I’m a big believer in the power of developing, cultivating and promoting your personal brand. You should be too. I’ve seen the importance of personal branding firsthand through my own efforts.
Some people consider the catchphrase “personal brand” cheesy. Others believe it’s overly self-centered. And I’ll admit that I’ve found it a touch embarrassing every so often when asked about my personal brand (after all, I’m a humble guy!) But I’ve seen the value. In fact, it was the lack of personal brand and exposure to a greater audience and network that led me to start blogging many years ago.
Blogging led me to connect with tons of people online and made me realize the importance of personal branding and presenting oneself effectively (especially online.) My initial foray into blogging then led me to recognize the importance of building a stronger local network. Blogging was (and remains) great for building a broad-based network, but one of my goals in blogging was to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and start a new business. That’s easier to do with a local network, and so blogging led me to reach out to the local startup community and get more involved. That resulted very quickly in connecting with Fred Ngo and Austin Hill, who shortly thereafter joined me as co-founders of Standout Jobs.
So it’s fair to argue that my realization about the importance of personal branding led in part to launching Standout Jobs. In fact, what I started out doing via blogging (to help cultivate and promote my personal brand) has in one way or another led to almost everything I’ve done over the last few years.
Personal Branding = Important.
I’m no personal branding guru. But I do know one, and his name is Dan Schawbel. Dan writes some of the most compelling content I’ve seen about personal branding; he’s taken it up a notch over much of the “basics” that people cover. And most recently, he’s launched a book on the subject: Me 2.0 – Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. (Buy it here)
Dan’s focus on building a personal brand and leveraging it for career success is particularly interesting to me, because of my work with Standout Jobs. In looking at how people apply for jobs you can very quickly see the wide degree of quality and thought put into applications. Some people write a 2-sentence cover letter with typos. Others include links to their portfolios, blogs and more. Guess who wins?
The book focuses a great deal on being a practical guide, which I think is also important. There’s enough rhetoric online about how to find a job, build your brand, network, etc. We don’t need more blog posts on how to get 10,000 Twitter followers…
8 Personal Branding Lessons
Looking back, here are some thoughts from my own experiences building my personal brand:
- It’s never too late to start. In some respects I think it’s easier to start making a concerted effort to build and cultivate your personal brand once you’re older and you have a few years working experience. You know more, you’re more comfortable in your shoes, and you have some experience to rely on. There are still too many examples of young people screwing up in public (on Facebook or Twitter) and getting in trouble for it (although there aren’t that many examples, they’re just blown out of proportion.
- You know more than you realize. A lot of people seem afraid to speak up publicly and promote themselves because they don’t feel like they have anything to say. You’d be surprised what you know.
- What you know is valuable. And what you know is likely valuable to a bunch of people, even if you don’t realize it. As they say, Common sense isn’t all that common. Just think of the college graduate coming up after you into your field of expertise, and the difference between where that person is at and where you’re at…
- Connecting online is easier than you think. I was amazed at how easily I could connect online with people. I still remember some of those early connections – Liz Strauss, Becky McCray, Chris Cree, Mike Sansone, Terry Starbucker and so many more. It was easy to find people online (who shared my interests), get myself involved, and build out a valuable network.
- It takes time and commitment. Building your personal brand isn’t something you do once in awhile when you’re bored. It takes time and commitment, and it never stops. And doing it half-ass won’t get you anywhere.
- It’s fun. I’ve always enjoyed building my personal brand, and the activities that are involved with that online – blogging, connecting, helping others, asking for help. It’s a process you have to enjoy otherwise you won’t do it properly and invest the right time. Plus, there is a feedback loop – as you gain valuable connections, leads (for jobs or business), comments on your blog, etc. you’ll realize that all of that is worthwhile feedback on your efforts. And that’s motivating.
- Watch. Learn. Emulate. Do your own thing. Starting the process of building your personal brand doesn’t involve years of research or anything that hasn’t been done before. As Dan’s book proves – there are models for making this stuff work. I remember spending a good amount of time watching and learning, and then emulating what others were doing. It was natural to copy what seemed to be working. But over time you branch out, do your own thing, experiment and your own personality, brand, value emerges.
- Your personal brand will (and should) evolve. Don’t think of your personal brand as a static item. It’s not a resume that you submit once and forget about; it’s a living, breathing thing. It changes and evolves, just as you do. That’s OK and expected.
Personal branding works. I’m a perfect use case for it. And certainly not the only one! But ultimately, I’m convinced that building a strong personal brand can absolutely help in career success (be it finding a new job, moving up within your organization, changing careers, etc.) and in many cases is a necessity.