Graduate Alumni

News for Alumni

From the Desk of the Director

by Kim Patton, Director Graduate Alunni Relations

February 22, 2011


Do you have a personal brand?  Let me rephrase, do you know your personal brand?  We all have one; the key is to know how to clearly define our personal brand and to effectively communicate it.  I believe Tom Peters said it best in his article The Brand Called You (FastCompany, 1997), that regardless of age, position, the business we happen to be in, we all need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

Before you begin defining your personal brand, you must define “personal brand.”  One of the best definitions I’ve found comes from bnet.com which states the public expression and projection of an individual's identity, personality, values, skills, and abilities. The idea of personal branding has evolved by applying the concept of a product brand or a corporate brand to an individual person. The creation of a personal brand can be used as a tool for personal development as described by Thomas Gad and Anette Rozencreutz in their book, Managing Brand Me (Momentum, 2002). It also aims to influence the perceptions of others, emphasizing personal strengths and differentiating the individual from others. However, a personal brand should be based on an individual's real identity who they are and what they stand for, rather than an external image they wish to project.

Now you have the definition of personal brand, what are the steps you need to take to build your personal brand?  Dan Schwabel, Managing Partner of Millennial Branding LLC, is a world renowned personal branding expert, provides 14 questions everyone should ask themselves before developing their personal brand.  These questions help you to create a brand that other people will be interested in.  When you base your brand on what you do well, you will definitely be more effective when you begin to interact with others.  You can read more about these questions and other personal brand information in Schwabel’s blog Personal Branding Blog (www.personalbrandingblog.com).

  1. What kinds of job opportunities are you currently pursuing now? Which ones are you not interested in at all?
  2. Which of your previous jobs provided you with work experience that relates to what you really want to do?
  3. If you were to describe yourself in one word, what word would you choose? Why?
  4. How would your last manager describe you?
  5. Do you work well in a team? If so, do you often find yourself becoming the project manager or leader?
  6. Are your co-workers constantly coming to you asking for help? Are their questions focused on a unique expertise that you have?
  7. Do you have a niche expertise? Have you done research to see if that market is saturated?
  8. Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years? What short-term goals will get you there?
  9. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? (Think like a company.)
  10. Are your writing skills strong? What’s your favorite topic to write about?
  11. Who can you best relate to? Do you consider them your audience?
  12. Are you comfortable revealing personal information online? What information do you keep private?
  13. Do you care about what other people say about you? How does it affect you?
  14. How many hours each day are you online? What are you doing there? Is it benefiting you professionally?

So you have a personal brand, but now you want to reinvent yourself by changing careers.  How do you accomplish that?  Dorie Clark, CEO of Clark Strategic Communications, provides five steps to recreate yourself in the Harvard Business Review March 2011 article Reinventing Your Personal Brand.  Step 1, Define Your Definition by carefully devising a plan and determining where your want to hone your energy.  Clark suggests that people try internships which isn’t just for college students anymore or job shadow someone in your field of interest.  Step 2, Leverage Your Points of Difference by using your unique talents and characteristics to your advantage even if they’re not relevant to your work.  Step 3, Develop a Narrative explaining how your past fits what you want to do today.  Basically, you are taking what could be perceived as a weakness and turning it in to a positive people will remember. Step 4, Reintroduce Yourself not only to new people, but to your existing network.  Using social media can help people understand your new direction.  Make sure your contact points (Facebook, LinkedIn, blog, etc.) are consistent and current.  Step 5, Prove Your Worth by having a portfolio made up of blogs, podcasts, and other social media readily available which produces unique and valuable information to potential employers and/or customers.  Babette Burdick reminds us in her article Social Graces for Quality Progress, 43(1), 28-33, to adhere to the following four underlying principles of social networking for business and career development: 1. Manage your strategy. 2. Create differentiation. 3. Avoid commoditization. 4. Build brand distinction. The key element to any social networking strategy is to determine your personal brand -- a concept the business community is very familiar with but is somewhat foreign to the engineering and quality communities. Personal branding involves identifying your values and areas of core competency and communicating how you consistently deliver against these attributes.

Knowing what your personal brand is not is just as important.  You need to make sure your personal brand is both powerful and meaningful.  Author Rajesh Setty on tompeters.com blog shares nine points of what a personal brand is not. 

  1. It's NOT what you say about yourself.

In simple terms, what you say about yourself falls under the category of "freedom of speech." You can say whatever you want. Does not mean a thing. Your personal brand is an assessment the marketplace makes about who you are and what you bring to the marketplace.

  1. It's NOT an extension of your employer's brand.

Unless you are self-employed, it is hard to extend your employer's brand to make it look like your personal brand.

  1. It's NOT your presence in the social media.

Yes, social media can amplify your personal brand, but the presence itself cannot be a substitute for a personal brand. There are a few exceptions here, as some people have built a brand as social media experts and they live in the social media (for obvious reasons).

It is also NOT how "popular" you are in the social media. You can be entertaining (and funny) and become popular, but that does not automatically grant you authority unless humor is part of your offer to the marketplace.

  1. It's NOT something that you can ASK for.

People give it to you when you deserve it.

  1. It's NOT something that you are entitled to.

It does not come with a job position or a title. A job or title might help with your personal brand, but it can't be proxy for your personal brand.

  1. It's NOT a perk.

It is not something a company can decide to give you as an "extra" because you did a good job.

  1. It's NOT about the power alone.

While it provides you the power, a "personal brand" is mostly about giving. Power and influence are mostly the side benefits of your personal brand.

Here is something to think about:

What is it you are giving to the world that is so valuable that the world will reward you back with a powerful personal brand?

  1. It's NOT a gift that someone can give you.

Someone cannot give you a gift of a "Personal Brand," but they can give you a gift to amplify an "already powerful" personal brand. A well-deserved link, an endorsement, a testimonial, etc., are all gifts that can amplify a personal brand.

  1. It's NOT permanent.

It's not something that you can get and keep it for life. You have to work hard to get a powerful personal brand. But that's only the first step. You have to continue to work hard to keep that powerful personal brand and grow it.

In today’s market, having a personal brand is essential, especially if you want to switch careers and reinvent yourself.  If you don’t create your personal brand, others will by their perceptions, good or bad.  As Tom Peters put it 13 years ago in the Fast Company August 1997 article, The Brand Called You: “It's this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.”