Reactions have been interesting. It certainly provokes conversations! There have been a few people who have said that it wasn’t for them but so many women actually get it and love it.  As part of branding is making sure that it’s followed through I’ve made sure I’ve been doing that with little touches like naming our coaches Bitch coachesand have online Bitchin’ sessions.”

Tracy Pound

Tracy is the founder of IT software trainers Maximity.co.uk which has been running for 18 years. Their unofficial strap line is that they “take the SH out of IT.”

“We don’t put it on the website,” says Tracy, “but it comes out in out networking and our workshops. It’s how people know us. We like it because it echoes out training: there is a lot of laughter and we make an effort to get people to relax. Software training with us is not dry. People are sometimes afraid of technology, especially the higher up the ladder you go, and we find an informal and fun approach from the very beginning puts them at ease and helps them learn better.

I was a bit nervous about using it originally, but my marketing people said go for it. We don’t put it on everything so this allows us to gauge our audience and use it when we see fit. However, it’s made a big difference to our business, helping sum up our unique proposition. We think outside the box. It’s a little rude, yes, but it’s not offensive and that’s important.

We deliberately chose trainers that live up to our message. They’re charismatic, with a knowledge of business as well as the software. Above all, they suit the brand.”

Rachel Daniel

It’s not only businesses that can benefit from a little edginess, Rachel Daniel, a masters’ student, entitled her dissertation A gift of shit: A study on professional burnout from a Lacanian perspective, looking at burn out in three professions: plumbers, midwives and therapists.

“I chose to be a bit edgy because I thought it would help me stand out and help me to achieve a better grade. Having said that, I was lucky enough to come across the quote…gift of shit etc. by the person I was basing the dissertation on – and this was literally a gift to me!

My mother was mortified and shocked by the title, my peers thought it was funny, and my tutor thought it was brilliant. I love talking about it to people as I feel it shows my playful side in work and life. I ensured my work lived up to the title by weaving this into the work as a main theme and using the three respondent groups in my research as holding the theme is some shape or form. So the plumbers deal with shit as an integral part of their work, midwives can often do so too, and counsellors deal with metaphorical shit also.”


Thanks ladies for sharing your inspirational and edgy stories! Anyone else up for adding a little spice into their brands in 2019?


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Your “Year of Personal Branding”, December Edition

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Welcome to the last month of your Year of Personal Branding, where I’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand. As always, I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate all aspects of personal branding.

Another year is coming to a close. This December, we’ll take a step back and reflect on the state of your personal brand. Through these posts, I hope I’ve demonstrated that your personal brand is a total picture of how others see you and what you represent, not just the product you’ve created or the position you fill. It’s about the person behind the product or position…and their personal story. It’s about what makes them unique, compelling and memorable.

Image: iStock

During this year you have been, hopefully, living and working more consciously with your personal brand in mind. Of course, there will have been failures and setbacks and even things you completely forgotten about. However, a personal brand is always a work in progress. Here’s a quick inventory to help you reflect on the state of your brand this year:

Your Inner Brand

  • Over this past year, think about how you may have been perceived by others. What three words would your clients and/or co-workers use to describe you? Your boss? Your family? Your friends? Others in your the community?
  • What accomplishments over the past year set you apart from others?
  • Who where your biggest influences or inspirations?
  • What unique traits or strengths did you discover about yourself?
  • What did you feel most passionate about (work or personal)?
  • Were there times when you shined, or you felt you were at your personal best?
  • Which world events or personal causes in 2018 moved you the most?
  • Who has supported you this year?
  • Who has been a distraction or drain?
  • What weaknesses would you like to make less relevant?
  • What personal values were the strongest?
  • Did you accomplish the professional and/or personal goals you set for yourself this year?
  • Did you feel good about your answer when people asked “what do you do”?

Your Outer Brand

  • Do you feel you “looked the part” in 2018? Did your personal style accurately reflect the image you intended to project?
  • Overall, do you feel you had a sense of presence when you walked into a room?
  • How would you describe your overall level of assertiveness and ability to effectively communicate?
  • Did your lifestyle (home, leisure, health) over the past year align with the image you intended to project?
  • Did you effectively communicate your personal brand to a wider audience, including engaging in social media and promoting your online presence?

