Brand Yourself to Fight the Bad Economy

BusinessWeek

October 28, 2008

by Marshall Goldsmith

My friend Dan Schawbel is a leading voice in the area of personal branding, focusing on helping individuals gain self-confidence, discover their passion, and develop a brand by using social media tools.

I invited Dan to discuss how personal branding can be used to fight the economic downturn and protect people from future layoffs. In his new book, Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, he provides a detailed four-step strategy for success. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

Marshall Goldsmith: Dan, what exactly is personal branding, and why is it so important in today’s challenging workplace?

Dan Schawbel: Personal branding is how we market ourselves to others. Each and every one of us has a brand because we are constantly being judged based on first impressions. Also, we are forced to sell our ideas and unique abilities to all stakeholders inside a company or as an entrepreneur.

Ten years ago, in a Web 1.0 world, your brand was hidden unless you were an executive at a leading company or a Hollywood celebrity. Now, with the evolution of the Internet into a Web 2.0 environment, every single person has a voice that can build or destroy their reputation and that of their company in an instant. Another major difference is that you needed a lot of mainstream press years ago to make a name for yourself. Today you can start a blog and join social networks for free.

Everyone from hiring managers to admissions officers and even talent agencies is scrubbing the Internet, either in search of their next hire or as a background check. According to Careerbuilder.com, 22% of managers screen their staff using social networks like Facebook, and Kaplan says that 10% of admissions officers verify potential students using social networks. There is a massive opportunity for you to position yourself as an extraordinary brand and be recruited based on your passion.

What led you to get involved with personal branding?

I graduated from Bentley College in 2006, after accumulating eight internships and seven leadership positions. During my interviews, hiring managers had noticed my “personal branding toolkit,” which contained a custom portfolio, résumé, cover letter, and Web site. This made me stand out. After several interviews, I landed the marketing job I wanted at EMC Corp (EMC).

One year later, I started experimenting with social media outside of work. I launched my own blog, after reading Tom Peters’ famous “Brand Called You” article. I soon realized that my passion was in fact personal branding, as I love marketing, mentoring, and all things social media. What started as a blog became awards, an online TV show, and my own magazine. I was profiled in Fast Company, and the article was read by EMC PR and sent to a vice-president, who then hired me to be the first social media specialist. Long story short, I was hired without even applying for the job.

What is your four-step process for building a powerful brand?

Discover: In order to really understand who you are and carve out a career path moving forward, investing in self-discovery is critical. In fact, if you don’t spend time learning about yourself, your values, personal mission, and unique attributes, you will be at a disadvantage when marketing your brand to others. Start by removing yourself from distractions and ask yourself, “Who am I?” and, “If I could do anything, what would it be?”

Create: Your personal branding toolkit may consist of a blog, Web site, business card, résumé, reference document, cover letter, portfolio, or even a LinkedIn profile. Each piece has to be consistent with the next and reflect the brand you discovered in Step 1.

Communicate: Now it’s time to use everything you’ve created to let people know you exist. By attending professional networking events, writing articles for Web sites, and putting on your “personal PR hat,” pitch bloggers and traditional journalists to start gaining attention and recognition for the brand you created in Step 2.

Maintain: As you grow, mature, and accelerate in your career, everything you’ve created has to be updated and accurately represent the current “brand you.” Also, you need to monitor your brand online to ensure all conversations about you are positive and factual. You can do this by using a combination of tools, including a Google Alert for your name.

Can you explain how social media tools can protect workers?

You need to build your brand equity outside of your current job because there is no such thing as job security anymore. To do this, you should become a blogger, reserve your name on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and take ownership of your Google (GOOG) results by constantly monitoring what shows up for your name over time. Each of these social media tools rank high in Google, therefore they can give you the necessary visibility you need to seize opportunities.

Thank you! I love to give my readers new techniques to adapt and succeed, especially in today’s turbulent business environment. How can we reach you?

I can be reached at https://personalbrandingblog.wordpress.com or dan.schawbel@gmail.com.