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Here an expert, there an expert, everyone’s a personal branding expert

sherlockFor the past few months, I’ve been writing about personal branding, and especially how it can help job seekers. If you’ve followed me on this blog, you know that I don’t talk about theory, but about practice. People who see my presentations know I talk about the “big picture.” LinkedIn alone means very little, and you can say that for almost any single component of your personal branding effort. The big picture is how you put all these things together so everything catalyzes everything else. You know, you have to make 1 + 1 equal 3 or more.

That’s as theoretical as I get. The rest is what I’ve observed myself. I confess that I read a lot about the subject, and I pick up ideas all along the way. I’ll also confess that the only business book I’ve read all the way through is “I’m on LinkedIn. Now What???” and that’s partly because it’s short.

I’ve started many business books, but I’ve never had the patience to read them. Here’s my little secret: I find almost all of them trivial, boring, or just wrong. (Not a good observation for someone who hopes to write a book.)

I had the same problem through most of my work in graduate school. Theoretical constructs drive me nuts. Show me how you can use this stuff!!!! Economics? Oy vey. It was obvious to me as a young man that economists didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. (I guess I was right, but it’s unfortunate that the proof is the current financial melt-down.)

© 1998 Mark A. Hicks

© 1998 Mark A. Hicks

Did you ever sit through a class where a teacher spent 90 minutes describing how to make a decision? Broke it down into all its major components? Asked lots of seemingly dumb – oh, excuse me – academic-type questions? OK, I’m listening to this drivel and wondering: “Why does this matter? The real issue is whether the decision was right. Was it implemented correctly? Did the manager collect the right information? Analyze it right? Get other people involved so they would participate in the solution?” The theoretical constructs of decision making are baloney. If it helps, go sit in a hyperbaric chamber and listen to Mozart while you’re pondering your decision.

The only thing they can’t (or don’t) teach you is how to make the right decision.

Which brings me back to my first point: what makes the teacher an expert? Academic credentials? Having read tons of meaningless articles, which they promoted as gospel? I don’t think so. The person who’s an expert is the one who makes these decisions successfully! You can argue all day about elasticity of demand and how it affects pricing, but I had actual experience with several products – changing pricing up and down and watching sales results. Theory be damned, I knew what worked.

Thought I was wandering, didn’t you?

Let’s apply that to personal branding. If you accept the basic premise that having a public personna in your field (aka being an SME – subject matter expert) will help you promote your career or job search, then you can do the same thing I did. Try a bunch of things and see what works.

I tell people to sign up at personal branding and reputation management sites. Go to Ziggs and create a profile. Why? Because when I started tracking the Google results for “Walter Feigenson” I kept finding Ziggs near the top of the results. I also saw Ziki there, and ZoomInfo, and others. That’s how I came up with my personal branding tactics.

Is that going to get you a job? NO! Will it stop you from losing out to a competitor for a job you’ve found? YES! That’s why personal branding is important.

  1. You need to be found when somebody is:
    • looking for you specifically
    • looking for a subject matter expert in your field
  2. You need to have a “portfolio” for people to look at when you meet them:
    • a corpus of articles that prove you’re a subject matter expert
    • “stuff” on the Internet that puts a personality behind your name and resume

Remember, when you’re out looking for a job – or a consulting gig – you have one product, and that’s YOU. Promote yourself the way any company would promote a product. Don’t be shy, be proud of what you’ve accomplished – and show it to the world!

Posted in Job seekers, LinkedIn, Personal branding.

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4 Responses

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  1. Steve Diamond says

    Thanks for sharing your evidence-based advice on personal branding tactics. I’m off to Ziggs and beyond.

    On another level, your article raises important questions about who is an expert and why. In my own field of business analysis and executive technology consulting, I often feel that my decades of experience allow me to intuit solutions that others might never reach through analysis. Then I may have to justify my intuitions through analysis.

    (As an aside, most businesspeople don’t want to hear “I have a great intuitive sense of what works and what doesn’t regarding technology in business.” They’re looking for something that sounds more scientific.)

    In my view the accuracy of the intuition is based on an aggregation of empirical details of prior experience, remembered as a gestalt rather than discrete data points.

    So that’s one view of what makes an expert: someone who has accumulated experience to the point where his or her intuitive responses to situations tend to lead to good decisions.

    • Walter Feigenson says

      Steve, I think you’re absolutely right. I’ve spent years watching people use bad research to justify bad decisions. “Gut feel” can be the best way to make decisions – but only if your gut is usually right. To me, that comes from experience, common sense, and careful observation.

  2. Neal Schaffer says

    Walter, this is really an excellent article and nicely sums up what I have learned and practiced in my own career in transition and now Social Media consultant. Since I have a sales background it came naturally to me, but in order to sell for yourself, you have to think about, determine, and then execute on your branding plan. The beauty about doing this in the age of Web 2.0 is that now you have Social Media which you can fully exploit to have your brand reach the masses. And, in the process, many of these people (including myself) will end up becoming an expert in whatever niche they decide to brand themselves in.. That’s right, Social Media has lowered the bar and will create an explosion in experts. Think of it as the democratization of information, only possible in Web 2.0.

Continuing the Discussion

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