Bearing these answers in mind, what new actions are you doing to take next year to help your brand strengthen and sparkle?

I hope you’ve found this segment of your Year in Personal Branding useful.

And remember…

HAPPY NEW YEAR from all of us at Golden Notebook!


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The “Brand of the Month” goes to…

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Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. Every now and again, I choose “Brand Legends” who are no longer with us, and this month it’s all about…

Frida Kahlo

Here’s why.
There’s always been something quite mesmerizing about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. And this month, we saw the close of the V & A exhibition in London about her extraordinary life, entitled Making Her Self Up.

The title alone reflects the importance she placed on constructing her own identity.  Nearly seven decades before personal branding was a concept, Kahlo’s legacy demonstrates that she was a master at it.

The late Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Photo: Nickolas-Muray

There are so many unique aspects of Kahlo’s remarkable brand that I could talk about, however I’d like to highlight a couple in particular this month.

A strong theme resides at the core of her brand.

A theme of resilience emerged from her tragic past. At age six, Kahlo contracted polio, leaving her one leg shorter than the other. Then, as a schoolgirl, she was involved in a bus accident where a steel rod impaled her, resulting in a number of horrific injuries that caused a lifetime of suffering. She spent three months in a full body cast and endured more than 30 surgeries throughout her life.  Yet, as The Guardian’s Cartner-Morley pointed out, she went on to become the only female artist who is instantly recognizable all over the world.

The Observer described the V&A exhibit as “an extraordinary testimony to suffering and spirit”. This captures a theme to Kahlo’s personal brand; a co-existence of suffering and beauty, of agony and ecstasy, of darkness and vibrance. We even find symbolism of this during her accident, when a packet of powdered gold carried by another passenger had exploded all over Kahlo upon collision. Covered in blood and gold, she laid there hemorrhaging and shimmering among the wreckage.

Kahlo painted in bed while recovering.

After several months recovering in hospital, she returned to her family home to continue her recovery; it was here where she started painting, including one of her first self-portraits. Kahlo spent a lot of time alone recovering from operations and apparently had a mirror fitted above her bed so she could spend time with herself. Perhaps this was where the importance of exploring her identity and constructing her image stemmed from. Many of her paintings are self-portraits – 55, to be exact – many expressing two different versions of herself.  These deeply personal self-portraits often convey her suffering, but also capture her inner-strength and resilience. She wasn’t afraid to cast a light on the darker corners of her life, and her experiences of pain and suffering became a central part of her brand.

The Two Fridas (Las dos Fridas), 1939, the first large-scale work done by Kahlo, is considered one of her most notable paintings. The work was painted after her separation from Diego Rivera and reflects two different personalities.


The Wounded Deer (1946) painted after a failed spinal operation earlier that year.

She had an innate understanding of the power of image.

Kahlo knew the power of image from an early age.  As a teenager, she posed for a family portrait in full male attire: a three-piece tweed suit, complete with shirt and tie. Here she seems to have used cross-dressing as a way to express power and independence.

Kahlo in a family portrait, 1926.

One of Kahlo’s traditional outfits on display at the V & A exhibition.

This form of expression continued throughout her life, as she turned to her wardrobe as a means to experiment with perception, and how she would define herself as a woman and an artist. She spent hours in front of the mirror experimenting with looks, and loved to shop for colourful garments and accessories.

As a result of her childhood polio, Kahlo’s left leg was thinner and shorter than her right, for which she wore a prosthetic. The regional Mexican clothing she wore, such as the long, colourful Tehuana style skirts that became a defining feature of her outer-brand, also concealed the physical trauma of her past. Given her immaculately curated outer-branding, Kahlo seemed to reserve the expression of her physical pain for her paintings.


Kahlo’s most distinctive feature of course is her unibrow. Her brow is as much a part of the Kahlo brand as the swoosh is to the Nike brand. It has come to symbolize a confident expression of unconventionality, described as shorthand for: “I won’t curb my self-expression to meet your expectations of how a woman should look.” It is a big part of what has shaped the image of Kahlo as an enduring feminist icon.

