How I Used Personal Branding to Transform from Bureaucrat to Filmmaker

Before I started consulting on personal branding, I was unknowingly practicing it for many years. Only I put the cart before the horse, implementing my personal brand before being able to articulate what I wanted to present to the world.

It all started many years ago, when I was unhappy in my day job, working in HR in the public service. Funnily enough, I worked in career development and we were bringing in consultants to deliver workshops on various topics to employees. One consultant we met with was describing what it takes to switch careers and she said, instead of talking about what you currently do for a living when you introduce yourself to others, flip the script and focus on what you want to be doing. Once she said that, the lightbulb went off for me; I was already a novice filmmaker at that time and from thenceforth whenever I introduced myself, I started framing the conversation around myself as an emerging filmmaker. I immediately felt better about myself and realized the importance of those first few words and what an impression it can leave on others. If I wanted people to think of me as a filmmaker, rather than as a public servant, then I needed to tell them I was one. I also extended this into my social media, so that rather than focusing on just tidbits from my personal life, I started discussing and sharing articles about filmmaking and the industry.

Another lightbulb moment came with my wardrobe at work. I had spent many years struggling with trying to find the right outfits to wear - colours, silhouettes, what looked professional, what didn't. As I started to get to know myself better and feel more confident in identifying myself as an artist and creative, I realized that I preferred colours, non-constrictive clothes and funky accessories. Even though no one had ever said anything aloud, I'd always felt that in order to fit in and progress in my career, I needed to present myself in a certain way. Once I finally didn't care about fitting in, I could wear more of what suited my personality. I slowly began to extend this to my cubicle too; I started to put up images and motivational phrases that spoke to me as an artist and which also brightened up my work space and made it feel more like...well, me.

As I continued to build up my experiences as a filmmaker and through volunteer and entry-level jobs in the industry, I was eventually able to put together a resume that spoke to these specific skills and experiences. And then one day I was able to quit the public service to eventually do what I do now, which is freelance in the film industry on contract, while consulting on personal branding and of course developing my own films.

I could have probably still made this transition without personal branding, that is without changing how I introduced myself while networking, updating my wardrobe or redecorating my cubicle. But I believe the power of these early instances of personal branding was that it allowed me to buy into myself as a filmmaker, which in turn gave me more confidence and a better understanding of who I wanted to become in this world. It's funny how it sometimes takes changing things on the outside in order for them to change on the inside.

How about you, do you think you've ever inadvertently practiced personal branding? If so, how did that work out for you?