Whether you know it or not, you already have a personal brand. In this episode, Linda Evans shares how to identify, improve, and utilize your personal brand for good.

July 6, 2020 4:13 pm

By Shelley Hunter

Listen to the Episode

About Linda Evans

When Linda moved to Washington, DC to start working on a master’s degree at a prestigious university, she had no substantial job and no way to pay for enrollment. But a promise in her patriarchal blessing gave her the confidence to move forward. While looking for work, she discovered that the school provides “tuition remission” (meaning the cost of tuition is waved) for full-time university employees.

In answer to her prayers and in fulfillment of that patriarchal promise, Linda got a job at the school that both covered her living expenses and kicked in tuition coverage just as the bill came due.

Though she ended up leaving that program and trying another en route to finally finding a third master's program she loved, Linda faithfully made each move, trusting in the “God of the 11th hour.” Of this experience, she says, “I was able to graduate without debt while living in New York city. I still marvel at that a lot… I just felt like the Lord took care of me so well, allowed me to make my mistakes and still didn't let me crash.”

Now Linda holds a Master of Arts in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University, has worked nine years in higher education as a career counselor and advisor, taught university-level classes "to help college students achieve their goals and reach their potential" (Career Exploration, Career Strategies, and Personal Branding), and she is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach.

Linda is also the founder of Launched By Linda, a virtual career coaching service.

“When you know who you are and what your value is, then job interviews will not be as stressful because you won't see it as an evaluation of your worth, it will be a two-way interview...because you can reject them as much as they can reject you.”

- Linda Evans -

linda evans dancing

What You'll Learn in this Episode

  • Advice for Gen Z youth who aren't sure what to study in college
  • How to identify and evolve your personal brand
  • How knowing your personal brand can help you develop confidence
  • Why it's important to charge for the services you provide
  • Most Importantly: How Linda has seen the Lord’s hand in her career.

Mentioned in this Episode

Download the Transcript

 Why Your Future Career May Depend on Knowing Your Personal Brand

Guest: Linda Evans

Shelley: You're listening to the Faithful Career Moves podcast. I'm your host, Shelley Hunter. This is a place where we talk to people who recognize the Lord's hand in their lives, and specifically in their careers. Thank you for joining me on episode four of the Faithful Career Moves podcast. 

Today, I'm excited to introduce you to Linda Evans. She's a certified strengths coach, a career advisor and an expert on personal branding. That last part being the reason I really wanted to talk to her, and here's why. 

I recently listened to an episode of Whitney Johnson's podcast called Disrupt Yourself. I'll link to it in the show notes.

On that show, she interviewed Mark W. Johnson, author of Lead From the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth. Now this may seem like I'm taking you down a rabbit hole as I just named three different individuals, but I'm doing it because A, I can't take credit for the thoughts that that podcast inspired, and B, because Linda Evans is the person I think can help me work through this. 

First, in its very basic form, Johnson's theory on future back thinking is the idea that you should anticipate the future, what it will look like, how it will be different from what we know, and then make decisions today that will help you prepare for and thrive in that future environment.

Now, this is different from present forward thinking, which assumes that the future will be based on our present day experiences, that it will just be an increment of what we already know, but various disruptions past and present should tell us that that will not be so. 

As I pondered that, and please, listen to Whitney's entire podcast on the topic and get Mark Johnson's book because that'll explain it so much better than I am doing at this moment, but as I pondered that, here's the thought that came to me. 

What if in the future, nobody works for an employer in the way we now know it? What if in the future, everybody is a contractor or a business owner in some way?

I know that seems crazy, but think about it. 

We've already lost the old career model that our parents had. The one where you got a job and stayed with the company for 25 years and then comfortably retired. That's gone. We already have a growing gig economy, where people clock in and clock out whenever they want. That's what Uber, DoorDash and other teleworker solutions are based on, and the side hustle. How many people do you know who have a day job that pays the bills and a dream job that either supplements their income or is what they really want to be doing?

