How Education Can Affect Your Personal Brand

By Debra Wheatman

On June 16, 2011

In Professional Branding

About continuing education, personal branding

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As you build your personal and professional brand, one thing to think about is how your education, or lack thereof, is impacting your reputation. What is the professional branding message you are sending to the world? Does your education say you are a person who quits before completing things, or does it say you are a go-getter who strives to achieve continual growth and improvement?

While there is no substitute for on-the-job experience, having advanced degrees and credentials can add credibility to your portfolio, thereby enhancing your personal brand. It makes sense when branding yourself to take a critical look at what your education says about you and consider your options for advancement.

Would taking additional training courses or earning new certifications bring value? Is there an incomplete degree in your past that needs to be finished? Take a step back and pretend you are an outsider. While you don’t want to spend your hard earned money on wasteful and unnecessary coursework, there may be some practical ways to upgrade your education and enhance your brand.

  • For example, if you took a sales training course 20+ years ago and there are now newer, more popular sales training programs available that will boost your image, they may well be worth looking into, even though you already have a decent reputation as a sales person. Remember, when it comes to branding, you want to be a value-added commodity.
  • Many of the Ivy League schools now have shorter business training programs that lend a great deal of credibility without requiring you to receive a full degree. Having the Wharton School or Harvard listed as part of your credentials can be a great asset. The training can still be quite rigorous; however, if you originally went to a smaller, unknown school, the clout these programs bring will be significant. Thank goodness for distance learning!
  • I blogged about certifications a few weeks ago. To reiterate, choose certifications wisely. Determine which certifications will bring you the most bang for the buck. If the credentials are not well known or recognized, they could be a waste of time. Conversely, if too many people have them, there may be no great value.

One way to determine which educational additions you should make to improve your professional brand is to research the backgrounds of your superiors. If your goal is to get to the next level, it makes sense to try to emulate those above you. LinkedIn is a good resource for doing research without being invasive. 

You will need to weigh and balance the value of adding additional education for improved personal branding. The time and monetary commitment can be challenging, but the long-term payoff can be well worth the effort. There is a reason why they put ‘new and improved’ on packaging to market products. Adding a dash of continuing education to the mix can allow you to label yourself ‘new and improved’, too.

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