Many weeks ago I was at an investing / networking event where I was pitching a non-profit I work with. Each person in the room had 30 seconds to introduce themselves. You had to say your name and passions. As the mic was passed to each of the 50+/- people in the room, I started to shift in my seat uncomfortably. Almost every person was missing a golden opportunity to distinguish themselves! These were really successful people, too. And yet almost each person said, "I’m Bob, I’m a serial entrepreneur and my passion is wine" or "I’m Joe and I’m an angel investor and my passion is my kids." I’m sure these people care a lot about wine or their kids. Remarkably, even after the first 30 people said this, the next 20 followed suit saying the same old boring things.
Developing a personal brand is important. A personal brand is YOU! I want to be known first for who I am, not for who I work for or what school I go to. Those attributes are important but not as important. Your personal brand — what you believe in, what you are reading and writing about, the people you care about — exists in everyone, but few people seem to really project it.
"But Ben," you say, "I’m just a regular ole’ person and my passions aren’t exotic, they actually are my family. And my profession isn’t out of this world it’s just straightforward. What’s my personal brand then?" Don’t undervalue your own life experiences. Each person in this world can be interesting and unique if they appreciate their life path and not just lump it into "average." The challenge, of course, is how to craft this story into something snappy and presentable and then, over the long-term, work to turn this story into a true "brand."
A personal brand follows you. A personal brand, as my friend Dan Grossman pointed out, can allow for you to make mistakes and recover.
For a good starter e-book on this topic, check out Rajesh Setty’s ebook: "Personal Branding for Technology Professionals: Distinguish Yourself and Thrive!"