Most of my recent blogs have focused on creatively and flexibly managing through the current recession, with a focus on flexible alternatives to layoffs. But I continue to keep my eye on the future. Thinking about what lies on the other side, or the post-recession workplace reality, there are trends gaining momentum in the downturn that will play key role in the future. One of these trends is personal branding.
If you’re over 30 years old or don’t participate in social media, you may not have heard much about personal branding. But it’s here to stay, and is something you’ll have to pay attention to in order to take charge of your work+life fit. Good news–there’s a terrific new, easy-to-follow book that can get you started, Me 2.O by Dan Schawbel.
What is personal branding? Here’s the definition from Schawbel’s book:
“Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leverage it across platforms with and consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers and build self-confidence.”
Why is personal branding and the information in Schawbel’s book important today and post-recession? Here are some specific applications:
1) We will all need to find ways to stand out in a job market where rapid change is going to be the norm, or as Schawbel says, “In today’s competitive career marketplace, you need to stay relevant to survive. One way to achieve relevancy is to constantly acquire new skills…Incorporate these skills in your personal branding kit in order to improve your current organizational role or change career paths.” Believe it or not, whether you work for a company or work for yourself, being mindful of your personal brand can, as the book points out, build your credibility, showcase your character, attitudes and actions in ways that “instill good feelings in others.” In other words, having a resume and a good cover letter isn’t going to be enough.
2) Social media is a critical, yet underutilized or misunderstood, tool for managing your personal brand especially if you haven’t searched for a job since 1997. Schawbel points to the year 1997 as the demarcation date when social media such as blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. began to influence hiring decisions in the marketplace, and I think he’s right. As someone who has to make it a point to find time to blog consistently, update Twitter and LinkedIn, I sympathize with those who say, “I just can’t imagine finding the time to do all of that.” The good news is that once you start, you do get into a groove and it becomes second nature. But getting started is important, and Me 2.0 outlines in very simple terms how to begin. If you already use the various forms of social media, he also gives you some good advice on how to take it to the next level.
3) Gen-Y may be the book’s target audience, but Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers will find it helpful too, maybe even more so. Schawbel says his book is primarily for Gen-Ys and people coming out of college, and it has case studies and examples for new grads. But as a 44 year old with experience using social media I found the book very relevant. And I imagine that other Gen-Xers and Baby boomers being introduced to the concept of personal branding for the first time would learn even more.
4) If you are a parent, you need to understand how to help your child build and think about their personal brand, especially online, before it’s too late. This is one of the unexpected “ah-has” I had while reading Schawbel’s book. As a parent, it’s not just my personal brand I need to manage. I need to make sure I understand how to guide my children to start thinking about how they are presenting themselves to the broader world via social media, because what goes on the internet lives on the internet forever. This can effect their college and job search opportunities years later. Every parent should read this book, especially if you are not savvy about the way social media works.
5) Managing your personal brand involves actively managing your work+life fit. While he doesn’t specifically call it work+life fit or “balance,” Schwabel points out that the personal branding process must consider all aspects of your life. And it will evolve and change over time as your realities change. As he says, “You can start by asking yourself, ‘Who am I?’ This question seems simple enough, but the truth is that most people don’t truly find out who they are until later in life.” And even then, the process of self-discovery and understanding continues. He goes on to discuss the importance of defining “personal success,” a work+life fit concept near and dear to my heart.
Let me take this opportunity to thank you for following me and work+life fit on this blog for the last three years, and more recently on Fast Company.com blog, and on Twitter and LinkedIn. The power of personal branding to connect people and to change the world continues to amaze me! What’s your personal brand?
Stay tuned-next week, there’s more on the post-recession workplace reality. I will share my recent interview with Maggie Jackson, the author of one of my favorite books from last year Distracted, where we discuss the need to be less distracted and pay more “attention” in all aspects of our lives.