Interview with Mr Peter Sterlacci, Personal Branding Pioneer in Japan-The Team Nation

Peter, how will you explain Personal Branding in simple words? What are its benefits?
To me personal branding is a process of believing in, becoming, and being authentic.  I see a healthy personal brand starting first with the belief that you have something authentic to offer.  Only from this established belief can you put this authenticity into action to become your brand.  Becoming your brand involves creating the necessary tools and taking the appropriate steps to make yourself visible and distinctive.  Once put into motion you can consistently be your brand (be your authentic self) in everything you say and do.  You consciously act upon your authenticity - you stand out, you show up and you spread the word.  

Personal Branding is a very new concept in India and mostly image management companies are popular for CXO executives. What about Japanese scenario?
It is very new in Japan as well.  As with India, personal branding can be mistaken as image consulting.  However, it is becoming a critical need in Japan where the economic landscape is shifting away from the traditional Japanese practice of "lifetime employment".  For years, Japanese have worked hard from elementary school through high school to pass the necessary exams to get into a good university.  The university name helps to land a good job at a reputable company where employees go through the natural stages of advancement and promotion within the same company until retirement.  There has traditionally been no need to "stand out" or be "distinctive".  Culturally speaking, Japanese are educated to "fit in".  There is a well know proverb that states: "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down".  As such, defining your authentic self in Japan and broadcasting it puts the Japanese at risk of being separate from, rather than part of the group.  However, recently companies are laying people off and new university graduates cannot land jobs.  To compete in the new global economy defining one's personal brand is becoming more and more required.  Culturally, however, this is a challenge.

What type of professionals or entrepreneurs can benefit from Personal Branding?
In Japan the professionals who want to work on a global scale benefit the most from personal branding.  This generally means the new university grads to mid-career professionals.  Often people who have worked at a foreign company for some time want to change jobs and work for a different foreign company. Personal branding is crucial for such people as typically a foreign company will ask questions in interviews that naturally require a candidate to brand themselves.  A friend of mine who worked for a headhunting agency in Osaka told me many stories about how he can easily find qualified Japanese candidates on LinkedIn for foreign companies.  However, when he sends them to the interview they fail simply because they cannot promote themselves.  They cannot convey the value they would add, they cannot talk about their attributes, they cannot explain their strengths, they cannot define what separates them from others. 

What are the popular online tools used in Personal Branding?
In Japan right now Twitter is the rage. A May 18, 2011 Japan Times article titled "Japan, the Twitter Nation", states that 20% of all Japanese use Twitter while only 8% of people in the US are users.  14% of all tweets globally are in Japanese, second only to English at 50%.  (Read here:  http://bit.ly/j1xA1d)   As of now the term "social media" in Japan equals "Twitter".  Interestingly, however, most Japanese use an anonymous name for their Twitter accounts rather than their real names.  Perhaps Twitter is providing the venue for Japanese to stand out and broadcast their brand, albeit behind a nickname. 

Any advice you would like to give to a person confused about whether he should go for Personal Branding or not?
Ask yourself if you were one of two candidates for an amazing job and you both had the same amount of experience and skills, what would you say to land that job?  How would you position yourself in such a way that you are the obvious choice? To do this my advice is to believe, become, and be your brand.

Thanks Peter. May Personal Branding rise in the Land of the Rising Sun!

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A Brief Profile
Peter Sterlacci has handled many senior roles including Director-International Outreach at San Jose State University and corporate training before venturing out into Personal Branding in Japan.He specialises in Intercultural Personal Branding and his philosophy is "Empowering you to Believe, Become and Be your Brand"

Connect with him on Linkedin

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