Think about the COVID-19 disruptions, where employers had to pay people who weren't working, lay people off quickly, rehire them, shut down again, only to staff and re-staff constantly. What if those businesses were staffed by contractors? We know there are many other things broken in our current job markets, so I don't know. I don't know what exactly the future holds for our careers, but I do believe that an essential element of succeeding in the future will depend on having a personal brand. That brings me back to Linda Evans. 

I've been encouraging people to figure out what their personal brand is as it relates to job interviews for a few years.

While most people look at me kind of funny, I felt bolstered up in this idea when a friend of mine introduced me to Linda. She's been teaching a course at BYU on the subject of personal branding, recently started a new job at Trinity University, and has a business called Launched by Linda, also focused in this area. I asked Linda to first explain what she's doing now.

Linda: I'm in week-three of my new job at Trinity University, which is the fifth University I've worked at. I've been in higher ed for almost 10 years and I've been in career services for about four years as a full time professional. Right now, my role is in the career services office. My title is assistant director for assessment and technology, but I also have the advising piece advising STEM students, which is a new challenge for me. I've advised liberal arts students and social work students in other universities, but this will be the new learning curve. Launched by Linda is my side business that I started in 2011 right after I graduated from Brigham University.

I knew I wanted to work with college students, but I didn't know how to do that or I knew I needed a master's degree, but I wasn't sure what degree. I wasn't sure of that path yet, so I started just practicing editing people's resumes for free and their college essays and things like that, like admissions essays. I really enjoyed it, got practiced, and then as I gained more and more experience and credentials, then I started doing coaching rather than just email edits.

Shelley: Okay, we're going to get to the personal branding question in a minute, but I want to ask you quickly, I have a high school senior. People ask him all the time what he wants to do. He happens to have a pretty good idea. My other kids don't. When people say, "What do you want to study?" They always just say, "I don't know." What advice do you have for the younger generations that are just now trying to figure out what they want to do?

Linda: Well, I think that kids might be interpreting that question differently as in what do you want to study meaning what do you want to do the rest of your life? I suspect that that's how they're interpreting it. They don't know. Most of us didn't know. We thought we knew, but then life happens and the economy changes and world pandemics happen. I think a better question to help high school students, adolescents be able to think more productively is what do you really enjoy learning about? What do you have questions about? What do you care about?

One way to pick a career choice is picking a cause rather than a job function, like, "Oh, I want to be a mathematician," or, "I want to be a writer," or I want to be a teacher." Those are functions, but the cause could be, "I want to fight climate change," or, "I want to bring more social justice to education sector," or, "I want to cure chronic diseases." These bigger world issues that are really, really important to gen Z students, gen Z being the newest generation. It could be so many different things, and that might be a more productive way to think about it and then being like, "Okay, well, this is what I really care about. What am I good at? What can I offer in this cause?"

Shelley: I love that, actually. I think you've mentioned some big goals. It can also be things like, "I love sports."

Linda: Yes, it reminds me of a student who is obsessed with sports. He's an English major because he wants to write about sports.

Shelley: Yes.

Linda: I love that intersection of interests and passions. It's like, "Okay, well, this is something that I want to talk about and think about all day, every day. Sports, but I like to write. That's what my skill set is, so I'm going to get an English degree and major so I can get really good at writing because I already know a lot about sports, so I want to know how to write about sports." I also met a student who is an anthropology major, but he's also interested in neuroscience. That fascinates me, just how interests and degrees can combine, because there's probably a job out there for that, they just don't know what it is. As career counselors and advisors and coaches, we don't know all the jobs out there.

It's a relief to me that I don't have to because jobs are constantly changing, so giving students or clients an exact job title is probably not as helpful as helping them search for themselves.

Shelley: That is interesting. I like that. Okay, let's get into the topic I really brought you on here to discuss, which is personal branding. Most people that I know think of a personal brand as somebody who's like an Instagram influencer or somebody that has a specific style or a talent that the world knows about, but most people don't think of themselves as having a personal brand, and they need to.

Linda: The personal brand that you just mentioned, like Instagram, online social media, that is the visual communication side of personal branding. Not everyone has that, because not everyone wants to or needs to, but we all have a personal brand. It is inseparable from our identity, from our name. It doesn't matter what your position in life is or your job status, if you're employed, unemployed, retired, stay at home, you have a personal brand. It's just how people know you. I've refined the way that I talk about and teach personal branding in the last four years since I discovered it for myself.I divide it into three stages that are very cyclical.

