By: Celine and Sarah Tarrant
After graduating from Queen’s University in 2014, Celine Tarrant launched her career in the rotational program at Walmart Canada. Though not a marketer by trade, Celine is experienced in both merchandising as well as pricing, and works with marketers every day.
In addition to her career, she is the Founder of Smart Girls Sweat, a Toronto-based ‘sweatworking’ organization that empowers professional women through fitness. The company combines fitness classes, keynote speakers, and networking opportunities to create unique experiences for health-conscious and professional women.
If you haven’t already guessed, Celine is also my older sister! We’re used to sharing everything – clothes, makeup, and now career advice! We sat down to talk about personal branding for young professionals, the importance of maintaining your own competitive advantage, and balancing your personal health with your professional self.
Sarah Tarrant: There’s so much buzz lately around the idea of personal branding. In your opinion, what exactly does ‘Brand You’ mean, and why should marketing students care?
Celine Tarrant: There are so many definitions of personal branding. To me, ‘Brand You’ is the set of skills, values, and traits that people associate when they think about you. It’s the summation of how people perceive you, and determines what kinds of opportunities they would consider you for, what kind of expertise they would ask of you, and whether or not they would want to get stuck in an airport with you!
Marketing students should definitely care because ‘Brand You’ is how you differentiate yourself from the crowd of young professionals who, on paper, look the exact same as you. I’ve noticed that some of my peers have a rude awakening when they realize they are surrounded by equally smart and talented people at work. There are literally thousands of new grads with roughly the same profile – you need to understand what makes you different, then figure out how to leverage those qualities to help you stand out.
“There are literally thousands of new grads with roughly the same profile – you need to understand what makes you different, then figure out how to leverage those qualities to help you stand out.”
ST: In your opinion, what are the most important things to consider while developing a strong personal brand?
CT: I’ve noticed that when most people think about personal branding, they immediately think about social media, guest blogging, and creating a personal website. Before you even think about building your online presence, you need to think about what you stand for that’s different than everyone else who is similar to you. As a young professional, there are already tons of ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’ in your field. Every individual needs to find their unique combination of experiences, skills, and values that deliver a competitive advantage of some kind.
I recommend that every young professional take some time to put the elements of your personal brand down on paper. There are tons of resources and exercises available to guide this exercise. Some of my favourites are ‘Bragstorming’, The PWC Personal Brand Workbook, and Life Audit. All of these exercises are designed to force you to figure out what you’re good at, how your experiences have shaped you so far, and what’s important to you going forward – all of which are very important aspects of your personal brand. You might be shocked to find that you actually have a very unique and interesting perspective to bring to the table!
“Every individual needs to find their unique combination of experiences, skills, and values that deliver a competitive advantage of some kind.”
ST: Currently, you are working full-time and you have started your own organization on the side – how do you balance your brand at the office with your brand for Smart Girls Sweat?
CT: On top of the predictable challenges of time management and constantly balancing competing priorities, an unexpected challenge was deciding how to manage my personal brand inside and outside the office. Ultimately, I decided that if I was going to spend the time and the effort on Smart Girls Sweat, I should let it become part of my personal brand at the office as well.
I’ve branded myself as a young, hustling professional who cares about health, wellness, and the advancement of women. When I put content out on social media, blogs, and in magazines, I make sure that it’s something I would be okay with my colleagues knowing about as well.
I think that if your personal values, interests, and traits are so poorly aligned to the company or field you work for – you’re in the wrong job!
While it’s great to leverage your personal brand at work, if you’re side-hustling, I think it’s important to be open and transparent with your employer. My work knows about Smart Girls Sweat (and many of my colleagues attend events), but I’ve made it clear that my full-time job comes first.
“I think that if your personal values, interests, and traits are so poorly aligned to the company or field you work for – you’re in the wrong job!”
ST: How have you personally and professionally benefited from building your own brand?
CT: Over the past 8 months, I have been exposed to a whole new community of people, made tons of new friends, and met some amazing mentors and role models. I’ve loved the chance to meet many successful women who manage to balance their careers with an active lifestyle. It’s inspiring to see that work/life balance is possible and that you can succeed in more ways than one.
Professionally, I’ve benefitted as well. My colleagues and friends at work are very supportive of my initiative. Having fitness as a core component of my personal brand conveys certain positive traits about me: hardworking, committed, goal-oriented, dedicated, and driven.
When I tell someone that I work full time, am training for a marathon, AND run Smart Girls Sweat, they infer those traits all on their own. That’s true personal branding. I’m finally starting to understand it – I don’t have to tell people about these strengths because they can already see them put into action.
“When I tell someone that I work full time, am training for a marathon, AND run Smart Girls Sweat, they infer those traits all on their own. That’s true personal branding.”
ST: Any parting words of wisdom?
CT: My last tip is to make sure you’re following through on your brand promise. It doesn’t matter how you brand yourself if you’re not living and breathing it. Do what you say you’re going to do. It’s as simple as that. For me, that means working hard at the office, then working hard at the gym, and then going home and working hard on my side hustle. It’s not easy, but if it was, everyone would do it!
“It doesn’t matter how you brand yourself if you’re not living and breathing it. Do what you say you’re going to do. It’s as simple as that.”
Sarah Tarrant is a 2nd year marketing student at the Smith School of Business in Kingston, Ontario. As a former competitive dancer, she enjoys expressing her creative side through choreography, dance, and writing in her free time. You’ll never find Sarah without a cup of coffee in hand!