Creating Your Personal Brand: Five Tips for Retail Dietitians

February 05, 2013

What is a personal brand and why is it important to retail dietitians? RDBA’s executive director, Annette Maggi, shares five tips and insights from her experience working for an iconic brand. Learn why your personal brand is a critical element of your success.

Originally published in RDBA Weekly.

By Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA

RDBA Executive Director 

I spent five years of my career and got my feet wet as a retail dietitian working at Target. One of the foundations of Target's reputation in the retail industry is branding. They're genius at it. They made fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi a household name, created the Bullseye dog as an iconic extension of their company logo, and shifted private label foods to a higher food standard than national brand equivalency.

Employees at Target know that the company takes branding one step further, imbedding it in their employee performance culture. To work at Target, you need to either walk in the door with a clear personal brand or quickly establish one. Even if you don't work in a culture as brand-intensive as Target, having a personal brand can be a make or break factor in your success within the retail industry. 

What is a personal brand? It relates to all aspects of how you represent yourself, from the way you approach email communication to how much you drink at company happy hours to how you dress to how you react in meetings.

Ask and Reflect. A great starting point to developing your personal brand is to seek feedback from coworkers, your boss, and people you manage. Approach these discussions with an open mind, seeking to understand how others perceive you.  How would they define your reputation in the company? Are you a problem solver or a road block? Do you portray a formal manner or are you the life of the party?  Do you follow through on commitments? How is this visible to them? 

Observe and Take Note. It's also helpful to evaluate the brand of those you admire as well as the movers and shakers within your company. Do they know every store employee by name? Do they command attention simply with their presence when they walk into a meeting room? Consider whether there are parts of their brand that would be beneficial to emulate. 

Tailor and Build. In defining and building your personal brand, it's essential to factor in your work environment.  What works for an outpatient dietitian in a pediatric clinic differs from a dietitian who is a food blogger which also differs from a dietitian working in the retail grocery industry. Even in the retail space, dietitians are often viewed as subject matter or technical experts. While this is an important component of your personal brand, consider how to best showcase this skill set and what other attributes you want your reputation built upon. 

Be Social and Smart. Social media plays into your personal brand as well. Personally, I separate my connections in social media using LinkedIn for professional contacts and Facebook for personal connections. Allowing your manager, employees and other co-workers see how you spend your weekends, pictures of you in a swimsuit on vacation, or your opinions on political issues could potentially damage the personal brand you've worked to establish.

Detail and Refine. While we all want to believe that our work stands on its own and that this should drive our reputation at work, subtleties like appearance, how you manage your work space and even your handshake matter in business environments. It's more impactful to keep a copy of Malcom Gladwell's latest book in your office than to post a picture of Justin Bieber, even if you do love his music.

While there are many facets of building a personal brand that help drive a successful career in the retail space, authenticity is still vital.  It's about finding the balance of putting the best you forward at work every day and knowing what works in your environment. You want to be in control of the impression people in your company and your profession have of you.