For previous generations, the concept of brands and branding was restricted to companies and corporations trying to sell you their products. It went hand in hard with marketing and, like many things, has developed and evolved over time. For the modern jobseeker, as well as for professionals looking to advance in their careers, personal branding has become much more important. Branding has taken a step away from the strictly corporate spheres and has become a way of standing out from the crowd on a personal level. Without personal branding, a person’s career can stagnate. So, with that in mind, I will reflect on my own “brand”, such as it is.
What would my personal brand entail? I am an English teacher by trade, specialising in IELTS preparation, which is an area of study which is increasingly important among non-native English speakers. For those not in the know, IELTS is an international standardised examination used to grade people’s level of English language knowledge and competency. IELTS scores are primarily used for entry to English-speaking universities and colleges for people whose background and education did not take place in English. It is also used for immigration purposes and to determine the language requirements for citizenship. As such, it is a niche, but rewarding area to specialise in.
So, what makes me special in the world of IELTS? Unlike many of my competitors, I decided to specialise early in my career and have been able to build up extensive experience teaching in a variety of countries. While living in Russia, I trained to be a writing and speaking examiner, which gave me insider insight into how the examination is run. Lately, I have been developing this specialist knowledge further by taking on the added responsibility of supervising the administration of the examinations. As such, I am able to offer my students comforting advice about the entire examination process, which helps to put their minds at ease when they are stressed about their results. For many, IELTS is their gateway to escaping a place or a situation that they do not want to be in, or a method of achieving their dreams. Being able to help them with that is the best part of my job.
If my colleagues were to pick out my best trait, it would be my ability to relate to my students and their situation. I have been where they are now. I have learned another language (several, actually), and have struggled to communicate in that language. I have made mistakes and caused confusion, and I have felt embarrassed when speaking with native speakers in their mother tongue. I have lived abroad and have compassion for those who struggle to adapt through their culture shock. I am also an immigrant to Canada, having moved here almost five years ago from the UK. I know what it is like to desperately want to emigrate to another country for a better life. I have also taken the IELTS exam myself, as it is a requirement for all Permanent Residency applications to this country, no matter the mother tongue of the applicant. Having been in their shoes and knowing what success in this exam means to them sets me apart from the average IELTS teacher and allows me to give personal advice that cannot be given by every teacher.
So, what am I most proud of? I’m proud of my students for achieving their scores and reaching their dreams. I’m proud of myself for helping them to reach those goals. I am proud of my tenacity in pursuing my own dreams and using my experiences to influence others. I am also thankful for the opportunities to see the world that this career has afforded me. I am grateful that my choice to specialise and work at building a system of lessons that can change people’s lives for the better has benefitted not only myself, but also others. I’m not someone who likes to brag, but in this instance, I am proud to be myself, and I hope that my personal brand reflects this.