The first is self-awareness, articulation, and then communication. You have to know who you are. This is easier to some people than others, but you can think of the most superficial way of self-awareness is personality tests, those assessments that spit out a type that you are. Those are helpful, but you also need to know who you are in your own words. There are five aspects of the self-awareness piece of personal branding, which we all need to start with when we're first realizing, "Oh, I have a brand. I need to manage it." Those are interests, strengths, traits, as in personality traits, values and goals.

Once we get pretty clear on that, which can evolve, obviously, then we need to be able to articulate those things into a concise way of sharing with others what that means.

Shelley: Is it because I need to share that in a job interview or I just need to know who I am?

Linda: It's both, internal and external. First of all, it helps people feel more clarity about their purpose in life, about their value within their circle of influence, and it helps them really increase their confidence to be able to reach out to others and apply for jobs. The external part is interviewing and cover letters and resumes, things like that. Then the second piece, so there's a self awareness and then articulation, which is putting into words. Then the communication piece, which is like the online brand and individual part. The colors, the font, the images, the outward facing things.

Shelley: Which not everybody has, as you mentioned, but it doesn't mean that I shouldn't still be able to communicate that, because if you know who you are, then I believe you know what you can offer.

Linda: Yes, absolutely. When you know who you are and what your value is, then job interviews will not be as stressful. Because you won't see it as an evaluation of your worth, it will be a two way interview of it. Because you can reject them just as much as they can reject you, which gives you equal power, but most people don't realize that, of course, because of the need for income and status. It's hard to remember that when you feel like you're desperate, "I need a job."

Shelley: How have you helped people identify their personal brand?

Linda: It takes quiet time to think and write things down. It takes a lot of soul searching, and it doesn't always have to be by yourself. One of the most useful things that I have my students do in my career classes, is to do a personal branding survey. This is something that I created in eighth grade, believe it or not, and I didn't call it that back then, but I've done it every two to three years since eighth grade.

What I do is I ask everybody I know to describe me in five words. Then as technology has advanced and I become more tech savvy, I started using anonymous Google surveys. Then collecting the responses in a spreadsheet, and then seeing what are the most popular words among all the responses, because those are my most prominent traits. Before, in eighth grade, I had a notebook, a paper notebook that I wrote that question in with other questions and I passed around to all my friends and their good friends. Since then, I've been doing this same survey, but just with technology.

Now there's word clouds, you can find free word cloud software on the internet, and you can plug in all your responses and see which are the biggest words. My students who did this in the personal branding class were just fascinated that people saw them that way. Self awareness is a very subjective thing, and so getting other people's perspectives, even if those are not 100% honest, because you know that mostly they're going to be positive words. Sometimes students are surprised that they might be seen as intense, or aggressive or things that they don't really like. Then so they can do some self-searching and, "Do I like that, or do I want to change that?" That's an ongoing thing that I think everyone can do if they want to.

Shelley: I like that. I'm going to have to do that. Okay, we talked previously about thinking what you're drawn to, causes and stuff that you're interested in as you think about what you want to study. I also like to talk about how things that come easy to you, or things that people compliment you on. Your natural affinities, those strengths are also part of your personal brand. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you, is because you wrote a blog post about how your spiritual gifts are also part of your personal brand. How does that work?

Linda: Those go directly with the things that come easily to you. Because it's hard to talk about our own strengths and gifts because they're natural, we don't consciously do them. For example, in college, I dated this guy who was long distance. All we did was talk on the phone, and he told me one day, "Your brain is always moving, like it's always going." I was like, "Isn't everyone's? Were alive, aren't we?" It was the strangest comment, but as I thought about it I realized that his brain is not always moving. That's not a natural talent so to speak.

Years later, I took the Clifton strengths assessment, and my fourth strength is intellection. Which means the ability to process a lot of information, and so my brain is always thinking and always moving. Which now I own with pride and joy because it makes my life more interesting. It makes my conversations more interesting. Now I'm aware of it and I can use it more intentionally.

