Personal Branding: should you fake it till you make it?
Its trial and error, but mostly error.
Two years ago I was sitting in the front row of my business strategy class. The homework had been to read a few of the chapters of the book and have a discussion in class. The truth is I only read two chapters, but I bookmarked a few others that caught my eye. While in class the professor was impressed I had read so much, and went on saying that I was the example to follow. That very day I understood what happens when you show something, but give something else — or nothing at all for that matter. That day, I understood personal branding.
Never did the phrase “fake it till you make it” had so much impact in my life as it has done these past few years. During my second year in university I realised the power of personal branding and its effects further down the line.
Personal branding is seen as this abstract concept widely used in the business world, and I feel there is a lack of support for us the less experienced ones. The importance of assessing your capabilities and talents is key to make the right moves. Success is comprised of many factors, and how you present yourself to the world is one of them.
As I am soon leaving the undergraduate stratosphere, I have laid out my main take-aways from personal branding as a student. This list is purely based on my personal experience. It was trial and error, but mostly error.
1. If I seem confident, people will believe it.
Yes, but mostly no. What most people don’t understand about personal branding is that you need to back up what you say. This is why you need to know and carefully assess your talents and capabilities. There is no point on having a nice packaging to a disappointing product. Confidence is key, but not the key. Make sure you can deliver, this will set the bar and make the difference.
2. Personal branding is only for business, not for social matters.
When I say social matters I do not mean social media, even though it is part of it. Have you noticed how you are described and perceived by others? Cross check those descriptions with your version. Social events are a great way of noticing these things. I got to networking events and speaker series with friends and classmates, and beforehand we discuss how we want to be introduced to others.
3. Priorities. Know them, nurture them, follow them.
The hardest thing to do is stick to objectives. Let’s be honest, parties, concerts, and laziness tend to get in the way, and that’s okay. But slipping too often will undermine you efforts. Identifying priorities and checking up every now and then will prevent you from having fogged objectives.
4. Not being flexible.
Mistakes happen, and as I mentioned before it is trial and error. Sticking to things harshly, or thinking that they are set in stone is not being flexible. Things are not definitive, at least not all of the time. University is the time to make use of our chances and learn, and use that time and space to make mistakes and get better at it.
5. Who you are is who you will be. Forever.
I went into business school to major in finance. I have now completed a major in marketing, and will now pursue a master’s in science. What? We evolve in multiple ways, and as we grow older we tend to change. We are exposed to many more things, and learn to discern between what we like and what we don’t like.
The trick to personal branding is having your future in mind. But most importantly backing up your claims.
You can’t claim to be someone you are not, or have skills you know you don’t posses. The lies will eventually catch up, and will cause damage that will be harder to revert.
Sometimes I like to see people as brands, as they represent and/or stand for something. Aligning priorities and actions will open doors for you, and keep you focused. Look at yourself as a Lego building, composed of different pieces of different colours and sizes. These pieces are removable and interchangeable, and it is up to you how you allocate them.
That day I learned about the importance of personal branding, I also read the chapters I was supposed to read. I was lucky I was not asked any questions about them, but I now make sure that my actions are aligned with my priorities, and use personal branding as a tool to take me further.
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