Becoming a successful e-learning professional takes more than just strong design and development skills. If you want to be seen as a credible pro by your peers, your clients, prospective employers, and the learning and development industry at large, you need to broaden your definition of professional development.

In this article, we’ll take a look at personal branding—what it is and why it matters—and give you some key questions to consider to start tailoring your brand for e-learning career success.

What is a personal brand?

Your brand is how you present yourself in your professional community. It’s a combination of your reputation and your value proposition. It’s what people think you can offer, combined with how well you’ve made yourself known.

Why does a personal brand matter?

If you’re actively building your career—either through freelance work or from within an organization—you’re already building a brand, whether intentionally or not.

Chances are that at one time or another, you’ve left an impression on someone through your interactions with them—whether it be in the workplace, in the classroom, or elsewhere. Thanks to the internet, people have more access than ever to the things you say and do. If you have a social media presence, then your words, ideas, and actions have already contributed to your personal brand.

And because of the larger culture shift to a more fluid employment economy, people are looking at your brand more often. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of January 2020, an American worker’s typical job tenure is about 4.1 years. This is a far cry from the 10- to 30-year job tenures many of our parents had.

This means you need to be shrewd in growing, nurturing, and protecting your personal brand. And with so many people competing for work—especially the creative work we do in e-learning—you need to continuously rebuild your brand rapport to broaden your network and attract new opportunities.

What does it mean to build your brand?

In short, brand building means identifying your brand’s mission, vision, and personality, and ensuring that all of your professional activities and public communications align with those concepts. It also means investing in your own professional development to make sure your brand stays relevant and competitive.

Where do I start?

The good news is that you’re in the right spot! Communities of practice, like E-Learning Heroes, are a great resource for building your brand. You should also consider these key questions:

  • What does your online presence look like? We all have a digital footprint. Take some time to Google yourself and see how, when, and where your footprints lead. Do you come across as a confident, credible, and informed e-learning professional? If you notice a lot of personal social media content, you might consider updating your security settings so that your personal social media doesn’t pop up in Google. It’s best to keep your personal and professional social media presence separate.
  • Do you have a website or online portfolio? If so, was it easy to find when you searched? If not, you might want to work on creating one. Here’s an article that outlines what to include in your portfolio. For inspiration, check out the portfolios of your fellow E-Learning Heroes community members in this challenge: Show Us Your E-Learning Portfolio.
  • How are you adding value? Many people accuse social media sites of being a waste of time. I’ve found that perception is often the result of the messages being shared rather than the medium itself. Becoming a trusted curator is a great way to build your network and your personal brand. Before you share content, always read it carefully, and then consider how well the focus and tone mesh with your brand. Add value to your network by placing the links or content you share into your professional context. Take care to reference the source of the content or otherwise give credit where credit is due.
  • Who are your favorite brands? E-Learning Heroes has some serious rock stars in its ranks. Who do you admire? What do you admire about their user profile and their contributions to the community? You can also find brand inspiration by brainstorming companies and celebrities with strong brands. What attributes of their brands resonate with you, and why? Later you can use your insights to help identify themes for your own brand’s identity.

The Bottom Line

Taking control of your brand is one great way to exert control over your entire professional destiny. Ultimately, the question is not, Should I have a personal brand? but rather How do I shape my personal brand?

What are you doing to proactively manage your professional development? Share your ideas, tips, and questions with us by leaving a comment below. 

Looking for more career advice? Check out these articles:

And while you’re at it, we’d love for you to follow us on Twitter, where we post the latest and greatest news about everything e-learning.

Trina Rimmer

Hi Richard. Thanks for reading & commenting! In my case, branding my name worked out well for me because my ambition was simply to be independent—not necessarily to be an entrepreneur. If I'd had entrepreneurial tendencies, I think I would've pursued branding my company more aggressively to give myself the leeway to grow. If I'm honest with myself, I'd have to say that as an independent contractor, my biggest ambition was to control my own career destiny—not to grow a successful business. On the practical side, I know there are legal and tax implications that go along with each decision. I thought this discussion thread ( nicely captured some of the benefits & drawbacks... Expand

John Wagner