Since her death in 1954, Kahlo’s image has been used in a wide array of consumer products, from tequila to throw pillows, and recently, even a Barbie doll. In personal branding, a Barbie doll created in your image is considered a crowning achievement.  However, when Mattel revealed its Frida Barbie as part of its “Inspiring Women“collection this year, the doll wasn’t necessarily well received; critics claimed that Mattel’s minimization of her unibrow and absence of facial hair was a devaluation of the meaning attached to how Kahlo presented herself in life and art.

Mattel’s Frida Barbie, launched for International Women’s Day 2018

The eyebrow pencil Kahlo used to accentuate her facial hair was even included in the V&A exhibition; a reminder that even back in the 1940s, Kahlo was challenging beauty norms in a way that still feels progressive today.

Let’s not forget her co-branding…

Kahlo’s Frieda and Diego Rivera, 1931, was painted a wedding portrait.

Kahlo had many lovers of both sexes over the years, including well know names like Josephine Baker, Georgia O’Keeffe and Leon Trotsky, yet her relationship with Diego Rivera, to whom she was married twice (yes twice!), has become known as one of the most vibrant and tumultuous love stories that exists between two legendary artists. Rivera and Kahlo did not have a traditional marriage and each of them had affairs. In addition to sharing a passion for art, communism was a very strong part of their life, a cause they both incorporated into their art. Rivera’s name overshadowed Kahlo’s during their lifetime, however Kahlo has gone on to eclipse him since her death.

A strong personal brand endures the test of time. Given the extraordinary brand she constructed for herself, Frida Kahlo is sure to live on, inspiring generations to come.

Frida Kahlo. Photo: BBC Radio 4



How to bring your personal brand into your CV

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Imagine your recruiter or potential employer, on an average busy day, furiously making their way through a seemingly endless collection of CVs, with yours buried somewhere within.  How can you stand out amongst the sea of other applicants and get noticed…and noticed in a way that authentically reflects your personal brand?

Our guest blogger this month is Belinda Coaten, a Career Coach and Mindfulness Teacher who helps people gain clarity on their next career steps, successfully deal with change, learn how to best tackle the job market, as well as understanding how to present yourself confidently and authentically. Here Belinda talks about how to stand out by bringing your personal brand into your CV.

Here’s Belinda:

When we read a novel, if we care to look deep into the style of writing, the layout and structure of the chapters, the words, often painstakingly crafted we get the occasional glimpse of the author…and I think it’s fair to say that a CV, although minimal in size by comparison to a novel, should do the same.

There are usually lots of challenges we face when sitting down to write the CV – it’s often a while since we last updated it or even wrote one.  We are also writing about ourselves, so more of a biography than a novel, and for most of us we are so deeply attached to self that it’s hard to step away and look objectively at me. What have I done? What have I accomplished?  What should I write?

What’s the purpose?

So let’s step right back and pause to consider why? What’s the purpose of a CV? The CV is the first stage in the recruitment process.  The recruiter simply wants to answer the question in their mind, which is, do you have the necessary skills and abilities to do the job? The overall purpose for you is to open the door to the next stage in the recruitment process, an interview.

There is no blue print to say this is how a CV should look and also what it should contain. And so one of the first ways to bring your personal brand to the CV is to consider the visual image, how do you want it to look? Ninety-nine percent  of CV’s will be fairly uniform in their layout, being creative but not flamboyant will make your CV stand out from the sea of other applicants.

Be clear on what you authentic brand is

Your brand consists of a blend of different elements and all of these can be displayed within your CV. To name a few:

Your personality – consider how you work.  If we all complete exactly the same task, we will all complete it differently. What’s your difference? Ask yourself, so how have I achieved the things that I have? Through honesty, integrity, sheer determination?  Or some other quality?

Your credibility and reputation – this is a bit harder to convey within the context of a CV. You could talk about the context of your role, for example, how many customers you support, your reporting lines, or even how you came to achieve this role.

Your Values – if you include a profile section in your CV, your values are a good place to position these, simply stating them is a start.  Turning your values into benefits goes one stage further. If you describe yourself as professional, what is the benefit to the reader or potential hiring organisation of you having this value? Being professional might mean to you that you go out of your way to stay up to date in your area of knowledge so your work is always current.

