Career Tips

What We Can Learn About Personal Branding From Lucille Ball

By Marva Goldsmith

“I Love Lucy” premiered in October 1951 and the country fell in love with the ditzy, red-head who was married to Cuban band leader, Desi Arnaz. Lucille Ball was 40 years old when the show aired, middle-aged by all standards, especially for show business in the 50’s.

LESSON 1: Similar to Lucille Ball, Baby Boomers are entering the job market at mid-life. There are employers that value the skills and experience of seasoned employees (and consultants), even in this economy.

Lucy had co-starred on a radio program with Richard Denning as her husband and when the radio show became ripe for the new media, television, Lucy and Desi pitched the show“I Love Lucy” to CBS with Desi as her husband. CBS officials were concerned that ‘the American public would never accept them as a couple’ and turned down their idea. As a result, Lucy and Desi formed their own production company, took their idea on the road and became a popular stage show. When CBS still refused to consider the show, Lucy and Desi used their own money to film the pilot episode of “I Love Lucy” and it became the most popular television show in America. CBS recognized its value and picked up the show.

LESSON 2: Have you been turned down by employers because you are too old, too expensive or over qualified? While you are looking for a job, take your show on the road! Seek opportunities to obtain visibility for your skills and experience. Let decision makers experience you. Examples: volunteer, consult, teach at a community college, or offer a webinar.

Over the next 6 year period, one hundred and eighty episodes of ‘I Love Lucy’ were filmed and have since been aired over, and over, and over again. Intuitively, we all know that Lucy Ricardo is merely a character, but who can forget the ‘Vitameatavegamin’ episode, or the infamous candy assembly line? Lucy could always be counted on to get into trouble and you could depend on her to pull her neighbor and best friend, Ethel into most of her schemes. You could rely on Lucy for timeless entertainment.

LESSON 3: The repetition of images of the masterful comedienne sketched in our hearts and minds are of the scheming antics of this playful red-head. Lucy was branded well before the term “personal branding” became popular. You must manage your own personal brands by consistently and repeatedly demonstrating value to your target market. You must also seek multiple sources to gain visibility for your skills in the marketplace.

Your personal brand is what is unique about you, what makes you stand out from your peers or competitors. Strong personal brands consistently deliver value to their target audience. If utilized correctly, personal branding can help you land a job, promotion or new contract by delivering your craft over and over in a consistent manner with the goal aimed towards becoming known for something that supports your career, your art, and your professional desires. What do you want to be known for? What should others rely on you to deliver every time you are up at bat?

According to Kelly Services Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Webster, “Personal branding is taking on a new importance as more people take control of their careers and market themselves to a vast audience.”  Don’t be discouraged if the jobs, contracts or promotions don’t roll in after your first attempt. Remember, Lucy and Desi took their show on the road to get visibility for their idea after CBS turned them down twice. It wasn’t until they became known for delivering a successful road show, and funding their pilot that CBS picked up the show. The indelible imprint came later, after ‘Lucy and Desi’ were experienced over and over again.

I hope these lessons from Lucy will stick in your mind as you seek new career and business opportunities. 



Marva walks the talk when it comes to personal branding and professional image.  An electrical engineer, she has successfully merged right-brain logic with left-brain creativity.  Marva has coached, trained and consulted with entrepreneurs and in corporations, federal, state and local government agencies, universities and non-profit organizations.

Collaborates with clients to:

  • Provide tangible deliverables, actionable recommendations and demonstrable results
  • Create and implement career and professional development strategies
  • Evaluate effectiveness
  • Respond to emerging opportunities

Proven Background. Provides Real World Point of View.

  • Positions held during 20 year career with DTE Energy (Fortune 500 utility company) includes: systems engineer, federal lobbyist, call center director and people strategy manager.
  • Image and brand management professional with diverse client engagements that include: Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, politicians, business men and women and incarcerated youth
  • Author of ‘Re-branding Yourself After Age 50’, ‘Branding You, Incorporated’ and ‘Marketing Yourself for the Future’


  • Michigan State University, Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering
  • Harvard University, Master in Public Administration, Concentration in Leadership
  • Image Management, Dominique Isbecque International, the London Image Institute and the Image Resource Group 
  • Brand Management, William Arruda’s Reach Branding, Peter Montoya Personal Brand University
  • Georgetown University, Leadership Coaching Program

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