In the rising realm of social media and the increasing irrelevance of resumes, personal branding online is essential to stand out and succeed professionally.
But how do we build our brand, while instilling value, loyalty and most importantly trust with our audience? To get deeper into the topic, I spoke with Dan Schawbel, who is a Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen-Y research and consulting firm. Dan is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, which combined have been translated into 15 languages. He has been featured in “The Today Show” on NBC, The Economist and Wired Magazine, and has spoken at Google, NBC Universal, Harvard Business School, and CitiGroup. Dan was recognized into Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List in 2010, and the Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List in 2012.
Today, Dan will share his expertise on building a successful personal brand, and teach us how to promote ourselves in the 21st century.
Sean: How can we promote ourselves today without appearing conceited?
Dan: We need to focus on supporting others in their goals before asking for anything in return. When you take the attention off yourself, people become more interested and willing to help you. We live in a world where everyone, even celebrities, need help with “promotion”. If you promote other people, they will naturally want to reciprocate because you helped them first. If you take credit and are selfish, people will unfollow you and ignore you because they will know your true intentions. Instead of talking about how great you are, add value to other people through content, promotion and introductions.
Sean: What are your thoughts on blending professional and personal life into one’s personal brand. What are the best ways to achieve this?
Dan: It’s becoming nearly impossible to separate your personal and professional lives because technology has revealed both to everyone. What you need to do is understand how you want to present yourself and to what audience and then just tailor your brand image to them. For instance, I target Fortune 500 companies so you’ll almost always see me in a suit in my pictures online. Also, I don’t share party pictures because it could give people the wrong impression of me as a professional consultant. If you are a comedian, then you will have to use more of your personal life because that’s how people are going to get interested in you and how you’ll be making your jokes. Another important thing to note is that I’m an introvert and am a very private person so you won’t see too much of my personal life online. It’s a personal choice what you share.
Sean: Is there a key difference of how we should promote our brand online vs. offline?
Dan: There’s no difference between promoting an online and offline brand. They both have to be consistent, best represent you and deliver on expectations that you set. The problem a lot of people have is that they are very aggressive with promoting their brand online and shape it into an image that they can’t deliver on in person. If you think highly of someone and then meet them in person and aren’t impressed, that is a major failure on their part.
Sean: You’re recognized as a Personal Branding guru, but when you initially started, you may not have been the expert you are today. How did you go about building a personal brand advocating your expertise of personal branding when you first began?
Dan: I found my niche back when I was 23 years old. I realized no one my age was talking about personal branding, yet my generation needed to understand it more than anyone. I spent over a hundred hours a week developing my expertise, and promoting myself through blogs, media, speeches, magazines and videos. Over time, I developed an audience and my hard work accumulated. When the economy tanked, I started gaining a lot of visibility and through my commitment to network with one person a day, I created a lot of brand awareness, which turned into opportunities.
Sean: How does one go about selecting a specific niche they want to be an expert for?
Dan: You need to identify what you’re passionate about, what your strengths are and the available market opportunities and audiences that haven’t been properly serve. In this way, you need to be the entrepreneur of your own career and really become self-aware. You don’t want to be a general expert at first because it’s too competitive so you need to be specific with the audience you want to go after and that audience can later expand so don’t feel like you’re trapping yourself. The audience could be a certain demographic like millennials or a specific location like Miami, Florida. You choose the audience based on who you, or your product, can help out the most.
Sean: What are some of the ways Millennials or Gen-Y’s who have little professional experience can start to brand themselves today?
Dan: They need to get really serious about their careers because it’s all on them. In order to set yourself up for a successful career, you have to do as much as possible today. For me, that meant having eight internships, seven leadership positions on campus, and a consulting firm during college. By having all these experiences, I realized what I liked and didn’t like, the size company I wanted to work for, the industry, the types of people I wanted to work with, etc. If you wait until you graduate to get aggressive with your career, it’s too late and you may be lost for years. The more you do early on, the more you will set yourself up for success later. I just turned 30 last year and am happy I made all of those sacrifices in my 20s.
Sean: What are some of the ways one can build a business from their personal brand?
Dan: Once you become well known, opportunities will come your way and you can create a business from it. That’s the reactionary approach that happened to me and has for a lot of other experts and authors. The proactive approach is to create products and services as you build your brand so that you can turn your audience into cash. That’s probably the better approach to use because you can make money along the way and scale your business.
Sean: You’ve managed to connect and interview with some of the top celebrities, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders around the world. How were you able to achieve this in such a short span of time?
Dan: I’ve interviewed over 1,300 people since 2007, from Malcolm Gladwell to Jessica Alba. I’ve done it because I’m incredibly persistent and have built up a very strong track record. I’m not afraid to reach out and am fine with rejection, since it happens often still. People love effort. Even if someone has told me no for three years, if I continue to reach out, it impresses them and they are more inclined to talk to me. I don’t do it in a stalker way either. I’m very genuine and respectful at all times.
Would love to hear your thoughts, so let’s start our first conversation below!