Dan Schawbel is described by TIME Magazine as “a world renowned personal branding expert.” Tom Peters said of Dan Schawbel, “Dan has taken personal branding to a dimension a million miles beyond where I was.” Dan is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, LLC, which helps build successful online brands. He is the author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future,
and is the founder of the Personal Branding Blog®, an Advertising Age Top 50 Marketing Blog. Recently, Dan Schawbel was named to the prestigious Inc. Magazine 30 Under 30 list.
I caught up with Dan on August 23, 2011, post East Coast earthquake! The following post is a summary of take-aways 7 – 10 of the top 10 take-aways from our interview. To listen to the entire interview, right click on the link and Save Target As to download the mp3 version of my Interview with Dan Schawbel, August 2011. Read my blog posts on Parts 1 and 2 of this interview, as well, to round out your perspective.
Babette: Overcoming the self-articulation barrier is perhaps the biggest conceptual hurdle technical professionals have to deal with, in general. What suggestions can you give these professionals in finding their “voice”?
Dan: The best way to find what you want to do in your career, and find your voice, is to keep writing, keep speaking… eventually it will just come to you, naturally… I think it’s just practice…. I had eight internships… I basically narrowed it down to what I wanted to do… But, if you’re lazy or if you just don’t want to put the effort in, it won’t happen…Practice filming yourself. You don’t have to publish it online [Dan initially filmed himself over 30 times before he found a clip he was satisfied with]… If you don’t look like you’re capable online, it’s not going to work for you… The perception of how many people you’ve connected with is important… The people who don’t take advantage of these tools now, are really at a huge disadvantage in the hiring process.
Babette: Technical professionals often feel reluctant to promote themselves, even a little bit. How can they overcome their reluctance and move forward in personal branding?
Dan: You just have to take it day by day. Do small things that will help grow your visibility at your job or online. Eventually you will get comfortable to do larger things. It could be just a Tweet, saying , “Hey, this is what I just accomplished,” etc., and that can lead into something bigger. So start small, and gain comfort that way.
You want your plan to be focused on where you want to go in life, not where you are…Brand strategy: what your buyer should look like, where you should be promoting and sharing and networking on social sites, your website, your blog, .. your overall marketing strategy, what companies – what people – do. You need to network… in order to make things happen, those are just some aspects.
I would say that everyone in the world needs their own website, so make sure that you have yours. Because if you don’t, it just looks bad at this point. In the technical field, and the technology field in general, it’s just a higher application for them to get involved with new technology and if they’re not, it looks really bad… They’ll have different pages, one with their resume, one with designs that they’ve done, the sky’s the limit. It’s all about how you’re contributing. .. You have to do all this [own your own name as a domain] before someone else does it. You only get one chance. And you don’t want to have to pay $10,000 in order to get your name back.
Babette: Social media sites: which one, or ones, do you recommend to start with? What makes this site(s) your top recommendation for technical professionals starting to build their personal brand platform? And what should a personal branding platform “look like”?
Dan: I’m going to have to say [start with] LinkedIn because it’s easy to start with and it doesn’t take a lot of work. There’s no expectation that you have to update your status on LinkedIn every day. I think that is pretty standard… I would say Facebook would be the last one. Because if you don’t already have a network, it’s really hard to build your presence on Facebook. It’s just a tough network to deal with. So I would say, maybe, Twitter would be next. Because Google+ , if I didn’t already have Connections on my other networks, Google+ wouldn’t really be that valuable. .. It’s a really tough one to use if you don’t already have a network. So I would say Twitter [second], because it doesn’t really put any strain on networking.
[On building your personal branding platform] It’s about getting a good education, refreshing your skills, reviewing everything that’s said about your company and your industry…online, so you keep up to date with what’s going on. That’s extremely important. Maybe reading books. Pushing yourself to get to different networking events. Getting on all these social profiles, getting a website, a blog, and using them to start conversations in your world. And showcasing some of your ideas and creating visibility. Basically doing all that. That’s where you really need to invest your time in, at this point.
[On participating on LinkedIn discussion groups] You need to develop an attitude that: I need to do this if I want to have a career in the future, if I want to be employable, I need to get my name out there… You just have to mentally push yourself. .. The key to LinkedIn is that it rounds you out as an individual… Companies and institutions are begging to find unique people. So if you can figure out what makes you unique and put it out there, you’re going to get through… That’s why I think video is so powerful. Before I meet someone, I watch a video of them online, so I know what I am getting myself into. And people do the same with me… And when I meet with them, it’s like we already know each other.
Babette: If there is one key thought you would like to leave the technical, and other professionals with today, what would that be?
Dan: I think people need to spend more time doing more things, so they can narrow down what they really want to do. People need to put themselves out there, take a chance, get involved in different projects, even if they don’t pay, so you get enough experience to say, “Hey, this is something I want to pursue,” or it’s not something you want to pursue. If you don’t try something, you don’t know if it’s the right thing. So give it a chance.
Babette: We’ve completed this blog series, based on my August 23, 2011 interview with Dan Schawbel. If you’d like to listen to the interview in its entirety, you can download it at link at the top of the post.
We all get immersed in our jobs and in projects. Sometimes we get so focused on work-related activities that we become out-of-touch with what’s going on around us in this most competitive global economy. Dan Schawbel has issued a call to action to technology professionals specifically, and professionals in general, seeking to build a career. Start off your personal branding work by reading his book, Me 2.0. I know I did right after the first edition was published.
Times have, indeed, changed. It may not be sufficient to have the professional credentials to enter the workforce; to sustain your employment, you need to become aware of your marketplace and industry and their respective voices. You should understand the impact of other companies on your own and your industry as a whole. And practice until you develop your own “voice” as a means of providing feedback about your perceptions on these trends.
Personal branding is about carving out that niche that establishes your own voice as an influencer, or at least an astute observer, of your industry and your profession. Because if you don’t take the time to comment and participate in online discussions, someone else will. How many times have you read discussions or blog posts or the news and thought to yourself: “That’s just what I was thinking!” The digital millennium allows your thought to count and, perhaps, make a difference.
Hopefully, this blog series has given you something to think about and some tools for going about developing your personal brand. When achieved according to Dan Schawbel’s prudent and disciplined strategies and guidelines, it’s not narcissism or shameless self-promotion. Personal branding is simply a means of sharing thoughts, perceptions and asking questions of a network comprised of online colleagues who are thirsty for dialogue and idea exchange.
What are you waiting for?