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Authentic Vulnerability: Developing Your Personal Brand

For many of us, we have spent years in the classroom learning the sciences and memorizing facts, statistics and pathology in order to become a physician. We have spent countless hours on the wards, examining patients, ordering labs and trying to conquer diseases. We don't often spend time thinking about our personal brand, who we are as a person and as a physician. Today, Dr. Kimberly Beavers shares how to develop your personal brand with authentic vulnerability.

Whether you know it or not, your environment has shaped your personality and brand your entire life. For example, my first school as a child had the motto "friendly, helpful, respectful, and responsible" that we sang in a special song every morning. Why did we sing this song? They wanted us to behave of course, but they also wanted to begin fostering the ideals of character that they believed would help us succeed. In high school, our motto was "fideliter et fortiter" which means "bravely and faithfully" in latin. These mottos, while simple, were repeated throughout my upbringing, shaping the way I feel about my own standards of character. It also laid a foundation for how I want to present myself to the world via my actions.

The beginning of developing your personal brand is not what you are trying to "sell" people or simply how you want to be seen. It's carefully examining who you truly are. Careful self-exploration, including strengths and weaknesses, is a necessary vulnerability to developing your personal brand.

You have already developed some sort of personal brand. It just may not be focused, purposeful, or helping you achieve your goals. Both your professional and personal interactions daily are a reflection of your brand. Your activity on social media is a reflection of your brand as well.

If you're not thinking about your brand actively and living in a way that helps you achieve your goals, you're missing out on a great opportunity for success.

When approaching developing your personal brand, vulnerable self-exploration is the first step. You can start this process gently and I suggest that you use a real pen and paper to brainstorm. You can start by thinking about your professional interests; first within your medical specialty and then outside of your daily work. For me, my clinical interest is in breast imaging and my broader interests are legislative advocacy and the promotion of women in radiology.

After you've done this, you can start to dive deeper and think about your passions. I love providing excellent clinical care for women, communicating their results to them, and being an expert consultant for surgeons, oncologists, and pathologists. For legislative advocacy, I spend a great deal of time doing advocacy work with RADPAC (Radiology political action committee), ACR (American College of Radiology), and attend our annual radiology capitol hill day. For promotion of women in radiology, I serve in the AAWR (American Association for Women in Radiology) and make a concerted effort to reach out to women and help to lift them up wherever I can.

Once you have thought about these tangible ideas, you start entering the realm of your dreams and aspirations. What would you want to achieve if you knew you would succeed? What would you want to be remembered for? What contribution do you want to make to our society as a physician? Keep in mind - not all dreams and aspirations have to be lofty leadership goals! If they are authentic to you, it doesn't matter how big or small they are. Another way to think about this is; What makes you different? What have you done lately to show these unique attributes?

Now that you have a vision and some goals, you can start to think about how you'll implement these ideas into your practice.

For example, as a breast imaging radiologist, I have many opportunities to live my brand. I strive to be known as trusted, intelligent, dependable, engaged, and a team player. I can live that brand in the way that I interact with my colleagues - taking the extra step to communicate important patient updates, staying engaged in multidisciplinary conferences, and fostering open communication for the betterment of patient care.

For patients, I live my personal brand by being a physician who spends a little more time. I am happy to spend a few extra minutes with the patient to ensure they are comfortable before a procedure, answer their questions, respect their autonomy, and be sensitive to their pain. When communicating biopsy results, I not only want to share with them the life changing pathology results, I also want to have a discussion that leaves them feeling informed and empowered in what is otherwise a very scary process.

With my colleagues, I want to be known as a leader who is an expert, responsible, a team player, and professional. I can convey that not only with my radiology reports, but also in the way that I interact with my colleagues.

This may sound like a bunch of advice to just "be nice” but it is so much more than that.

It is about living in your day to day specific actions, every day, to be the person you want to be.

For some, visualizing that you have already achieved your goals and modeling your behavior as such can be helpful. For others, having a role model or multiple role models can be helpful. Imaging what your role model would do in a situation when faced with a challenge. And of course, having a network of friends, colleagues, mentors, and sponsors will help shape your brand.

One of the easiest ways to cultivate a personal brand is to get involved on social media. Twitter is a particularly popular platform in the medical community, is user friendly, and doesn't take up much time to participate in.

I highly recommend creating a professional twitter account. Start by checking out physicians who you admire with social media presence. There are many resources available for physicians to get involved with social media, including SheMD!

Dr. Kimberly Beavers is a breast and body imaging fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She serves as the social media co-chair for the AAWR (American Association for Women in Radiology).

This article was adapted from a talk given by Dr. Kimberly Beavers at the Radiology Leadership Institute Summit 2019 session “You are Your Brand: Personal Branding to Drive Growth.”

Suggested reading list:

Peters T. “The brand called you.” Fast Company August/September 1997.

“Reinventing Your Personal Brand,” Harvard Business Review, March 2011.

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

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