Recruitment Software
If you apply for a job online it is very likely that your CV will be unseen by the human eye until it has been zipped through some recruitment software.  This software will be pre-programmed with key words. It is therefore essential that you create a match to the role you are applying for. You can do this by stating what you have done and include an example to what the recruiter is specifically looking for. This needs to be your main focus.

Is a CV the only place, or the right place, for your personal brand messages?

Today over 50% of recruiters are not placing adverts for jobs, instead they are using the quicker, cheaper method of searching for people on Linkedin.  And the other 50% of recruiters who still want your CV, will go straight to LinkedIn to look you up and see what information is there before they pick up the phone and dial your number.

So, I’d like to propose that you also focus on creating and projecting a strong brand on your LinkedIn profile too.  Within the scope of its drop down menus you have far more flexibility to describe yourself, and talk about what is important to you and why this is.  Your brand can sing much louder and clearer via this method.  You can display your photograph, upload a banner header of your choice.  Talk about why you do the work that you do, what you enjoy most about it, and why. You can ask people to recommend you and so build your presence and credibility too.

My conclusion is that weaving your brand into your CV is crucial; you need to be authentic.  And yet it’s a challenge, you only have two pages and what you detail must create a specific match to the role you are applying for. Using your CV in conjunction with your LinkedIn profile creates much more opportunities for you to be you. And this in turn allows the recruiter to see your personal style and to have much more than a glimpse of you, they can hear your brand messages loud and clear.


Belinda Coaten is a Career Coach and Mindfulness Teacher. She has worked with thousands of people across the UK who have received their P45 or are waiting for it.  She helps people gain clarity on their next steps, successfully deal with change, learn how to best tackle the job market, as well as understanding how to present yourself confidently and authentically

To learn more and book a complimentary phone call, visit www.belindacoaten.co.uk.




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Your “Year of Personal Branding”, November Edition

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Welcome to the November edition of your Year of Personal Branding“, where I’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand. As always, I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate all aspects of Personal Branding.

For us Americans, November is the month of Thanksgiving, a time to reflect on what we are thankful for. Oftentimes what we are thankful for is also what we value the most in our lives.

This month, In true Thanksgiving style, we will be looking at your values.

Are you living in accordance with the values you uncovered this year? If you’ve identified discrepancies between your values and how you’ve been living, what needs to change? Of course, this values exploration requires putting aside some time for personal reflection.

But why bother looking at our values?

Here are my top four reasons.

Values bring purpose and meaning into our lives.
Identifying your values and living consistently with them can be a way of injecting purpose, meaning and passion into your brand.

Values lead to a sense of well-being and fulfillment.
Living in congruence with your values can lead to feelings of happiness, fulfillment and well-being. Inversely, when we are acting against our values, we can usually feel that something is off.

Values can be our greatest guide.
They are the leading principles that can guide us through life, kind of like a compass. If we follow our values to choose our jobs, our friends, even what we do in our spare time, chances are we will feel more fulfilled. What’s more, others will sense that we are living in accordance with our values and feel more comfortable in our company.

Values can motivate us.
Values can serve as a great motivator through life, particularly when things get difficult; they can make our hard work and struggle worth the effort. Furthermore, if we identify discrepancies between our behaviours and values, this realization can provide the motivation to help us take action to improve our lives.

To summerize, our values are at the very core of our brands. They embody what we want to be in this world. They represent what we want to stand for. They guide us in making decisions. They are highly individual and personal — and are what make us unique in this world.

For more on assessing your values, check out my blog.  You may need to put a little time into contemplating your values, but what they will bring to your personal brand — and your life — will be well worth it.  Just the thing to do on a dark November evening!


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The “Brand of the Month” goes to…

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Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…

Yayoi Kusama

Here’s why…
The 89-year-old Japanese artist makes for a perfect Brand of the Month this October. After all, it’s Halloween time (and pumpkins are a bit of a thing of hers) and her sold-out exhibit has recently opened at the Victoria Miro Gallery here in London. The exhibition also coincides with the UK release of a film about her extraordinary life, entitled Kusama: Infinity.

