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    Birthday card from teammates and personal brand

    How to celebrate birthdays at work? What is a personal brand and what’s the connection between it and best wishes from colleagues? Find out how to make a unique birthday card for a team mate!

    In my company, we celebrate the birthday of every team member. Apart from a small gift (a book, a board game, a T-shirt…), a personalised birthday card is given. And no matter how spot-on the gift is, it is the birthday card that is always the most exciting. Why?

    Unique birthday card from colleagues

    First of all, it’s not bought, but self-made. Secondly, it is not a card with the company’s logo, standard wishes and printed CEO’s signature, but a card from teammates. Thirdly, each card is unique – created with the recipient in mind.

    That would be enough to feel exceptional. Yet our cards have more outstanding features:

    – they include the recipient’s photo (usually just the face pasted on top of someone else’s body),

    – they provoke laughter,

    – they are always surprising.

    Here are a few examples:

    (1) a team lead rushing to meet deadlines

    (2) a colleague in the role of Sailor Moon

    (3) a colleague fending off problems like Neo from “Matrix”

    (4) a colleague in a French beret, with a glass of wine in her hand and a dumpling-shaped pillow under her arm

    We hang such cards over our desks and smile at them the whole year round.

    Why are our birthday cards so successful?

    Mostly, because we know each other so well. All of these associations are far from random. Our team lead runs not only metaphorically, but really takes part in marathons; our Sailor Moon enjoys watching anime, and the dumpling enthusiast organizes team lunches.

    Birthday cards and personal brand

    The simplest definition of a personal brand is:

    What people say about you when you leave the room.

    It’s not what you think about yourself or what you hear from others when you talk to them face to face. It’s not what your boss writes about you in the year-end review, and not what your colleagues report anonymously in the obligatory multi-source feedback. The personal brand is rather the sum of associations related to you, often not conveyed directly, yet with a great impact on your success and position at work.

    What does it have to do with birthday cards?

    If you receive an identical birthday card from the C-suite each year, it barely has. Yet if your teammates make the effort to prepare a personalized birthday card for you, there is no better way to find out what they think about you.

    I realized that when I received my first birthday card in my new company. Its title sufficed to melt my heart:

    Joanna can do anything!

    The content below featured four photos of me in various settings: dancing at an office party, taking part in self-defence workshop at an ice-breaking event, carrying an inflatable crocodile between desks and holding a banner of an employee resource group (the last required some photo-shopping). Conclusions? Joanna can dance, fight, tame wild beasts and lead. I had no idea I had managed to show myself from so many different angles at work and that all of them looked so impressive. I have to admit that this funny feedback was very thought-provoking and boosted my confidence. I still recall it as one of the best moments I have enjoyed at work.

    When else can you find out about your personal brand?

    Although I didn’t know the term ‘personal brand’ then, it was already at high school that I noticed that different people receive different wishes. We often wish the elderly good health, young people – money, and those who seem to have everything – wishes coming true.

    When I was in middle school, people often wished me that I smiled more. Therefore, I quickly deduced that I was perceived as a cheerless person and decided to change it. In my last years of high school, I paid close attention to the birthday and Christmas wishes I received, and I can proudly say that if someone referred to smiling at all, they wished me that I “always smiled as much as then”.

    The same may relate to presents. If you receive something more than the standard coffee, box of chocolates or flowers, you may find out what others think of you also based on gifts. Do you usually receive books? You are probably perceived as an intellectual. Are your gifts predominantly cosmetics and accessories? Others probably notice that taking care of yourself is important to you. Do you receive funny gadgets instead of practical gifts? In that case, there is a huge chance that others think of you as a joker whose good mood can always be taken for granted!

    What kind of wishes do you receive? What sort of gifts do you usually receive? Can you draw any conclusions from them?

    My advice:

    – Naturally, birthday cards will only include positive associations. Even if you are perceived as an arrogant boor, well-mannered colleagues won’t make it the central theme of your card unless it really is the image you are consciously creating and you openly joke about that. Hence, a birthday card will never be a full presentation of your personal brand, yet may give you an idea of the most striking positive aspects of the image you present to others.

    – Our cards are usually prepared in PowerPoint or Paint. When I was to prepare such a card once, I used Canva. The site has a number of tools dedicated specifically to birthday cards (see detailed instructions here). A tool I would also highly recommend for photo editing is PhotoFunia. While it is true that the number of bodies or backgrounds to be used is limited, I find it a relief not having to cut out parts of the picture myself, and the end effect achieved within seconds looks truly professional. Some of the images illustrating this entry were created in this program. Check it out yourself!

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