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Personal Branding for Young Professionals: An Interview with Dan Schawbel, Author of Me 2.0

As the job market becomes more and more competitive, students and recent grads need to do everything they can to stand out from their peers. One great way to do this is by building your professional reputation, also known as your “personal brand.” For advice on creating your personal brand – and using it to help you land a great job – I turned to Dan Schawbel, the leading personal branding expert for Generation Y.

As the job market becomes more and more competitive, students and
recent grads need to do everything they can to stand out from their
peers. One great way to do this is by building your professional
reputation, also known as your “personal brand.”

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For advice on creating your personal brand – and using it to help
you land a great job – I turned to Dan Schawbel, the leading personal
branding expert for Generation Y. Dan is the author of the brand new
book, Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan, April 09), as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog and Personal Branding Magazine.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Dan. Here are some excerpts from the interview, including a shout-out to Fast Company!

Lindsey: How do you define personal branding?

Dan: Personal branding is the process by which we market ourselves
to other people.  The process that I’ve developed in my new book, Me
2.0, is “discover, create, communicate and maintain (DCCM).”

The first step in this process is to discover what you’re passionate
about and your area of expertise, while establishing goals and forming
both a development plan and a personal marketing plan.

The second step is to create marketing materials, which could
include a business card, portfolio, website, blog, social network
profiles, a podcast, a video resume, as well as traditional documents
like a resume and cover letter.

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The third step is to become your own personal PR person and
communicate your brand to others through speaking engagements,
commenting on blogs, writing for magazines, pitching journalists and
more.

The final step is to maintain your brand, which consists of online
reputation management and keeping your profiles up-to-date and accurate
with changes in your career.

Lindsey: You are in your 20s. How have you established yourself as a personal branding expert at such a young age?

Personal branding came naturally to me because I marketed myself
extensively through college, including eight internships, seven
leadership positions and straight A’s.  Instead of networking with
other professionals, I applied and interviewed through job boards and
corporate websites, which really forced me to differentiate myself.

I had never termed this to be personal branding until I read Tom Peter’s article in Fast Company magazine
The second I read his article, I realized that personal branding was my
passion and since I was blessed with entrepreneurship genes, and skills
that I collected from middle school (graphic design and website
development), I was able to execute on my dream and build a brand
faster than most.

When I first branded myself, I considered myself a “personal
branding spokesman,” because my theories weren’t proven and I was a
prolific writer on this topic.  As I started to see results from my
brand building, including being recruited for a new social media
position at EMC Corporation, and press mentions in BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal,
I transitioned my brand to “personal branding expert.” 

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Instead of
being this general with my title, I decided that my audience would be
Gen Y, because that niche was wide open and because I felt that the
millennial generation required extensive help to prepare them for the
real world.  As a millennial myself, it was easy to connect to this
generation and thus my personal brand statement (who you are and who
you serve) became “the leading personal branding expert for Gen Y.”

My genuine enthusiasm and knowledge in this field has allowed me to
break through the clutter and establish myself as a top marketing
blogger, magazine publisher, video producer, consultant, speaker and
book author.  If I lost everything today, I’d still pursue my passion
for personal branding.

Lindsey: Can you share 3 personal branding tips from
your book that are most important for Gen Ys graduating from college
this spring?

1.  Have a targeted approach to applying for jobs. 
Most college graduates will furiously apply to hundreds of jobs online,
praying that they might get a few interviews and hopefully a job. 
Regardless of what the economic situation is, a focused job search will
always prevail.  Instead of getting a job that will pay your bills, try
your hardest to create your own job at a company that you’d love to
work for.  Write down the top five companies that you want to work for
and the job description you would like to have.

2.  Conduct a people search, not just a job search.
Job boards are fading away and aren’t as useful as they were a decade
ago.  Now, everyone is on social networks and can be contacted, without
having to go through chains of command.  The best way to navigate the
recruitment process is to contact employers directly, instead of
applying for a job that might not be available anyway.  Use search
engines, including Twitter, Facebook, Technorati and Google to locate
employees who work at companies you’re interested in and reach out to
them.  By doing this, you’ll appear genuine and have a better chance of
getting the job you actually want.

3.  Protect and promote your brand as much as possible. 
Protecting your personal brand is extremely important because there are
other people in the world with your name and if you fail to register
your name on social networks and your domain name, someone else will. 
Also, you’ll want to command your Google results because employers will
be searching for you.  Promoting your brand is required to gain the
necessary visibility to be recruited based on your expertise.  By using
social media tools to get your name out there, you have a better chance
at obtaining a great opportunity.