Not to mention that her brand has been launching like a steady rocket over the past few years. Large-scale solo exhibitions have popped up around the globe, as well as major touring exhibitions in the US and Europe. Last year, we saw her open her own five-story gallery in Tokyo. Yayoi Kusama has become the biggest-selling female artist in the world, and certainly the most recognizable.

“Kusama with Pumpkin” (2010). Photo: Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/ Singapore; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; David Zwirner, New York; KUSAMA Enterprise

At first glance, it’s easy to see that her brand holds a certain magic. Her outer-branding is spot-on (pun intended!). Her co-branding of course is incredible (her 2012 collaboration with Louis Vuitton produced some of their most coveted bags). But there is a certain depth to her personal brand that makes it extraordinary.

Kusama posing with a bag from her Louis Vuitton collaboration. Photograph: Yayoi Kusama Studio

Authenticity is a prominent part of her personal brand. 

Kusama has created much of her unique brand and fascinating works while living voluntarily in a psychiatric hospital over the past 41 years.

She knows herself, and indeed what she needs to take care of herself. She also doesn’t try to hide her mental illness or demons of the past, but instead works with them. She found a way to channel her manic episodes and allowed them to drive her creativity.

Kusama in her signature polka dots. Photo: Wikiart

The hospital offered art therapy courses. She explained, “It made it possible for me to continue to make art every day, and this has saved my life.” Kusama sleeps at the hospital and then works in her studio across the road six days a week. She has a small team of studio assistants and gallerists who look after her affairs in New York, Tokyo and London.

“I have been painting, drawing and writing from morning until night every day since I was a child.”
explained Kusama. “When I arrive at my studio in the morning, I put on my work clothes and start to paint straight away, and I work right up until dinner time. I don’t rest. I am an insomniac. Even now, if an idea comes to me in the middle of the night, I pick up my sketchbook and draw.”

Kusama shares that when she was a young girl in a field of flowers, she experienced a hallucination in which the flowers started talking to her. She likened the heads of these talking flowers to dots that went on as far as she could see, and she felt as if she was disappearing (she calls it ‘self-obliterating’) into a field of endless dots. This episode influenced most of her later work.

Kusama in her studio, in front of her work “The Moving Moment When I Went to the Universe”. Photo: Yayoi Kusama Studio

Kusama’s art is very much part of her survival story. In fact, many of her trademark forms today were an effort to manage and make sense of her hallucinations over the years. The first pumpkin Kusama saw was at age 11; when she picked it up, it began speaking to her. She painted the pumpkin and won a prize for it. Almost eighty years later, one of her pumpkin sculptures (2007) sold for $1.5 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. Her “art medicine” as she calls it includes a compulsion to spread those forms in a repetitive fashion on every surface, walls, floors, furniture and even the clothing she makes herself, and continues today.

Pumpkins, 2009, Outdoor Sculptures at Victoria Miro, London

Resilience is also a strong feature of her brand.

Kusama is a survivor. She not only endured an oppressive childhood in Japan and a lifetime of mental illness, but also survived (and thrived) as a struggling artist in the male-dominated art world of 1960’s New York .


Kusama knew she had to escape her stifling home environment. She made the bold decision to reach out to one of her greatest inspirations, artist Georgia O’Keefe, writing to her for advice. O’Keefe answered her letters, advising Kusama to go to the US and show her work to anyone who might be interested. O’Keefe became a remote mentor of sorts.

Kusama in New York. Photo: www.fashionschooldaiy.com

Speaking very little English, Kusama arrived in New York City in 1958 with a few hundred dollars sewn into her dress and a stack of her artwork and silk kimonos to sell. According to her autobiography, she sustained herself by scavenging food like discarded fish heads. But through determination and passion, she managed to infiltrate the avant-guard art scene and had the first of many exhibitions there in 1959. She met and inspired important artists including Donald Judd, Andy Warhol and Joseph Cornell, and, alongside of them, made contributions towards pop art and minimalist movements.