I think that's similar to spiritual gifts, is once we realize what we are naturally good at that other people may not be naturally good at, then we can use it to help others, and use it to enhance what we want to do in life. Like what are our values? What's important to us, and how can we apply our spiritual gifts to improve those things that are important to us.

Shelley: I think it's both to help you figure out where you're going to go, but it's also what the Lord wants you to do. He's giving you this gift for a purpose, that maybe in the early stages, or early ages it's to help me find a career, to help me support my family. But the older you get and the more established you become in those things, those gifts I think are really there to serve others.

Linda: I agree. I think in our earlier years, as in teens and 20s, we need to feel good about ourselves. We need to have a really firm self-worth and knowledge of our divine potential, because otherwise we won't have the confidence to go out and serve others. I think it's not selfish, it's not self-centered, it's really about gaining a sure footing, a foundation for ourselves from which we can lend out a hand. Because we can't help others if we don't believe in ourselves. If we don't think we're good at anything. If we think everyone's better than us.

I've seen a lot of people try to work from that mental place, and it doesn't work. Because other people don't believe in you to help them in your own abilities. I think it's a really worthwhile investment in those earlier years to establish a career, or whatever you want to do that you feel good about, that you feel proud of. Then from there you have a deeper well of experience and skills and knowledge to offer the world.

Shelley: We're talking about your spiritual gifts. We're talking eventually about growing in confidence so that you can serve people, but if you're listening to this podcast, my assumption is you're at some sort of a career crossroads or you wouldn't be here. How do you charge for or make money from your spiritual gifts? Is it okay to do that?

Linda: I realized three years after I started doing things for free for Launched by Linda, is that people don't see the value in free things. People like getting free things because it's easy, but then they are not as committed mentally to doing the work. I don't take any clients who are not willing to do the work. Not that I say no to them, but like once I start meeting with them, and this rarely happens that they're like, "Oh, I don't know. Maybe later, I don't want to do that right now," or they don't seem as committed to positive change themselves, then I can't keep working with them.

It's like my piano teacher doesn't keep working with students who don't practice, because then she's telling them same thing every week and it's a waste of everyone's time and money. I rarely, rarely get that in my Launched by Linda clients, but sometimes with students, they may not be ready for that level of personal branding, or self investment.

Shelley: Back to that career crossroads. You're trying to figure out, do I change jobs? Do I start a business? Do I go to school? The thing that you are doing for free for people, is most likely the thing you should start exploring. Because everybody does something for people for free. Some people cook for free. Some garden for free. Some people fix cars for free, and it doesn't necessarily mean you need to become a mechanic, but you might be saying to yourself, "I am really strangely good at this. I like to do it enough that I do it for free, and people keep coming to me, so this is a clue."

Linda: All the signs.

Shelley: Then the second piece of that is, how can I monetize this. For some people that would be start business, for others it might be going to school, or testing out a career. Like I think I want to do this, but let me go test it a little bit.

Linda: Yes, and it's hard. I've felt this a lot myself, it's probably somewhat stemmed from imposter syndrome. For those who might not be as familiar imposter syndrome is when you are in a position that you feel like you're not necessarily qualified for. You feel like an imposter and you're anxious because you're afraid that someone's going to discover that you're not good enough for the role.

This happens at a higher rate for women and people of color in the workplace, but I think everyone is vulnerable to it, especially in their earlier career. For people who are starting a business, or who are starting to charge for something they've been doing for free for years, it may feel really uncomfortable. Because like people need my services and instead of serving them I'm charging them. Which totally changes the interaction and their relationship.

Shelley: We are in an age of everyday experts. Which is truthfully how my day job came about. With Instagram, with social media, with all these different ways that you can showcase the things you know. How many plumbers that are on YouTube, thank goodness, that tell you how to change something on the toilet. I've watched several of them. Thank goodness they're there.

Linda: Of course.

Shelley: I think we all would, I guess, suffer from that imposter syndrome a little from that same reason. Like, "Why am I the one putting a YouTube together for this," but back to my original statement. If you are helping people for free and people keep coming to you, you have enough knowledge and skill-set to consider monetizing it. Tell me about a leap of faith you had to take to get where you are now.

