This post is part-one of a multi-part series from the international branding expert Christof Appel. Christof was born and raised in South Africa, and has been consulting with individuals and groups on their online brands for over 5 years. In this series Christof will write about personal branding techniques which can be used by current and soon-to-be Graduate Business students.
Students at SFU’s Graduate Business School have the unique ability to be involved with his “Mastermind” program. This is an elite group selected to be involved in an ongoing online workshop with Christof, building their own personal online brands. As newly minted Graduate Business students in Vancouver, this online presence is critical for networking and job seeking. Be sure to read Christof’s first article below, and feel free to comment or email for more detail.
Generally, “personal branding” is a somewhat misconceived concept. Especially when it comes to individuals with powerful graduate degrees and a strong resume, further defining yourself online will provide that extra boost above the competition.
The key to a strong, effective, and powerful online personal brand is authenticity. The brand must represent you as closely and consistently as possible. It is critically important to be open, honest, and accurate when developing your personal online presence.
Imagine yourself running a Fortune 500 company (a dream many MBA students have before and after their degree) and having discovered that after screening an applicant’s resume, they had lied about their college grades, association memberships or internship experience. Would you hire them? Similarly, there’s a reason why the ab-buster 3000 (no added exercise or dietary changes needed) is collecting dust in so many basements while the owners are still overweight and “ab-less”. Telemarketers and poor salespeople attempt to exaggerate the features and benefits of a product that is completely ineffective, leading to a poor brand image.
Creating and selling a ‘false’ personal brand doesn’t serve anyone, least of all yourself. Instead, highlight the characteristics and talents you currently possess, strive to improve on them even further, and link them to an essential need with regard to the entity or individual you’re communicating your personal brand to.
Jake is friend of mine, probably one of the most creative individuals I know, and extremely good at out of the box thinking. This said, he doesn’t walk around in skinny jeans, have purple hair or profess to be at one with his “Zen-Master”. He is a normal dude, with an extraordinary brain, who also works for a top investment bank. He is one of the most disorganized people you will ever meet. His apartment looks like a 2nd hand book, clothes, bikes and everything else store. Somehow he keeps his life together and he’s actually a brilliant actuary. When his employer told him that the position he’s applying for is responsible for line reporting and that the job involved a lot of admin Jake made a motivational presentation in his short interview.
This interview showcased a Powerpoint presentation with pictures of his apartment, where one has never seen such carnage. There were books, dvd’s, pizza boxes, metal sculptures, a dartboard, soccer balls, surfboards, clothes, dishes and pictures everywhere! It looked like a hurricane had gone through the lounge, it was titled ‘home sweet home’. No one could live there. After this shocking slide he wrote, ‘Administrative organizing and processing ability = 0’. On his last slide he showed one photo, the same photo which won him a Rhodes Scholarship some years ago.
It shows a young girl in central Africa standing next to a water pump splashing her face – when you turn the photo over there’s a hand written note from the girl thanking Jake for helping her village get access to clean water. That year in her village there had not been a single death caused by waterborne diseases, compared with the 17 people that died the year before. On his next slide he wrote ‘Ability to get things done that change the lives of others and the rest of the world = 10. If you make sure that you get hired for what you’re good, represented by your personal brand, your new career should be significantly more rewarding. The rewards go beyond just yourself, as your employer will be confident that they hired the person they had expected to hire. As a result of the story above, you can be sure that Jake doesn’t have any administrative function his new job, yet he’s one of the company’s more effective employees.
Don’t be afraid of your strengths or weaknesses, integrate them into your personal brand and constantly communicate it to the world. Authenticity is branding secret number one…