Personal Branding: Me, Myself and I (and lots of hats)

Photo: 'Private Event: Hat over Heels' by Institute of Making CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo: ‘Private Event: Hat over Heels’ by Institute of Making CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

In my professional career I wear lots of different hats.

First, there’s my “day job” as the Manager of Research Reporting at UNSW Library. In this role, I manage  the system UNSW uses to collect information about all of the publications produced by UNSW researchers. I support open access at UNSW and explore emerging research support tools such as Altmetric for Institutions and ORCID to see how they can be implemented at UNSW.

There’s my “night job” as the Director of Technical Operations, board member and co-founder of the International Librarians Network. In this role I work with the other two Directors and co-founders, Alyson and Clare, to run the ILN. I am responsible for our website including coordinating most of the content you see here. I also work with the others to fulfil many other tasks for the ILN. For example, I animated and provided the voice over for our promotional video. As board members, we also have responsibilities to ensure that the ILN is well run, meets all of our governance requirements and is financially and organisationally sustainable for the future.

There are my “side jobs” where over time I have moonlighted in other roles for example as an assistant event coordinator helping my husband run arts and museum events. Or as a past convenor of ALIA Sydney, a volunteer-run professional development group that runs events for librarians in Sydney. Or the period where I was teaching part time into a local Masters degree in ‘library stuff’.

Wearing all these different hats can get a bit confusing at times, particularly when it comes to defining my ‘personal brand’. How do I chose what is important? How do I craft the story? What do I want to say anyway? What do I want to be ‘known’ for?

The thing is, my personal brand is out there whether I like it or not. Because I ‘do stuff’ I have an identify, a Google search on me brings up articles I’ve written and presentations I’ve given, as well as my work with the ILN. Plus every person I meet I leave with an impression of who I am. If I take control, then I get to choose (kind of anyway) what those impressions, both digital and in real life, are going to be like. For me this isn’t about choosing a logo for my life, it’s about choosing what I want people to know about me.

So here’s what I’m choosing:

  • I choose to care about people, be they my team, my colleagues, my clients or my friends and family and to show that to the world. People matter to me a great deal and I want to be known for that. I want to enable people to have safe, supportive spaces to learn, grow and develop new skills.
  • I choose to be both serious and fun. I work hard and believe in taking my work seriously, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a laugh along the way.
  • I choose to be knowledgeable. This one takes hard work, because it means I have to commit to my own development, reading and building my knowledge but it is rewarding too.
  • I choose to have integrity. I will always endeavour to be trustworthy and behave honourably.

So how do I communicate these choices as my ‘brand’?

To be honest (there’s that integrity thing) this is something I’m still working on. I am a fairly private person as well as a bit of a shy-extrovert, so I don’t always feel comfortable putting myself ‘out there’. But there are some steps I’ve already identified.

  • I need to collate my web presence more effectively, especially all those papers and presentations. If I want to be known as being knowledgable, I need to help people find and read my work.
  • I need to continue to challenge myself to ‘be bold’, step out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers at events. After all, strangers are just people you haven’t met yet.
  • I need to put my name to my work more often.  It is easier less scary for me to ghost write articles for the ILN, assuming the neutral tone of the organisation, but then our community would never know I exist.

Square Headshot copy

So here’s a step towards that last one.

This is me, Kate Byrne. Librarian, Ideas Girl and Director of Technical Operations for the ILN.

So I’ve shared my thoughts, what are yours? Who are you? What do you want to be known for?

9 comments

  1. Hi Kate, your article is really worth reading all the time. True, you are a woman of many hats considering the fact that you hold many positions in different environments. I would love to keep at the referencing desk which gives me opportunity to provide all the information I know in our Library / Organization and also to get to know the people more on a one to one basis. It keeps me happy.

  2. Renee Samwell · · Reply

    Thank you for your honest and articulate post Kate. I found it very inspiring, and it has caused me to stop and reflect on my own branding. Still in progress.
    Renée

  3. One of the most interesting post I read on the ILN blog so far, Kate.
    I don’t know anything about your “day job”, but I can tell you are really commited to your “night job”, and I’m sure it’s the same with your “side jobs”.
    In what you chose, I found the 1st and 3rd points very important, that is : teach to the others, as well as you learn yourself everyday. That means not putting yourself in a position of superiority, and always be curious and searching better ways to improve your work…and your life. Definitely crucial.

    I am also very concerned with “feel comfortable putting myself ‘out there’.”. We did not become librarians by chance, we don’t work in trade, or…show-business (!). That’s something not often mentioned, thanks for this wonderful post. Manuel

    1. Thank you for the kind word Manuel, I feel I can speak for Alyson and Clare here too that it is our amazing global community that keeps us going.

      I think you are right that many people in our industry feel uncomfortable being ‘out there’ and my strategy is to trust in that. The person I introduce myself is probably feeling just as nervous and uncomfortable as I am. By saying hello I’m really helping out both of us. – Best wishes, Kate.

  4. Thank you, Kate! You wear your hat ILN well!

    Some “I choose” the change “need” … example:
    I need to be honest and take on new challenges that will allow me to continue learning and to give more to mine!

    Thank you again!

    -Victoria

    1. Hi Victoria, I think it is always useful to remember the things we do are choices. I hope you can find new challenges that do allow that (if you get stuck for ideas, we always have challenges to share here…).

      – Kate

  5. Starting late in life with a library career is a huge challenge. I realised a couple of years ago after reading an article, that I needed to persist with a personal brand to show my passion and commitment to libraries. Being more introvert than extrovert makes it harder. (I like Kate’s description: shy extrovert). Being isolated from ‘library life’ (as an unemployed expat in the Middle East) I turned to Twitter and LinkedIn, then went on to Instagram, ScoopIt and Pinterest. After trying Facebook I decided to opt out…mostly because I found it to be a time-waster while I was studying. I might get back on that medium in the future. Across the social networks I use I try to keep the same user name, always keeping in mind the standards for a professional librarian, to build trust, show integrity, learn from others, but also to come across as the real me.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences Sandy. I must admit I’ve made 2 attempts at using Linked In and each time I get frustrated at the amount of email spam it makes and close my account. May have to try again…

      I love the fantastic community of librarians on Twitter and I’m made so many connections with colleagues all around the globe that way. However it has been fascinating for me since we created the ILN experiencing how we reach different communities around the world through different mediums. It has been a powerful reminder to match the message and the audience to the medium as we just can’t do it all.

      – Kate

  6. A great piece! I just love it. Will start writing mine.. now.

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