She was also one of the first artists to experiment with performance art; she would create what she called “happenings” around New York, by getting people to strip naked in places like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge, and paint their bodies with polka dots.

Body-painting for Kusama’s Self-Obliteration. Photo: Photobuket

Although she did gain a degree of recognition, Kusama never reached the level of fame as her pop art contemporaries and seems to be largely excluded from pop art history. Kusama herself believes that her original ideas were appropriated by male artists in her New York circles (the film Kusama: Infinity seeks to expose that appropriation).But by the end of ‘60’s, she had managed to lay the foundations of the work we see today.

In the early ‘70s, Kusama returned broke to Japan and checked herself into the psychiatric hospital where she still lives today. Her work was rediscovered in 1989 when the Centre for International Contemporary Arts in New York put on a retrospective of her work. A slow, steady revival started to emerge. And now her resilient brand has become a global phenomenon.

If you’re not one of the lucky lot who was able to snag a ticket to her exhibition, you can still experience Kusama’s magical wonderlands for yourself on social media: #YayoiKusama or #InfiniteKusama

And of course, be sure to catch the film Kusama:Infinity!


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Capturing an inspiration: Filmmaker Bridie O’Sullivan on creating the documentary Zandra with a Zee

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As far as unique personal brands go, Dame Zandra Rhodes certainly ranks up there. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Zandra about her brand, and have experienced firsthand just how magnetic and inspirational this British icon is.  Next year, Zandra will dazzle us with her 50th anniversary show, and to mark this milestone, a feature documentary about Zandra Rhodes is now in production.

Here, I chat with filmmaker and photographer Bridie O’Sullivan, a former student and personal friend of Zandra’s, to learn more about her documentary Zandra with a Zee, and how we can help make it happen!

Dame Zandra Rhodes. Photo: Times Higher Education

Bridie, you’re taking on quite an ambitious project at the moment. Tell us a bit about it.

The film will take us behind the scenes during the run up to Zandra’s 50thanniversary fashion show in 2019, showing us everything from the early stages of research as she forages through her vast archive and looks elsewhere for new inspiration, through to the nail biting last minute backstage changes at the catwalk show itself.

Along the way we will dive into Zandra’s colourful personal history and own archive as she recalls some of her most iconic designs for royalty and rock stars – from the Japanese state banquet dress for Princess Diana featuring cherry blossom, to Donna Summer’s dress featured on her album cover, Bianca Jagger’s glam Studio 54 dresses, Diana Ross’s after party outfits and Freddie Mercury’s white pleated Bohemian Rhapsody cape, and tells the often hilarious or poignant stories behind them.

The film will also take an intimate look at the person behind the brand, as she deals with life concerns about aging and legacy, witnessing how the threat of illness and familial pressures take their toll on her professional life.  In the course of this journey we will examine Zandra’s history as one of Britain’s most revolutionary designers, and understand how she managed to maintain her single-minded creative vision for more than 50 years in the harsh fast-paced landscape of the fashion industry.

Bridie O’Sullivan in her documentary Zandra with a Zee

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Zandra in the past about what an amazing and unique personal brand she has. What was it about her that specifically motivated you to do this documentary?

I have worked with Zandra since I was a 16 year-old student (so nearly 10 years in total now). The documentary is something I started four years ago when I was experiencing my own mental health issues. The process has been a massive journey of discovery and healing. In an attempt to understand Zandra’s own quirks and coping mechanisms, I have started to understand my own, so naturally the film has mental health aspects in relation to coping, ageing, family dynamics and survival with a lot of humour along the way.

Dame Zandra Rhodes. Photo: Facebook

I was motivated to tell this story, as in the current global crisis it will bring the fantasy and hope of
Zandra’s work and teachings to a wider audience, along with showing the beauty of creativity and community. During my difficult battle with mental health, it was this very family unit of support, creativity and fantasy that got me through. This is why this story is so important for me to tell, as it is not just a film about the legendary designer’s life. It is a story of an unconventional family. Zandra’s slightly eccentric mothering/bringing together of people is at the center of everything. It goes beyond the constructs of what success is in terms of the industry and looks to the legacy of people she has taught to buck against the norm. The core of this film looks at the meaning of what it is to be vulnerable and human. It looks behind the fabulous chiffon armor we construct for ourselves.

