Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. -John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach 1948-1975
A great quote by one of the greatest sports coaches of the era, as well as one of the most inspiring leaders. And although this quote puts in perspective how we can become honorable individuals, in today’s world it only paints half of the picture. For those of us motivated to become successful within AND without, we should also subscribe to the ideology of one of the all time great philosophers:
“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” -Socrates
Socrates would’ve been a personal branding expert. He understood that what others think of you is important. In essence, your brand is important. We must take charge of our own personal brand, because in today’s hyper-connected world it usually precedes us. If we don’t do it, then we’re giving others more leeway as to what their perception of us is.
A great place to start to take control of your brand is online. Joshua Hays’ blog has a great series of posts that outline how to start your journey building your online presence (read part 1, part 2, & part 3). He gives some great tips such as:
1)Establishing the same username across the web, starting with your personal domain; which would ideally be http://www.yourfullname.com (i.e. alexcespedes.com, georgewashington.com), and then establishing the same user name for all the social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, tumblr, etc. A great tool is namechk.com. It allows you to check availability of usernames on ALL major networks at once.
2)Carve Keywords for yourself, dealing with your career, interests, hobbies, etc. This way, your name is the first one to pop up on search engines. Being at the top of the search can mean major bucks if someone’s searching for the top veterinarian specializing in a breed of dog for a specific city or region. This person is likely to be the first one contacted for business. You start carving these key words by writing posts, tweeting, and overall including these words in all your profiles or any time you are listed online.
3)Consistently providing INTERESTING and USEFUL content across the web. Continue to tweet, post images, comment on posts, and provide tips. Even when you think nobody cares, the search engines are always watching. You will eventually create some traction, and it will be evident to those who stumble upon you that you’ve been putting in the work for some time already.
The major component of our personal brand is of course our work and career. This is where the biggest responsibility lies when it comes to crafting our brand, and it’s where we will reap most of the benefits if we do it successfully. For some people, knowing what they were going to dedicate their life’s work to was evident from a young age. From that point on it would just be a matter of following their trajectory with the proper education, hobbies, internships, and jobs. For others, and I fall into this category, it’s a rollercoaster ride where one stage of our lives we think we want to be a doctor, and the next we want to be a politician or some other profession completely on another side of the spectrum.
For this second type of individual, the key to finding your ideal brand lies within your resume. Your experience might be all over the place, but you need to analyze your resume and find the common thread or theme that has carried over from job to job, internship to job, education to hobby to job, and so forth. To use myself as an example, out of college I was working as a Marketing Coordinator for WeightWatchers.com. In this position I was involved with optimizing the company website for the purpose of increasing awareness of our products, and ideally increasing online purchases. This required I take an active role in the website planning, in allocation of engineering and design resources/personnel, and in managing the various marketing projects from start to finish. My next position was as a Product Manager for the independent record label Siri Music/Universal, where I was assisting with setting up recording sessions, finding support staff for the artists, and advising them on their creative brand.
Although those two positions are completely unrelated, after some careful analysis I was able to find that the common threads in my career up to that point were that I was in charge of managing teams of professionals that all had different concentrations, and that I had a hand in crafting how the outside world would view the respective companies’ output. Managing diverse teams and Brand Management, those are two very valuable soft skills in the business world, so therefore I made a conscious decision at a certain point in time that these were going to be the Unique Value Propositions for my personal brand. Go ahead, analyze your own resume and come up with your own UVP.
The personal branding guru Dan Schawbel has an informative video on his blog where he discusses how to establish your personal brand (see embedded video below). At the 7:27 mark he talks about how toddlers nowadays already have their own personal brand online, yet they have no part in creating it. It’s their parents, by means of uploading photos via facebook, videos on youtube, and even setting up baby blogs, who have already thrusted their babies into online semi-stardom.
Later in the video he talks about the importance of creating a niche for yourself online and in the business world. This is the great equalizing factor between the major players and the small potatoes just starting out. The part on picking a niche starts around the 14:24 mark in the video below.
Once you start thinking about these different factors on a consistent basis, then your personal brand, and the steps necessary to develop it, slowly start to float to the surface. Creating a successful personal brand, just like creating an influential corporate brand, isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s slowly molded through action, mistakes, and connection-building. Don’t emulate the toddlers in Dan’s video who have no control over their brand, seize the responsibility and watch the dividends kick in!