Linda: Wow, so many. My patriarchal blessing said that I needed to choose a career and that's unusual, I think, but it also said that I would have the funds necessary to get the training I needed for the career I've chosen.

Shelley: That's a good one.

Linda: That gave me a huge safety net and when I applied to my first master's program in Washington, DC at George Washington university, I was still in Utah all the way across the country. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it, but I completely trusted in that part, in my patriarchal blessing. I moved to DC without any student loans or planning to sign up for loans or anything and I talked to people, so I was like, "Okay, well at least I'm going to get a job." I was looking for a job on campus because that was convenient. Then I discovered tuition remission, which you don't really know about unless you work in higher ed, which is, if you work full time for a university, you can get a degree pretty much free.

I discovered that and I was like, this is literally the answer to my prayers. It was such a beautiful display of God's promises to me that my faith has completely paid off. That actually happened another time because I didn't finish that degree, I realized that I didn't like that program. I dropped out, I applied for another program at the same school, realized I didn't like it and I dropped out again. Of course, at that point I was a little bit anxious about ever finding the right program because it's expensive and it takes time and all my friends and family are probably judging me for being a quitter.

My third try, third time's a charm, I got into a mental health counseling program at another university, Columbia university in New York city. I was like, "Okay, I guess I'm going to do the same thing." It's just find a full time job at Columbia and have Columbia paid for my education. I moved up there and it took like two or three tries. I applied for a full time job. I was like, "Oh, this is perfect," because I moved there four months before school started and it turned out to not be a full time job. It turned out to be a part time internship, but that job was the only one that I got an offer for at the time and it was within the field that I wanted to work in.

I was like, "Okay, Lord, I'm going to take this. It's enough to pay rent, but I need a better one afterwards." Then after that I found another job. I was like, "Okay, Lord, now I need a full time job that is flexible so I can take classes during the day." I found one and the boss was like, "Well, we haven't done this before, but we can try it," and we tried it for two months. It was a terrible fit and I was like, "Okay, Lord, I really need a full time job that is flexible." I got a job in December at the end of the first semester. You know how they say, God is the God of the 11th hour, how He jumps in right before you're going to die or something. I feel like that happened to me in grad school several times.

I was able to graduate without debt while living in New York city. I still Marvel at that a lot. How did I pull that off? That was definitely not me. My classmates, Raleigh, graduated with at least $50,000 in debt and living in New York city, working as a counselor, you don't make that much. I just felt like the Lord took care of me so well, allowed me to make my mistakes and still didn't let me crash.

Shelley: I love that you knew very specifically that that's what your patriarchal blessing said and you trusted it. The second thing I think is really interesting here is that you tried things and quit and it wasn't imagine it quit. You mentioned that people were judging you for quitting, but really what you were doing is proving out your thing.

Linda: Yes, and it's very scary, it's not easy. It's always easy in hindsight. Because you're like, "Oh, that's my self off. We got through that." But in the moment, I'm in my early 30s and at every stage of my education career I was like, "I'm a single LDS woman, this is not good." There's a lot of stigma. There's a lot of pressure, not from my family because I'm the only member of my family and not really directly from anyone else. It's just a cultural expectation.

I was actively preparing myself for marriage, actively trying to date, actively allowing for flexibility if I got married and had had a child, like I was always focused on that. That took a lot of faith too, but I had to really trust the Lord in that as well and I prayed to Him asking, why am I still single and I'm trying so hard? He gave me a really specific answer to that, I don't know if any of my other friends would have gotten. I trusted in that and still try to date, still working on my career and eventually, I did get married a year ago and now it's like, "Whoa, I can't believe this is actually real." I have a lot of moments of realness. I feel like I can't believe the Lord has actually brought me here.

Shelley: I love that, but also going back to your career, zigzag, I'm going to call it, I don't think you could have really been as effective as you are in being able to give that advice had you not lived it because when you say it you know that it will work out?

