Posted by: kevinliebl | August 12, 2010

Do You Have a Personal Branding Agent (PBA)? You Will…

Personal Branding AgentI’ve written a number of articles on the changing corporate landscape (e.g., Your role in your company is changing, 5 Steps to Prepare Yourself for the New Corporate World, Building Strong Business Relationships, Building your Personal Brand).  It is clear that our roles within corporate America are changing.

If you think about your father’s career, he probably worked for the same company for 20, 30 or 40 years and then retired from the company with a full pension.  A decade or so ago, working for the same company for ten years was the norm – and was valued on a resume.  Today, it is viewed negatively.  Five years ago, the average tenure for a manager, was 3-5 years.  Today it is 18 to 36 months.  Estimates show that within the next few years, employees will be changing jobs every 1-2 years.

The loyalty between employer and employee is evaporating.  In California, “at-will” employment has given employers the ability to terminate employees “at will”.  Employers look at employees as interchangeable resources.  A manager is hired to develop, or turn-around a department.  Once this is complete, they are often replaced with a new manager who will take the group to the next level.  The bottom line is that employees are often viewed as contractors or consultants regardless of their employment status.  Most roles are “project” based.

Employees are recognizing that in addition to being responsible for their own retirement fund (remember that pensions disappeared a long time ago), they are also personally responsible for their own careers.  They need to develop their own personal brand.  They need to create a brand identity and create brand loyalty.  They need to promote themselves and create demand in the market for their personal brand.  In much the same way that athletes such as Kobe Bryant, entertainment moguls such as Oprah, and actors such as Brad Pitt develop, promote and protect their brand, employees must do the same thing.

Many employees who are in transition feel as though they are out of work actors looking for their next movie or television series to work on.  They hope that the television series will get picked up by the network and provide employment for the next several seasons, but often it is cancelled before it develops.  In the entertainment industry, actors use agents and publicists to develop and promote their brand.

I believe that over the next decade, the struggling executive search industry will stop working for the employers and evolve into Personal Branding Agents who will work for the employees in much the same way that talent agents work for actors.  I believe that many PR executives will evolve into executive publicists.

Asking an engineering director or manufacturing manager to be their own brand manager is like asking them to rebuild their car’s transmission.  They simply don’t have the skill set, and honestly, don’t want to develop it.  Most executives and managers are lost when asked to maintain their own LinkedIn profile, create a personal blog, build an effective business network, speak at networking events and the fifteen other activities necessary to promote themselves effectively.  I believe we are moving toward an era where personal agents will build executive brands by booking speaking opportunities, scheduling them into the right industry events, introducing them to the leaders in their industry, writing press releases about their accomplishments, promoting them in the trade publications and business journals, identifying upcoming roles that met their profile, and generally managing their careers in much the same way talent agents manage athletes and actors careers.

The service doesn’t exist on a broad basis yet, so we all need to manage our careers ourselves.  However, I look forward to the day when I can outsource this to an expert.  I would pay for it.  Would you?  There is a reason I don’t work on my own transmission – There are experts who can do it better, faster and cheaper.  I would rather focus on my core-competencies.


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  1. I think that your blog is right on. Trend analysis predicts the future better than sole analysis of static conditions. You have studied relevant trends over the past few decades and developed a real insight into future employee/employer relationships and the evolving nature of career planning and management. Good job!

  2. Kevin,
    Thank you for this illuminating essay! I am in the transition space and find myself developing skill sets that while challenging are really moving me away from immediate opportunities rather than toward them. The expression “struggling writer” comes to mind when I apply myself to my resume.
    My only reservation on your observations is that I think that while the executive search industry may be struggling now they will continue to “follow the money” which ultimately is with the employer not the “out of the money” employee.
    That said, I am reaching out in several areas (including to enhance my brand.

  3. Hello Kevin-

    I’m an executive talent agent and it is pretty lonely here. In fact, I don’t have any direct competitors. To my knowledge, there is no one else dedicated exclusively to representing prospective employees, who is never compensated by any company and does much of the job searching work for candidates.

    In the ideal world, candidates should always be collaborating with their “career manager” but my experience shows that almost every one drops their networking activity and looses precious contacts once they land. I tell my clients that the networking contacts which I create for them which generate potential job leads immediately should become their future lifetime career insurance. Meaning that networking contacts should be cultivated and maintained to keep and always have the right inside knowledge and get referrals continuously, even when you don’t need a new job or aren’t looking to make a change.

    I agree that a lot of job searching tasks can be delegated/outsourced to an agent, but the good interpersonal chemistry and trust has to be sparked personally. I can initiate a relationship by facilitating a meeting. I can coach to help the conversation move in the right direction. I can craft strong follow up correspondence for clients and set up appointments, but the client has to own their connections if they want to be able to access help and advice when they need it most.

    Owing to my years of experience helping hundreds of executives, I excel at job search planning and execution way beyond what any one individual can acquire. I think an agent can do a better job of planning the strategy and jump start networking setting. But the responsibility for cultivating relationships and supporting mutual interests cannot be effectively outsourced. In fact, I have seen relationships broken by callus contacts who won’t make the effort to respond personally or show up for an appt themselves ( what? interview your representative for this major account- forget it- we’ll take our business and our money elsewhere that will appreciate us.

    I don’t see agents everywhere but I do see the value if you don’t have connections, need to be discrete, and are not familiar with job search best practices. With over 80 % of jobs being filled via the hidden job market via referrals, anyone who is not well connected has a severe disadvantage in today’s job market.

  4. Amen!

  5. Wonderful web site. A lot of helpful info here. I’m sending it to some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks for your effort!

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