If you are like most people, the hardest part of personal branding will be defining your brand. I think your brand should be a statement of your value – what you can do uniquely well to help others address opportunities or solve problems that matter to them.
Understanding your value is critical because personal branding really boils down to assuming responsibility for helping individuals, organizations, and communities that need your value to find YOU!
Although I understand my brand clearly at this stage of my life and career, I probably would have struggled to put my value into words when I was twenty years old. I did not know it at the time, but my value was exactly the same when I was twenty as it is today. As you look in your rear-view mirror, if your value is not clear to you yet, don’t worry about it.
Focus instead on what you are doing right NOW. What are you doing exceedingly well in your current job or volunteer organization? Even if you don’t love your current job or boss, how do you behave when you are there? What does your behavior tell others about the strength of your character? What are you doing to learn from both the successes and struggles you have at your job, and how are you assuming responsibility to make yourself a better person, student, employee, and leader? What are you learning in your classes at school that you are using right NOW to improve your life and your work?
When I was twenty, I was studying industrial engineering and management at Oklahoma State University (OSU) and working as a shift manager at McDonald’s. I was a pretty good manager but not a very good student. After four years and one-hundred and twenty credit hours I never finished that degree. Still, if personal branding had been around back then, I could have started a personal blog to help my branding efforts (everyone needs a blog!) and would have had plenty to blog about. Without even mentioning McDonald’s, I could have talked about my experiences managing people.
And even though I failed too many of my classes, I loved my management and psychology classes and could have discussed how I used what I learned in those classes to become a better manager. I might not have been able to put my value into words, but I would have had plenty of material for personal branding that would have helped those who understood my value find me.
So, launch your blog and start writing articles about what you are doing well today and what you want to do even better in the future. I promise you, as you do that over time, the vision you see in the rear-view mirror of yourself and your value will become increasingly clear.
Bret is an Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), where he teaches courses in organizational behavior, leadership, and personal branding to both undergraduate and MBA students. He has a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. Bret practices personal branding at his website Positive Organizational Behavior where he blogs about leadership, followership, and personal branding. His purpose is “to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive.” You can also find Bret on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.