In my experience…everyone is a brand
I created my first resume in college when looking for internships. I wish I still had it although I’d probably cringe or laugh reading it now thinking it’s a miracle anyone hired me. At the time though, a resume was the primary vehicle for showcasing skills, experience and ambition as the precursor or accompaniment to an interview. This was prior to smartphones and social media.
Resumes and interviews are still necessary prerequisites for many jobs, but now there’s much more information available about people and countless ways to find or communicate it. This reality has resulted in an ever-increasing need for people to creatively differentiate themselves.
In my experience, individuals must treat themselves as full-on brands. It’s interesting to think of people in this context, as individual brands, when we’re so used to associating brands with products or services. A couple insights jump out at me when considering individuals as brands. (1) The level of competition for almost everything has intensified and (2) therefore it’s an unspoken requirement that branding starts early.
You can find nearly anything online, including the highs and lows of others’ experiences in their quests for success. Because of this, the pace of learning, iteration and creative innovation has increased dramatically…think Moore’s Law but for individual branding. Our ability to differentiate ourselves has never been easier, and the need has never been greater.
We now know more about our competition than ever before and they know more about us.
The availability of information and branding tools has created intense competition in many facets of our lives. Social media gives us and everyone else access to and knowledge about each other. Knowing the competition levels the playing field to a degree but also fuels the constant struggle to gain a competitive edge. This bodes well for those who excel at branding themselves and those who facilitate branding for others.
Branding from Birth
Cultivation and curation of an individual brand starts very early, long before someone applies for their first job. For many, branding is started by parents, arguably the instant a child enters any sort of competitive situation. I did this with my daughters and the athletic or academic competitions they were a part of. For me it was (is) about wanting to get ahead or set someone (them or me) up for success. I used to call it ‘advocating for’…now I call it ‘brand-building’.
With all the creative, brand-building delivery vehicles that exist (i.e. social media, apps, devices, etc.) it’s easier and easier for the youngest among us to develop and demonstrate their own creativity. The positive is that this gives them years of practice before entering the workforce. The negative is that it creates a years-long trail of nearly un-deletable content. For better or worse, that content can affect their individual brands when it comes to friendships, schooling, relationships and careers.
Whether or not we acknowledge it, we’re each a brand. Much of our self-branding is done with purpose, out of necessity or desire, for our personal and professional lives. If you’re on social media you have a brand to manage. The good news is that it’s possible to successfully navigate brands through good times and bad. Organizations do it all the time, so can individuals. The trick is learning how to do that for your brand and making it happen.
Special thanks to Brian Reynolds, whose ability to manage his individual brand and pivot across industries is impressive, and to Santina Cessor, whose goal of helping others build their personal brands is inspiring.