Have you thought about your Personal Brand, also known as your reputation? If you haven’t, don’t worry. You are not alone. But it’s not too late to start. Check out Personal Brand Video to learn about personal brand, branding strategies and building brand equity.
The purpose of this article and accompanying Personal Brand Assessment is to help you start developing your Brand! We’ll focus on high-school athletes. Parents who are reading can keep this in mind while thinking about your careers.
Your Brand has many similarities to a company’s Brand. Your Brand portrays who you are, what you stand for, and what your customers can expect from you. You may be thinking, “I don’t have customers.” I hear this when teaching the Brand section of my favorite college class, Human Relations. Fortunately, after about five minutes, I have the students understanding that we all have customers.
From a personal perspective, many people have not thought about it. So, consider this.
- At school, do you have classmates who depend on you to get group projects done? Those students are your customers.
- Do you have teammates and coaches who count on you to train, show up on time, and perform well at practices and games? Those teammates and coaches are your customers.
- Do you have a part-time job? Your boss and co-workers are your customers, who need you to be dependable and do a good job.
- Do your parents rely on you to do your chores and be home by curfew?
- Do you have grandparents who look forward to you visiting, calling, or mailing cards? On a side note, grandparents like receiving mailed cards. It may be old school, but you’ll increase your brand equity with grandparents.
You are getting the idea. We all have customers, people who depend on us who are our customers. Their experiences with you result in your Brand.
So how do you create your Brand? As we like to explain it, it’s through your branding strategies. Your conscious and intentional effort and actions you do every day. And how you deliberately communicate and present your value proposition to others.
First, Determine Your Values
I have my Human Relations Students do this exercise. Initially, it may look simple; however, if you take the time and be introspective, you’ll find it is a little more complicated than you may think. The tricky part is you need to look at the list of values below and only select the five (5) values representing your true self.
Next to each value, write down what you’ve done to live those values. Or in other words, what are your behaviors or actions that others see that demonstrates those values?
That’s showing your brand.
Now answer this. Do you consistently demonstrate those values through your behaviors or actions? If not, you are creating brand confusion. Others don’t know what your brand is.
If you don’t consistently demonstrate your values, what can you do differently to align your behaviors and actions with your values? If dependability is important to you, stop being late for practice. Or start doing something like getting your part of the school group project done on time, every time.
Take some time to identify as many things to start or stop doing to demonstrate your values.
Step 4 – Don’t Forget About Your Ethics.
Merriam-Webster defines ethics as “A set of moral principles.” Further, I’ve added, “It’s your moral standard of what is right or wrong.”
Here are a few thought starters to help you start to define your ethics. Have you:
- Observed others cheating on homework or tests? If yes, have you reported it?
- Not citing sources for a paper you turned in
- Arrived at work late or took long lunches while on the clock and got paid for it?
- Omitted some information to make yourself look better
- Let others in your group project team do all the work while you take the same credit?
Being a Human Resources professional and a college instructor provides perfect settings for firsthand observations of the differences employees and students demonstrate in their standard of right and wrong. I’ve had students who don’t present their work as their own and rationalize it: “Everyone else is copying, so why shouldn’t I?” In the workplace, I’ve coached employees of all ages, who don’t meet performance expectations. I’ve heard them say, “Others aren’t carrying their weight, so why should I?”
My answer to both questions is, “Your moral standard should drive you to do the right thing.”
Further, I’ve read a quote from Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” From the perspective of ethics, I teach my students, “Your brand drives what you do when no one is looking.”
Here’s another example from my colleague Rob. He played high school and college golf. Golf is an individual sport that allows players to “noodle the ball,” which means moving it to a better place to hit the next shot. Often no one is looking. What do ethical players do when their ball lands behind a tree? Move it out a little for a straight shot to the green, or play it as it lies? You know the answer if you always want your brand to represent high ethical standards. Play the ball as it lies!
Second, Your Brand is More Than Your Sport
We’ve found that coaches want well-rounded athletes who are more than myopically focused on their sport. As you develop your Brand think about how you will focus on the following:
- Academics – higher grades give you more opportunities. Starting with Freshman year, that GPA counts! The classes you choose to take, such as calculus instead of an easy A class show coaches you are serious about your studies.
- AP classes are helpful. No matter the courses, do your best to earn the best grades, and do it ethically!
- Part-time jobs are essential. Granted, as student-athletes, you are busy with studying and your sport. Try to fit it in, even a part-time summer job. Make sure you go to work on time and work your entire shift. Get good referrals from your boss. Coaches look for athletes who are good students and can hold down a job.
- Volunteer! Do you like dogs? Volunteer at a rescue shelter.
- Do you have a favorite non-profit organization? Volunteer with them. You can likely find an elective class at your school, working with special needs students. The key to volunteering, though, is once you commit, stick to it for a while. Volunteering once or having many one-and-done volunteer jobs doesn’t demonstrate an ability for stick-to-it-ness. Coaches will wonder if you’ll stick with your sport or team.
- Make sure your activities align with your values.
Third, Things You Can Do
You Must be Genuine
Therefore, it is best if you genuinely believed in your values. If you selected one because it sounded good or you thought that’s what others expect, it just wouldn’t work! Others can see right through your forced or disingenuous acts. You can’t “fake it until you make it.” You have to “walk the talk.” Okay, enough clichés!
Fourth, I’m a proponent of planning. So, make a plan and write down the details of how you will demonstrate your values. It’s been proven that writing down your plan increases the likelihood that you’ll accomplish it. I drive my co-workers crazy by taking this a step further. We all create goals, small attainable goals to reach a larger purpose in our plans. The plan also provides a road map to keep you on course to achieve your goals and brand!
Live Your Values, Live Your Brand
That is to say, being true to your values is much easier than forcing someone else’s values. It isn’t easy to separate your brand from your personal life. While certainly doable, it’s easier to initially create a personal brand when your actual lifestyle and brand are the same. Once you establish the daily routine of living your brand, you don’t have to think about it. It becomes second nature, and you don’t have to think about it.
Tim Salau, a community builder and founder of Mentors & Mentees, who works with college students to help them build brands that will get them hired, says it well. “Your brand should follow you everywhere you go. It needs to be an authentic manifestation of who you are and amplify what you believe.
It’s Okay to Fail – If You Learn From It
For example, failure is okay, even desirable. Many great leaders and inventors failed. That’s how they learned and improved. Albert Einstein had approximately 1000 failed attempts before successfully inventing the light bulb. He had perseverance! In today’s term, that is an example of grit!
Sixth, in a Forbes Magazine article called 10 Golden Rules of Personal Branding, by Goldie Chan, November 8, 2018, Walt Disney had many failures when starting his animation career. “Walt Disney spoke of this often when he reminisced about his failed first attempts at creating an animation brand. “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that.” Don’t fear failure; embrace it! Learn from it and tweak your plan!
Be Prepared to Update Your Brand Into Perpetuity!
Finally, realize that your brand, like many corporate brands, will change as you go through high school, college, and the work world.
The values you prioritize today may change as your life changes. On the flip side, some never will. They will just be added to your portfolio. After years of working with students, one of their favorite advice I provide is to stay open to new ideas and experiences.
It takes planning and hard work to create and manage your brand. However, your time and energy are worth it when it enables you to accomplish your goals and dreams. Is the effort today worth it for you to become the best you can be? Only you can decide this. I hope you do!
Connect and tell us how you’ve adjusted to online learning.