Personal branding – a Clayton Hove column

Nothing deters a cattle rustler quite like a well-branded herd, and with today’s technological advances in freeze and electrical branding, along with traditional fire branding, your ranch can sleep easy knowing that your livestock investment is safe and…

Ah. I’ve just been informed that this column was to be about the other type of personal branding. Sorry about that. I’ll try again.
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Once considered a primitive and underground practice, but now slowly creeping into the American mainstream, personal branding has become a modern alternative to other forms of body modification, such as tattoos and piercing. A type of scarification, there are several methods of branding – laser, cautery, strike, moxibustion and…

OK. Third time’s the charm.

Personal branding – the characteristics of a Young Professional

This column is all about you. You and your own personal brand. And I’m not talking Coke, Skechers or Go-Gurt here. I’m talking You™.

The first half of your personal brand is your reputation – how and what people think of you. So who are you, and why should people consider you instead of her, him or them? Or it?

There are a plethora of positive attributes that can go into building a superior personal brand. Here are just a few of the more important ones, along with several axioms that have cockleburred themselves to me so far in my career:

Honesty. Also known as integrity. This is your ethics and value system, and also the single most important quality you can have. Do people trust you? Should they trust you? There’s a difference between “succeed” and “greed.” Don’t find out the hard way. Once you lose your integrity, you’ll never get it back.

Bravery. If you want to succeed, you don’t have to be Prince Valiant, but you can’t be Count Cowardly. There’s an old line that says, “Those who say they never had a chance, never took a chance.” Take one, once in a while.

Insight. It’s amazing what can happen when one combines street smarts, book smarts and experience. If you’re missing one or more of these, find some.

Excellence. Work hard. Bring something to the table. Be better than you have to be. Somebody who was in an excellent state of zen once described mediocrity as climbing an anthill without breaking a sweat. You can do better.

Language. Know your buzzwords and industry slang, but don’t ever forget how to talk like a real person. Practice talking like a human being every chance you have, as it has been found that the amount of business jargon one uses is inversely proportional to the amount of success one has achieved.

Wardrobe. Own at least one suit or professional outfit that came from a store that doesn’t also sell lawn care equipment. Not all professions require such clothing, but it’s good to have, just in case.

Coffee. I encourage it.

The second half of your personal brand is making your reputation known. You’ve got a terrific start with the YP Network, frequenting your community’s various business functions and volunteering for various charitable works, but it doesn’t end there. Not today.

Make sure that you’re also properly exploiting online business networking resources such as LinkedIn, but don’t get carried away – quality definitely trumps quantity, in this part of the world. Seek out contacts who can and will say good things about you when the opportunity arises. You don’t want a curious potential employer to find out through an old frat buddy how you escaped from an Ecuadorian jail after getting arrested for attempting to smuggle endangered tortoises out of the Galápagos, do you? Consider each and every one of your contacts as either a reference or potential partner/employer, and you’ll be just fine.

And while you’re at it, make sure you’re on social sites such as Facebook, where things are a bit more relaxed. It is here where you can link up with your friends, classmates, relatives and acquaintances, old and new. Just don’t forget about the real world, or the real world will forget about you.

Now put these two halves together, and you just might have an impressive personal brand!

In the end, remember this: Personal branding is a delicate blend of reputation and public address system. Make sure the system says the right things about you, and you’ll find out that the system sometimes works.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and return a slightly used branding iron. The doctor says I should be all healed up by swimsuit season.

(originally posted in November, 2008 at NDYP.net for the North Dakota Young Professionals network)

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