I’ve written a short article about office organizing that appears on page 25 of the August 2009 issue of Personal Branding Magazine. (You can check out a free sample of the magazine online.) Since we talk about office organizing quite a bit on Unclutterer, I thought it might be fun to instead let the magazine’s editor, Dan Schawbel, talk to us about a topic he knows in great detail and one that we rarely discuss on the site — personal branding.
In addition to being the editor of the magazine, Dan is also the author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand To Achieve Career Success. If after reading the following interview you want to learn more about personal branding, I recommend checking out Dan’s book, his site, his magazine, and his column in Business Week.
What is your method for helping people to identify their personal brand to stand out in the crowd?
There are four steps in the personal branding process I’ve developed: discover, create, communicate and maintain. You can’t create a brand unless you know what you want to be known for or labeled as. This isn’t a job title we’re talking about here. It’s all about positioning yourself in a crowded market by developing a personal brand statement, which contains your expertise and your target audience. For example: Top doctor for young adults in San Diego. As long as this statement is backed up, then you can stand out, demand a premium salary and become more respected and well known. Right now you’re asking “what if I’m not an expert” and the answer is simple, become the expert. I started off as a “personal branding spokesman.” Once you become proven, you can transition, but you have to start somewhere.
Brand discovery can be challenging, so you may want to survey the people who know you best. Ask them to describe you and give you feedback on what they think you enjoy. Ask yourself “what makes me stay up at night”? Write down your strength and what projects and/or college classes you enjoyed. Once you discover your brand, it will change the way you see yourself, give you confidence and ultimately make you successful, as long as you put the effort in.
What are the key elements of personal branding every worker should be scheduling time for in their day?
Each day, there are a lot of tasks you can do, depending on how much time you have allocated to building your brand. If you haven’t discovered your brand in the first place, then you should invest time in figuring out what you’re passionate about, what you’re expertise is (or what you want it to be) and what your support system looks like. You need all three to succeed and I call this the “triangle of success.” It’s not about finding a job anymore. Instead, you want to position yourself for the career you desire. You should do your homework to see what’s out there and make a list of your strengths, weaknesses, the opportunities you have and the threats (or factors that may impede on your success).
Another thing you should do is to follow conversations online, using google.com/alerts, search.twitter.com, backtype.com, and others. Set alerts and/or search for your full name, topics in your field and competitors. This will keep you up-to-date with the latest happenings in YOUR world, as well as keep you relevant and knowledgeable.
I also recommend that you publish one blog post per day. The post should relate to the career you want to create and be unique. It’s hard to stand out in the blogosphere now with over 200 million blogs, so you have to be creative to stand out.
It’s so tempting to waste time on social media sites instead of using them efficiently for work and personal branding. Any tips on how to use these services in a productive way?
You have to first recognize your current situation, both financially and responsibility wise. If you have three six year old children, two pet dogs, and a full-time job, then you might not be able to invest twenty hours per week using social media sites to build your personal brand. Second, you’ll want to concentrate on only a small amount of social media sites, or your brand will be spread too thin and you won’t be able to manage it. I recommend that you join Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (the big 3), while discovering and joining social networks in your industry. For instance, if you’re a real estate agent, join activerain.com or if you’re an entrepreneur, you may want to join partnerup.com.
It’s quite easy to waste time on social media sites because they are fun and there are a lot of features and people to connect with, along with unlimited opportunities. The smart thing to do is to allocate a certain amount of hours per week to each social media site that you can benefit from and keep to that schedule.
How do you keep networking contacts organized? Do you have any services or advice to recommend to others for keeping all the information gathered at networking events stored in an organized and meaningful manner?
I use a simple Excel spreadsheet to log all of my contacts and worksheets within that spreadsheet to separate different types of contacts. For example, one worksheet is called “media contacts,” where I list the names of all the journalists I’ve corresponded and another one is “personal contacts,” where I list the names of friends and family. LinkedIn.com is another great tool to organize your contacts and export the list, which you can print out as well. JibberJobber.com, a company owned by my friend Jason Alba, is a highly regarded networking database tool, which allows you to track jobs you apply for, in addition to personal and professional relationships. I wouldn’t consider myself the most organized person at all. I use most of my energy executing ideas and index my contacts later. For instance, I’ll use Gmail and create a category and put in contacts who have emailed me to be stored there, until I have time to log them.
What do you believe is the most difficult area of personal branding to keep organized and clutter free?
Aside from building a strong network contact list, it can be hard to manage your online presence as it moves through the web. The reason is because we’re all constantly moving and we’re swimming in an ocean of information everyday, so it’s hard to make your brand consistent. Also, technology has changed rapidly. Just Monday, Facebook bought FriendFeed, Facebook launched it’s own real-time search engine and Google launched a test website for their new search engine. You have to keep up with everything that is going on and if you subscribe to Mashable.com, TechCrunch.com and ReadWriteWeb.com, you’ll have a pulse over the greater tech industry. The web is a cluttered place, so you should find the blogs with the most value and review them everyday. This can obviously be tedious, but you don’t want to be left out, while your competitors are paying attention.
Is there ever a time along a career path to stop maintaining relationships with others in your industry?
If you do that, then you will be in severe shape, especially if you lose your job. I’m a firm believe in the power of networking and the social equity that brings. For instance, when I needed an intern this summer, I tweeted about it and several of my contacts retweeted that internship opening. In turn, I received many resumes and eventually hired three interns. Without the social equity to make that happen, it would have been a gruesome summer. The older you get, the more important it is to have a strong network, especially in your industry. I did a poll on my blog and 60% of people got a job through networking. For executives, that number jumps up to over 75%. Building your network before you need it is required for career success, both online and offline.