I was in a complete panic because they were going to use me as an example, and I thought having a personal brand meant you had a website. And at the time, my website had been “under construction” for longer than I care to remember and I “just” had a blog. So I built my website. Luckily my neighbor is a web-dev genius and I take care of his cat when he’s away and make dinner for him from time to time, so he fixed some little CSS things that were making me nuts.
Actually, I don’t think I knew was a personal brand was, until all of a sudden I had one. Not so long ago I just had Facebook, and then I added LinkedIn, but didn’t use it much. Then I started using Twitter, and started blogging about my research (and being a grad student in general). Finally I had a website. And that’s when I thought I had a personal brand.
However my personal brand is more than that. Google me – the whole first page of results is me and what I’m about. You’ll find my website (top hit!), my Twitter, my LinkedIn, my Brazen Careerist, my slideshare presentations, a course I’ve taken and my lender profile on Kiva.
This is when I realized – a personal brand means people can know who you are, by looking online. And I’d built one without even realizing that’s what I was doing. It meant that Patti could literally tell me what my “key words” are – because they’re on my LinkedIn, but having seen the rest of what I’m about she could tell me the others I should add. And she could say, you should meet Kelly because you two will really like each other. She was right, I did like Kelly when I got to meet her, and she gave me the nicest #FollowFriday ever, so I think it was mutual.
Actually, Kelly came across my Conversation Networks via yet another person and connected with me on Twitter. So, next realization, a personal brand means that people find you and connect with you if they’re interested in the kinds of things you’re interested in. That’s really cool.
A lot of grad students research fascinating things, but they don’t put it out there – they don’t blog, they just write it up in papers that only academics read and ultimately into a thesis that’s often read only by their committee and their mother. There’s all this value that gets lost in academia because it’s not put out there in a format and a language that non-academics will read. A personal brand allows you to share what you’re making, and is a place to continue discussion. The other day a guy (older, professional) came up to me at an event and asked for my card because he wanted to see more about what I’m working on. Isn’t that awesome? It would have been even more awesome if my cards had arrived by then, but that’s by the by.
“Personal Branding” is scary because it sounds like marketing speak, and most of us aren’t marketers. Why do we have to market ourselves? Shouldn’t the work we do speak for us? For me, at least, my personal brand is the work I do speaking for me. Personal branding pretty much consists of putting it out there and organizing it. It doesn’t feel fake, it feels like sharing, like being part of a conversation.
If you read my blog, maybe you feel like you know me. In a way, you do. If you were looking to hire me, you could find out from my brand what inspires me, what winds me up. You could discover a lot of my skills in what I write about and what I work on. You could probably get a good impression of whether I would fit in with your company. You’d probably know if I wouldn’t, as well, and that’s OK – better to find that out sooner rather than later. I’m OK with people feeling like they know me from my online persona, because it’s just the spell-checked version of my actual persona. I consider what I put out there, but I think authenticity wins. How about you?