Insights / branding

NY Times Op-Ed Resignation and Effects on Personal Branding

Goldman SachsGreg Smith worked for Goldman Sachs for almost 12 years. On March 14, 2012, in an open letter published in the op-ed section of the New York Times, he resigned from his position as executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Smith cited the change in corporate culture as his reason for leaving. He didn’t like the focus shifting from integrity and caring for customers to focusing solely on money. He chastised coworkers for their business practices and made it clear that a culture of focusing on the bottom line was of no interest to him.

He did make it clear that he knew of no wrong doings or illegal activities, but was bothered that leadership positions were given based off of earnings than by ideas and integrity. The op-ed raises many issues for Goldman Sachs and for Smith. Initially, people may be drawn to the issues that a company is facing and its response, but in this case, what are the implications for Smith and his personal brand?

Greg SmithLet’s assume Smith will seek employment or other income opportunities at some point. His resume, skills, education and accomplishments are just part of the picture. His personal brand also includes his public image.

He showed convictions and personal ethics in regards to how he feels business should be conducted in his op-ed. One could argue that he has high standards and morals — traits desirable for an organization.

On the flip side, he did not leave his position at Goldman Sachs quietly. While he may not be concerned about burning that particular bridge, he made it clear that he has no problem going public when unsatisfied. Some may not want to associate with someone who has been known to garner unwanted media attention.

While you may not be resigning through a major news outlet, it is always important to consider your own personal brand and image. What are you about? What are your standards, morals and convictions? What is important to you? What is your mission?  Are your answers to these questions reflected in the following personal branding tools? They should be consistent throughout them.

  • Your Resume
    • This is just one of many tools used to sell your personal brand
  • Personal and public social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Etc.)
    • This is especially important for young professionals, those fun college party pictures may not be the best representation of you. Even with all of the privacy settings available, once things are published online you are relinquishing some of your control over them.  Think about what you are posting, if you wouldn’t want certain people to see it and it isn’t part of the image you are trying to convey you should reconsider posting it all together.
  • Your online identity
    • Have you “googled” your name lately to see what is online about you for all to see?
  • Your organization affiliations
    • Are you involved and making a name for yourself in your industry?
  • Your personal network
    • Are you building and nurturing it?

Remember: While you are a representation of your organization — and vice versa — you also are representing your name. So what do you want people to think of when they think of your name?  What brand experience will come to mind?

By Vanessa Hruszko
Mason Intern Spring 2012