Olesija Saue is a personal branding strategist, executive coach and NLP master practitioner, recognized as a Top Personal Branding Voice on LinkedIn and ranked among Thinkers360’s Top 5 Personal Branding Experts. Olesija brings over 20 years of experience in business development, sales and marketing. She is a co-author of the Amazon best-selling book on personal branding, “The Brand Named You”. She is a partner and strategist at Goal Social Media Marketing and the founder of the personal branding agency Maximizer. Her work is dedicated to empowering professionals and CEOs by integrating NLP techniques with personal branding, ensuring their brand’s authenticity and impact.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Olesija shared her insights on the importance of personal branding and how professionals can use it to advance their careers, the greatest challenge and success encountered by her while building her personal brand, the major takeaways from her book, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
Olesija, why do you feel personal branding is essential to career advancement, especially in today’s economy?
Personal branding has become increasingly crucial for career advancement, especially in today’s economy. In the past, it was about what others said when you left the room. Now, in 2024, it’s about what they know before you even enter. In a world where first impressions are often formed online, aligning your digital and physical presence is vital. Your digital twin should be an authentic extension of you, showcasing your skills and values consistently across platforms. This alignment ensures that by the time you physically walk into a room, your reputation precedes you positively, opening doors and creating opportunities. If your digital personal brand doesn’t echo your accomplishments, your knowledge, and the esteem you hold in offline spaces, you’re leaving a significant amount of potential untouched. In the digital realm, a brand isn’t just a representation; it’s an active, evolving entity that can open doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and audiences. Today it’s not just about whom you know. It is about who knows about you.
How can individuals go about discovering their personal brand and how can they use it to advance their careers?
Discovering your personal brand is a journey inward, followed by strategic outward expression. It begins with retrospection. Reflect on your strengths, values, passions, ‘why,’ style, and story. These are the components of your personal brand DNA, the essence of who you are.
Once you’ve gained clarity on your personal brand DNA, the next step is building visibility and credibility. It’s about making your personality known to the right audience. In today’s interconnected world, people are inclined to engage with individuals they know, like, and trust. Authenticity in your presentation creates this bridge of trust. We are naturally drawn to those who mirror aspects of ourselves. This psychological principle is why brands use Jungian archetypes- they appeal to specific traits that resonate with their target audience. Similarly, in personal branding, showcasing your true self aligns you with people and opportunities that resonate with your authentic being. By understanding and expressing your unique personal brand, you can strategically navigate your career, attracting roles and opportunities that align with your true self, and thus, advancing professionally in a manner that is both fulfilling and authentic.
Digging deep to uncover one’s personal brand can be challenging and sometimes painful. What was your greatest challenge and success in building your personal brand? Did anything work better than you expected?
Reflecting on my journey in building my personal brand, the greatest challenge was undoubtedly embracing my authentic self, with all its imperfections. Like many, I was initially caught up in the pursuit of perfection, wanting to present a polished image that I thought was ‘right.’ However, I quickly realized that people connect more deeply with real stories and genuine individuals, not idealized images.
The turning point came when I decided to accept myself as I am, acknowledging my strengths and weaknesses, my successes, and my struggles. It was a moment of vulnerability but also immense power. By sharing my ongoing journey, complete with its highs and lows, I found that I could connect with people on a much deeper level. My story, in its raw and unfiltered form, resonates with others, inspiring them in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
You need to embrace your journey, every step of it. Your brand is a living, breathing story of who you are, what you stand for and what you are becoming. It’s not about perfection but progression, not about a finished product but an evolving story. By sharing this authentically, you not only grow your brand but also inspire others to embark on their journeys of self-discovery and growth.
What misconceptions and misinformation about personal branding bother you the most? Do you think that some people will never get what personal branding is all about?
The misconceptions surrounding personal branding are numerous and naming all of them would need an article of its own, but a few particularly stand out due to their widespread acceptance. One of the misconceptions about personal branding that concerns me, especially from a CEO’s perspective, is the notion that it’s solely about self-promotion or creating a flashy online persona. This superficial understanding overlooks the strategic depth of personal branding, which is about authentically conveying one’s values, skills, and experiences to the right audience. It’s about authentically presenting oneself to the world while focusing on how one’s unique attributes can benefit others.
Another misconception is the overemphasis on ‘building’ or ‘creating’ a brand, as if it’s a facade to be constructed from scratch. This often leads to the false belief that the ‘package’ is all that matters. However, like luxury goods where both the product and packaging hold significance, in personal branding, your genuine substance (the value you offer) and your presentation (how you convey this value) need to harmonize. It also important to remember that a truly effective personal brand aligns both online and offline personas, reflecting consistency and authenticity across all interactions.
There’s also a frequent misunderstanding that personal branding is a luxury reserved for certain professions or levels within a company. In reality, personal branding is vital at all career stages and in all roles, including CEOs. It’s about how leaders present themselves, articulate their vision, and connect with their stakeholders.
Finally, the idea that personal branding is self-centered is a misunderstanding. It’s not merely about making oneself known; it’s about connecting with people who can benefit from what you uniquely offer. It’s a service-oriented approach where the focus is on how your abilities and experiences can help solve problems, inspire, educate, or uplift others.
It’s possible that some individuals may never fully grasp the multifaceted nature of personal branding. However, as leaders, it’s important to continuously advocate for a holistic understanding of personal branding, emphasizing its role not just in individual career growth but also in driving the success of the entire organization. I believe that people need to understand that it is a strategic tool for every professional who wants to be successful in their work.
