This is my kitchen.

It has never looked this way before.

For days, I have been in the middle of packing up and putting away, clearing off and sweeping out. With a combination of hard work and window cleaner, I am making the surfaces in my home shine.

We are staging; strategically arranging our home to look its best for potential buyers. In this market, our realtor tells us, it is important to get everything right — starting with the price — to increase our chances of success.

Most of our rooms now contain about half of what they did before. By the time our home goes on the market later this week, many traces of our family’s personality will be removed to present a glossy, photo ready space. Counters clear, half empty and tidy closets, books lonely on the shelves.

This is not really how people live.

Of course, I know that, and realtors know that, and buyers know that. But the message we are creating is that of the better and happier life that they can achieve by buying a new home. And it works.

In many ways, personal branding is a similar process.

Personal branding is put-your-best-foot-forward, minimize your weakness, highlight your strengths, be competitive in today’s competitive work environment. Personal branding is a new way of life.

Personal branding is NOT about projecting an unrealistic ideal. If your personal brand is unrealistically perfect, those who follow will inevitably feel discouraged. A staged home permits people to use their imaginations to consider how they can express themselves in the space. As you are honest about imperfections and foibles, you help others embrace the freedom to be who they are, releasing them from the need to live up to your ideal.

Personal branding is NOT about crafting a false impression of your value. As you work at expressing your personal brand, you are showcasing your inherent value.

Personal branding is NOT about hiding your personality. Instead, it IS about shining: allowing who you are deep down to shine through in a way that allows you to connect with others and make an impact through what you do.

Personal branding IS strategic. The way you present yourself to others should be well-planned, thought-through, and carefully considered.

Personal branding sends a message. To create a personal brand, you clarify who you are and what you can do. Then, you present it to others in a holistic and recognizable package. As you interact in the workplace, your community, and the cyber-world, you gain personal and brand recognition, creating opportunities to engage and influence others with increasing success.

And it works.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.