Brand You…Brand New You

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I teach an introduction to business class and an organizational behaviour class at post-secondary schools. In my class recently, I thought to try a little experiment, I walked around the room and asked random university students, “do you have a brand?” The first person looked at me sheepishly and then said “no”. I pointed to another and they replied by shaking their head, “no” and proceeded to look down. Next person shrugged their shoulders and said, “I don’t think so”. This went on and on. Not one student had a brand that they could describe or even consider that they had.

As I walked back to the front, I turned around abruptly and pointed to them all and shared how wrong they were. “Whether you like it or not, you have a brand!” and I said it with conviction. I restated it to hammer home the point that they all have a personal brand. If someone has words or thoughts to describe you, then you have a personal brand. The challenge is that most don’t even think about their brand or how important it is. They also feel they are just a face in the crowd and that they really aren’t able to define who they are. Over the many years of teaching and mentoring hundreds, I think the student or young professional is so focused on their final destination of ‘what’ they will want to do in life that they forget to appreciate the journey and learn about ‘who’ they are. They are more focused on what they will be but not who they are.

Society asks us the same basic question: what do you want to do after you graduate or what do you do? This is something I don’t ask because that is not a brand but more of a label. It is what you do but it does not define who you are. Instead, I like to ask the question, “What are you interested in?” There is a significant difference in the questions. The first one is very specific while the second one focuses on helping them understand what they value and who they are.

So how might we realize our brand or start building our brand? Here are some helpful ideas:
• Realize that if you don’t define yourself others will – so start looking at what you are doing that you enjoy. What are you doing that you don’t enjoy. Are there any patterns that you see emerging that helps to start forming an idea?
• Start using words – take time to attach words to yourself. These words will change over time and they are the words that help to better appreciate and understand who you are. I usually feel five words or phrases can help. Once you pick a word, ask yourself ‘why’. Why does that word matter to me? Start doing a mind map and seeing how the words might attach themselves to you and any connections that start emerging.
• My value proposition – we all have something within us that sets us apart from everyone else. This is your value proposition. Once you identify words, can you start to identify some unique aspects about you? At first, this might be challenging because out of habit, we always say, “yah, but so and so can also do this”. String the words or phrases together and start by saying, “I can do….”, and you can build off of this.
• Live a quote – seek and look around. Find a quote that matters to you. Put this quote at the end of your email address and live this quote. Mine is: “Everyone’s life is an autobiography, but make yours worth reading.” This quote is what I live by as my personal reminder and my reminder to help others. By having a quote, it provides some focus and direction because it is something that matters to you.
• Stop looking at others – We have a habit of diminishing our uniqueness because we compare ourselves to others and seeing how we are common because others have what we have. Instead, stop looking at others and focus on yourself and yourself only. Forge your identity and don’t bring others in to compare yourself to.
• Write a personal statement – many times we are called upon at events or interviews to share who we are; however, we often use standard phrases or values like, hard working, I like people, I am a perfectionist, etc…but so is everyone else. Use your words and value proposition to help create and craft a personal statement that defines you. It only needs to be a few sentences that makes up a paragraph. It should be a statement that is not scripted but something you can say with conviction.
• Clarity emerges – once you know who you are, it is as if a fog bank has lifted. You can then tackle life with more purpose and conviction. You will see the opportunities that are around you because you are able to better understand who you are.
• Ahead of the curve – think of it this way, if the masses have no idea who they are and you take the time to better prepare and articulate who you are, are you not ahead of the curve?
• Believe in yourself – it is imperative that you take everything forward and really believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, how will I? Live your brand and do it with sincerity and authenticity. There is a fine line between being cocky and with confidence so speak with confidence but don’t be cocky.
• Ever changing is key – understand that this is not the end but rather a beginning. We are so conscious of describing who we are for fear of putting ourselves into a bucket or category. No, you are ever changing and growing as an individual. This is only a starting point and if you don’t change along the way, I would be worried. Start somewhere and then see where it takes you and re-evaluate, re-assess and re-define yourself. This is not about being aimless but rather be very clear in the direction. Just always remember that none of this is set in stone and will change.

These ideas and thoughts are not to be rushed. It is more than sitting and just rattling off the first things that come to your mind but rather taking the time to contemplate who you are. This starts to build your foundation and allows you to really get to know you. The benefit is that if you are proactive and do this, then any opportunities that might emerge, you have something to compare it against and rather than going in a random direction, there is more detail and attention towards your future. These attributes are not set in stone. Feel free to change them as you change yourself. Words to describe you?…simple concept yet something we might not do. So, brand ‘you’ becomes the brand ‘new’ you.

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