Linda: Yes, exactly. I am grateful for that. During the hardest times of my, I don't know 20s, I guess, I feel like the only thing that got me through sometimes whether in dating or in career was that this would help somebody in the future. I really want to use all of these experiences and show people the Lord has got your back. He loves you. He cares about you more than you know and He knows about the workplace. He knows about the economy changes that are coming up. He knows about your own weaknesses, He knows about your secret desires and He will make it work out better than you could ever imagine.

Shelley: Are there any other unexpected blessings that came from this career journey for you? You're serving a lot of people, but what have you gained?

Linda: In the simplest form, a source of energy. I think that is a really telling sign that we're onto something is when we can get excited about it. I know it depends on certain personality types and stuff, but when I coach someone, when I help someone articulate their resume better, when I help someone feel more prepared for an interview, when I help someone improve their brand online, like through LinkedIn, I get super excited because then my brain is exploding with the possibilities that are in front of them. Helping them, not only to see their own strengths, but to broaden their possibilities, to me, I can't think of any other more exciting work than helping people reach their potential.

Shelley: I love it. All right. This is the last question that I ask all of our guests. How have you seen the hand of God in your career?

Linda: I think He's always been there. First of all, through the patriarchal blessing, which is just one document, but it's been a guiding compass and it's been a compass of where and how I can direct my faith. For me, a lot of times that was financially like, how am I going to pay for this? How am I going to find the funds? Sometimes I didn't have to find the funds, they just appeared by getting a job and then realizing the switch in my mission.

There's that and then I think the constant everyday grace that comes from praying and counseling with the Lord is unlike anything else. Being like, "Lord, I really need this specific thing. I need to pass this test next week. Please, help me to study in the most efficient way because I have to write another paper or I have a lot of stuff going on at work. I don't know how I'm going to get it done. Please, help me to use my time efficiently." Anything that I had needed, the Lord responded.

People don't always realize they can pray about professional stuff and educational stuff maybe. That, if they are struggling with a work project, if they're struggling with getting along with their boss, if they're struggling in interviewing, the Lord can help you with that and you never have to be alone. Not to say, you should only talk to the Lord because He wants us to use our resources around us, that He's provided us, but that He is the ultimate helper, the ultimate cheerleader. I tell that, I end every semester in my career classes with that testimony, that the best career advice I can give you is to partner with the Lord.

Shelley: Thank you so much for being on the show.

Linda: Shelley, it's been so fun. Thank you for your thoughtful questions and stimulating conversation. I've really enjoyed it.

Shelley: What is your personal brand and do you need one? Well, as Linda said, you already have one. It's not a matter of deciding whether or not you need one, it's a matter of figuring out what yours is. How do you do that? Well, the five things she suggested you pay attention to are, your interests, strengths, traits, values and goals. Then for those of you who are faith based, you should also turn to your spiritual gifts, which should align with the things already mentioned, but they might be spelled out differently.

For example, in your career or schooling, you might think that you are a good judge of character. Something that might help you in a job like human resources or a legal profession, but the spiritual version of that might be that you have the power of discernment, something that helps you make good choices, surround yourself with good friends or lead your family righteously. My theory and Linda's as well is that knowing these things about yourself can help you intentionally align your career with what you're good at and what you enjoy.

If you do that, you're more likely to be successful and grow in confidence and then you move to that position where you're using your talents and abilities to serve others. Whether you believe in the future back version of employment that I mentioned at the start of the show, or you just want to figure out what to do with your career in the next year, I hope you will really take this idea to heart, spend some time identifying your personal brand, articulating it so that it makes sense to you and others, and then putting it into practice. I promise you, you don't have to be a social media influencer to make use of this concept.

Thank you for joining me on the Faithful Career Moves podcast. It's my hope that listening to this episode will inspire you to think more broadly about how your career and your spiritual journey intersect. If you like that idea and want others to have a similar epiphany, then please share this podcast on social media, leave a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts or leave a comment on the website. Doing so will help others find this content as well.

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Shelley Hunter

About the author

Shelley Hunter is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach with a passion for helping people up-level their careers, return to the workforce with confidence, and identify their strengths so they can find the career they were born to do. She is also a work-at-home mom who left a traditional career as a programmer to be unapologetically home with her kids.

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