In your keynotes on personal branding, are audiences at first resistant to the concept? Do you see lightbulb moments in them when it all comes together?
Many in the audience often equate a strong personal brand with being a household name or celebrity, which seems unattainable or irrelevant to their professional lives. This misconception leads to a hesitance in embracing personal branding as a tool for their career growth. When I pose the question, “Who has a personal brand?” and see only a few hands go up, it sets the stage for a lightbulb moment. The realization that everyone already possesses a personal brand, but the key lies in how strategically one manages it, brings a perspective change. When personal branding is understood as a means of being known by the right audience and not necessarily about widespread fame, resonates deeply. The most gratifying feedback comes when attendees express their newfound understanding that personal branding is essential for their professional journey, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a celebrity. It’s about crafting and managing a personal narrative that aligns with their career goals and connects them with their ideal audience. This clarity often leads to a more strategic and empowered approach to personal branding, which is incredibly fulfilling to witness.
Brief us about Maximizer Personal Branding agency- How do you coach HR professionals, CEOs, and business owners in building their personal brands?
Unlike traditional personal branding agencies, we combine the power of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) with personal branding strategies. This unique approach allows us to tap into the subconscious mind, helping our clients create authentic and impactful personal brands that resonate deeply with their target audience. Research shows that we are most powerful and effective when we are congruent with who we are, what we believe, and our convictions. Through our NLP-enhanced personal branding approach, we help our clients tap into their inner strengths and unique qualities, by leveraging rapid breakthrough insights from Neuro-Linguistic Programming and marrying it with a strategic personal branding approach. We also provide DFY solutions for impactful leaders, who can maximize their impact by aligning their physical and digital personal brands.
Please share the major takeaways from your book, “The Brand Named You”.
“The Brand Named You” is a practical workbook, which consists of 100 practical steps and questions, that help you to understand your personal brand DNA, package it attractively, so that it resonates with your target audience as well as create a clear strategy and action plan. The most important takeaway are 7 questions, that you need to answer to put your personal branding strategy together and create a onepager to guide you on your journey.
- What is the goal of your personal brand?
- Who are you-what is your personal brand DNA (your values, your story, your passions, your strengths, your style, your why)
- What do you offer- your value proposition based on your personal brand DNA?
- Who should know about you- your ideal target audience?
- What should they know about you- your content strategy?
- How would they know about you- your channels (both online and offline)
- How would you measure your success- your personal brand KPI’s?
Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?
It’s been a mosaic of inspiration and guidance from a myriad of incredible individuals. From coaches who nudged me beyond my limits, to authors whose words resonated with my core and also all of my clients and students- each added an important piece of the puzzle. I’m deeply grateful for all of them.
What does the term “authentic leadership” mean to you?
When we talk about “authentic leadership,” we’re essentially emphasizing the importance of understanding and accepting oneself as a leader and a human, without the pretense or facade that can sometimes be associated with leadership roles. Authentic leadership for me means being genuine and true to your own values, principles, and leadership style. You cannot fake authenticity. It’s about being comfortable with who you are as a leader, acknowledging your strengths and areas for improvement, and leading from a place of sincerity and transparency. While the term “authentic leadership” may have gained popularity, its essence remains unchanged-effective leadership comes from self-awareness and self-acceptance. Authentic leaders are open to growth and learning. They prioritize honesty and consistency in their actions, which builds trust and credibility among their teams and stakeholders. In my opinion, it is about staying true to one’s inner values and beliefs while guiding and inspiring others.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In essence, my mission is to bridge the gap between the traditional and digital worlds of business, helping individuals unlock new opportunities and reach their full potential in an increasingly digitalized environment. My primary focus for the next 5 years is to continue building and expanding my agency, with a particular emphasis on popularizing the concept of personal branding, enhanced with the power of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and bringing more of amazing professionals and CEO’s and owners of traditional businesses online. I’m deeply committed to addressing the issue that many traditional entrepreneurs and professionals face, which is underutilizing their digital presence. I aim to effect change in this area. Over the coming years, I envision my agency becoming a recognized leader in personal branding services, not only helping individuals enhance their digital presence but also demonstrating the tangible benefits it brings to their personal and professional lives. Through content creation infused with NLP techniques, strategic partnerships, and innovative approaches, I aim to empower a growing number of traditional entrepreneurs and professionals to embrace their digital twin and maximize their impact.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are thinking about stepping into the spotlight with a personal brand strategy?
Personal branding is no longer just a nice-to-have; it’s become an essential strategic tool for every professional who wants to remain relevant and thrive in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. In a digital age where visibility and reputation matter more than ever, cultivating a strong personal brand isn’t just an option; it’s a necessity. Remember that being popular isn’t synonymous with influence. You don’t need to be known by everyone; you just need to make an impact on the right people. The age of digital connectivity has made it possible to reach anyone, but it’s the strategic, niche-focused approach that truly makes a brand memorable and influential. By defining, understanding, and engaging with your niche, you not only solidify your brand’s positioning but also its impact. Platforms like LinkedIn have democratized personal branding. By being strategic about your connections and content, you can ensure that you’re in front of the eyes that matter. A relevant, engaged network often yields better results than a vast but unengaged one. It’s about precision targeting rather than mass reach.
Begin by discovering your personal brand DNA- it is the only truly unique advantage that noone can copy. Dive deep into your values, strengths, passions, story, style and most importantly why. Understand who your target audience is and what matters to them. Create a clear personal branding strategy. Commit. And most importantly, don’t overthink it. Start acting now. The first steps can often be the most challenging, but they’re vital to your journey’s success.