In my last article, “Building Your Brand in Class,” I suggested that one of the ways you can build your brand in class is to earn the respect and recommendation of your instructor. I have written letters of recommendation for some of my students that made them look very impressive. When I do that, I am attaching my brand to their brand, so I only do it for people that have earned it by impressing me. When someone impresses me, it means they have succeeded at communicating their value to me in a way that I can clearly communicate it to others.
If you want to impress someone, you have to first get their attention. Show up for all your classes, on time, and sit somewhere near the front of the class where your instructor has an opportunity to get to know your face and your name. Make eye contact with your instructor, smile, and nod your head from time to time as he or she is speaking. Simply acknowledging his or her presence with warm and reassuring facial gestures and body language will immediately differentiate you from the disengaged crowd.
Take the time during the first week of class to think about how the class is going to enhance your value and personal brand. Then, visit your instructor during posted office hours within the first two weeks of class to introduce yourself. Describe to your professor how you think the class is going to enhance your value and ask if he or she has any advice on how to get the most out of the class.
If your performance in the class meets your expectations, thank your instructor for his/her advice on how to do well. If your performance does not meet your expectations, ask for help and guidance on what you can do to improve. ALWAYS assume full responsibility for your performance and never make excuses or appear angry or disinterested. Some of the most impressive students I have ever had were not those with the most talent, but those that did their best despite their circumstances and always assumed full responsibility for their behavior and performance.
Here is the key to impressing people: discover what they care about, and then make an effort to show that you understand and care enough about them to respect that as well. For example, I care about personal responsibility more than talent, so when students exhibit high degrees of personal responsibility, I am very impressed.
We simply don’t trust people we think don’t care about us. In the few short months you spend with your instructor, you want to make sure that he or she remembers you as someone who is worthy of that trust. For that to happen, you have to make a personal connection with your instructors and sincerely care about them and the things that matter to them. If you can learn to do that in all your relationships, you will master an important leadership skill that will serve you well as your life and career progress.
When your instructors write you letters of recommendation for you, make sure they can testify about your character and potential by describing specific things they know and admire about you. You have to do more than just make good grades in your classes if you want to maximize the power of your personal brand.
Bret Simmons 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.
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