Alongside their usual lectures and seminars, our MSc students are invited to attend a wide range of speaker and insight events, designed to put the learnings from their course into a business context. Several of our ambassadors share their experiences and key takeaways from attending the 'Developing your Personal Brand' session, with Gabi Whitfield, former Global PR Director for Jaguar Land Rover.
Megan Surman, MSc Marketing & Strategy
The first session was focused on ‘Developing your Personal Brand’. We were fortunate enough to have this session presented by Gabi Whitfield, former Global PR Director for Jaguar Land Rover. After many successful years in senior positions within the automotive sector, Gabi has developed a very strong personal brand and in the session, she gave us an insight into how to develop our own personal brands.
A bit about Gabi
At age 23, Gabi enrolled in University taking a BA course in Public Relations, with a placement year at Volkswagen, which is where her automotive career began. This led to her eventually reaching senior roles in some of the biggest global automotive firms such as Mitsubishi, Nissan and JLR. Being involved in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Gabi quickly learned the importance of her personal brand.
The secret to success in building your personal brand
Summed up in 2 key points, the key to success in building your personal brand comes from being memorable and becoming invaluable.
Gabi emphasised to us the importance of being memorable in the right way, that ‘you are your own brand’. It is what you do and say, and how that makes people feel that ultimately creates your brand. Something that really stuck with me was this quote: “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” - Maya Angelou.
This really emphasised the importance of emotions and making connections with those you interact with.
The 3 Word Challenge
Creating your personal brand starts with self-awareness; knowing who you are, knowing your strengths and areas of improvement. Gabi showed us an exercise called ‘The 3 word Challenge’ which helps you to identify who you are, how others see you and what actions you could take to highlight your strengths and be aware of and work on your weaknesses.
Step 1: Discover 3 words that describe you at your very best and at your very worst (e.g. when your confidence is low, lacking energy)
Step 2: Ask your friends and family to do the same for you, openly and honestly
Step 3: Collate feedback
Step 4: Develop your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Embrace your ‘superpowers’ and manage your weaknesses, be aware of these behaviours and look for cues to manage them. These weaknesses could impact upon your personal brand if you are unaware of them.
Concluding thoughts on the session
Gabi concluded the session with a few top tips that I’ll take with me throughout my MSc and beyond:
- You are on a journey - embrace it
- Know, appreciate and build your strengths
- Believe in ‘Brand You’ and live it every day
- Push yourself to do more - no shortcuts
- Build your networks
- Never stop learning and developing
- Strive to make a difference
- Be genuine and kind in all you do
And ultimately, be memorable, and become invaluable.
I really enjoyed taking part in the first session of the Management Insight Series, it has really made me think about my own personal brand and how I aim to develop it moving out of education and into my career.
Aksara Iambumrungsakul, MSc Business Analytics
Back in the 1990s, people knew little about Amazon, who we now know went on to become one of the most successful companies in the world, driven by a ‘customer obsession’ philosophy. In the meantime, Apple, one of the most successful companies, proves that ‘Think Different’ is always their lead. These companies have been working on their story, proving that ‘branding’ is a powerful tool to succeed in the market.
However, branding is not only for companies or businesses. It is also about us as an individual – we have our own story, goals, and skills, to share with other people and to harness our brand. In this session, Gabi, a global PR Director Jaguar Land Rover, shared what personal brand is and how crucial it is to grow our brand and succeed in a workplace.
What is Personal Brand?
It is a great combination of what we naturally say and do, and what other people see us. Genuinely, it always starts with self-awareness. Gabi told us that asking who you are and what values you embrace, is the beginning stage to build our brand.
How to Start Building Our Brand?
Gabi introduced a simple yet useful exercise, which enables us to discover and understand more about ourselves. This exercise contains two steps, which are as follows;
- Ask from your inner self: we discover what could be three words that describe us at the best and the worst level of ourselves. The best state means when we are happy or highly positive while the worst can be when we have low self-esteem or a bad day.
- Ask from others: we instead ask our friends and families to provide three words when we are in the same states mentioned above.
The Bottom Line
‘Be memorable, become invaluable’ This is the powerful secret sauce from Gabi to succeed in her career by harnessing a personal brand. Once we do the exercise above, we can follow Gabi's key steps (listed by Megan above).
To sum up, as a postgraduate student, the session helped me understand more how I could start making my own brand and leverage it to grow in my career. I’ll finish with a quote shared in the session: “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be" - Maya Angelou
Xinyi Xu, MSc Marketing & Strategy
As the study life of term 2 begins, I’ve also started to think about the path after my graduation. Embracing the transformation from a student to a career professional can be challenging for many of the students including me. One of the very first steps is to develop a personal brand. Therefore, as soon as I spotted the ‘Management Insights: Developing your personal brand event’, my attention was caught immediately, and I could not wait to learn so many things from this session.
Learning about building your personal brand
At the very beginning, we were introduced to the amazing speaker, Gabi Whitfield, who has been working in PR field in automobile industry for over 22 years. I was totally astonished by her passion and hard work in an industry that has been dominated by males. Starting from the point of not knowing the path she should take, to the determination of working in Public Relations area, Gabi continues to build her personal brand and blazes a trail along the way.
Gabi started by introducing the core advice about personal brand building, which include being memorable and invaluable. Then detailed recommendations were provided, followed by the most valuable part of this session, the three-word challenge exercise. This exercise requires participants to use three words to describe the target at his/her very best and use three words to describe the target at his/her very worst. We can use this exercise to identify the strengths and weaknesses that we’ve previously ignored in ourselves. Finally, some tips on managing weaknesses and continuously improving personal brand were offered.
Putting Gabi’s advice into practice
After the session, I invited some friends to participate in the three-word challenge exercise and use six words to describe me. I found out which of my merits I’d been ignoring due to my lack of confidence, while my neglected weaknesses were also discovered. The perceptions from people around me reveal a brand-new perspective for me to understand myself and I can finally reflect upon the personal brand I thought I knew.
This talk from Gabi was like a beacon to help me to seek my true self and I also started to consider how to manage the weaknesses identified by my friends. As I start the job-hunting journey, improving my personal brand can undoubtedly assist me to present myself to employers in the most appropriate fashion. In fact, apart from careers, the skills to develop a personal brand are applicable to many areas of our life. From informal social situations to academic communication, it is always essential to present an unforgettable personal brand to people you are trying to connect with. I was very glad to join this session and learned a lot from Gabi. The lesson I have learned is of great value to me for a lifetime and I will apply the skills in different stages of my future life.