(This is a guest post I wrote for brand-yourself.com, which is a neat startup founded by some college students at Syracuse – see my earlier post for more about them. Their constituency is college students, but the content of this post applies to everyone, and every age.)
Reinventing yourself is a popular phrase for older people, but it’s just as relevant for young people. What and who you are is pretty constant through most of your career. The big change points occur when you get out of school and when you get too old to do what you’ve done for your entire career.
Implicit in reinvention is your personal brand, because you’re changing one personal brand for another. That’s why sites like brand-yourself.com are so important. Just as you evolved from a kid to a college student, you now have to evolve your identity to something appropriate for a working adult.
This won’t make a difference to your friends – they already know you, but since it is your “face” to the rest of the world, you need to give this transition careful thought. And as you undertake this transition, you should always be thinking about what the other person is seeing, and how they are reacting. All good marketing is based on that, and personal branding is really nothing more than marketing yourself.
Creating a Personal Branding Statement
There are a slew of techniques you can use to raise your public awareness. I’ve written about this on my blog a few times, with an overview here. But before you start registering at personal branding (or reputation management) sites, you need to think about who you are and how you want to be known.
Most people define themselves by their job title, but that’s not such a good idea. Saying you’re a programmer or a product manager immediately makes you a commodity. Figuring out exactly what to say in your personal branding statement is probably the hardest thing you’ll do in your personal branding efforts, but it is also the most important. (And don’t worry, you can change this as you refine your approach. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to be when I grow up.)
This tag line is called your “Professional ‘headline’” on LinkedIn. Think of it as terse form of your elevator pitch. Here’s mine (for right how): “I help people get found on the Internet.” When I’m networking, I can walk up to somebody and say quickly, completely and accurately: “Hi, I’m Walter Feigenson, and I help people get found on the Internet.” It’s another version of “Barry-the-bucket” from my last post.
While you’re thinking about this personal branding statement, you need to keep in mind:
- It has to be short! You have literally seconds to make an impression on anybody you’re meeting in person or electronically.
- Make it short enough to fit on your business card.
- Make sure it’s accurate, and completely understandable immediately. Try it on your friends – make sure it works. If anybody has to ask you what you mean, you need to keep working on your branding statement.
This is the same thing we do for positioning a product in the marketplace, so I’ll give you the same advice I give marketeers… Your tag line, personal branding statement, professional headline can’t be what you want to be, it has to be what you are. If you claim to be a rocket scientist, and you convince somebody you are, it’ll show up pretty quickly if you’re really a wannabe rocket scientist. When you’ve got a tag line candidate, and it doesn’t match who/what you are, you have two choices: 1) change your tag line, or 2) become what you claim you are.
So get working on this tag line/personal branding statement. Try it out for a while. See if it resonates with other people. Make sure you’re comfortable with it.
In my next post, I’ll start talking about some of the things you need to do once you’ve established your “personal brand” in your own mind.