What about Zandra do you personally find the most inspirational?

It’s definitely her fearlessness, in being herself and creating designs be damned what others think or say.

How has she specifically shaped your personal brand as a creative?

For me Zandra encompasses so much, especially when it comes to growing and finding my feet as a creative. Use of colour, texture and fantasy are definitely massive ones! But I think underlying everything is her teaching about truly looking at something when you’re drawing. I have brought this in to all elements of my film and image making.

Zandra and Bridie in action

In what ways do you feel the documentary will capture her unique and authentic personal

I feel the documentary will capture her unique hands-on approach to design from her travels and sketchbooks, revolutionary take on pattern cutting and her love of analogue. It will also capture her eccentric, youthful, transformative, gritty and humorous spirit, which is such a vital part of what makes Zandra Rhodes.

In what ways will the documentary reflect your own personal brand and story?

In a lot of ways this documentary will reflect more then I could ever say. It marks my journey from adolescence into adulthood, my battle with mental health into recovery. In regards to my brand the process has taught me to have a voice and not to be afraid of being vulnerable.

Last but not least, tell us about how others can get involved and help make this documentary happen!

Get Donating!

Check out our crowdfunding page, where there is more information on how your donations will help complete the film. We are also offering loads of amazing one-off perks; from vintage signed and numbered posters all the way up to a couture dress and fitting with Zandra herself.

Zandra With A Zee [WT] – Tigerlily Productions – Crowdfunding from Bridie O’Sullivan on Vimeo.

We really look forward to you becoming part of the family and thank you for supporting a young British filmmaker!


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Your “Year of Personal Branding”, October Edition

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Welcome to the October edition of your Year of Personal Branding“, where I’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand. As always, I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate all aspects of Personal Branding.

You may not realise it, but there’s a whole team out there that supports your personal brand. As virtual assistant Natalie Guerin of pebble.uk.com pointed out in this article, your team can include a wide range of people in your network; your friends, your personal trainer, your answering service, your cleaner and, of course your team at work, if you have one.

This month, we challenge you to take a closer look at identifying your “A Team” (or “YOU Team”!) and evaluating whether you are getting what you need from them. Are they supporting your brand in a way that is in line with your brand attributes? Have you communicated your values to them? Does your hairdresser understand that you want to look a little edgier? Have you communicated to your cleaner how you want your office or house to be left?

You can also extend this to the people who surround you on a daily basis. Are your friends supportive…or at least provide fun and stimulation and take your mind off work and worries? Or, is one dragging you down with back-handed compliments or draining you with their problems to the extent that you are beginning to feel like their counsellor? Of course, it’s important to help and support people yourself, but if it gets to the point where you know you are being affected yourself, it is time time to draw up some boundaries and point them in the direction of a professional.

Don’t forget your significant other. A supportive partner can be a huge boost on so many levels, but they can also end up a liability! Just as politicians are also judged by their spouses, our own partners factor into how others see our personal brand. We’ve all come across the colleague with the questionable partner, whether they can’t hold their drink, dress inappropriately or just give off the wrong impression. Of course, it’s not all about being charismatic and confident. A quiet and supportive partner can contribute just as much to a personal brand as an openly extrovert and ambitious one.

Regardless of the relationship, it is when their behaviour holds you back or diminishes your own brand that problems emerge. First, collect data and observe how you work together over time. Second, make a decision on how you’d like to proceed with the relationship. If you notice a pattern, you have some choices:

  • Stay and change what you can, while building acceptance around the rest.But do realise that can be very hard to change someone else!
  • End the relationship. The most dramatic of the options but if you’ve been thinking this for a while this may just confirm what you’ve been feeling all along.
  • Do nothing. But the likelihood is that you’ll get frustrated and the situation will deteriorate.
  • Shift focus. Focus on developing your own personal brand and cultivating relationships with other “team members” as opposed to co-branding with that individual. This may include going solo to events or with someone else instead of your partner. This works for a lot of people!

So this month, spend some time developing and giving a little TLC to the personal and professional relationships behind your personal brand!


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