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  • How To Brand Yourself When You’re Just Starting Out.

    A lot of personal branding advice is about putting yourself out there so that others to see you as an expert on a subject.

    But what do you do when you’re just starting out in your field and don’t feel that you have a ton of expertise or unique information to share?  What if you’re not a MIT professor on behavioral economics, or a CEO of a wildly successful start-up, or someone who has spent 15 years excelling in their field?  What if you’re just a perfectly ordinary person who happens to be interested in a particular industry and wants to get a leg-up on others who are competing for the same job?

    The beginning of personal branding

    How do you brand yourself when you’re not sure you have something to say?  Or what if you just don’t know how to get started?  How do you find your voice?

    Simple – spend your time learning about what is going on in your field.  Read books and blogs, subscribe to scholarly journals (or go read them at the library), listen to webinars, and go to learning events, especially conferences.  Do everything you can to stay up to date, and find relevant information.

    Then, use that to start branding yourself.  Here’s how:

    First, write about what you’ve learned.
    Every time you read/learn/see something interesting, take an hour or so afterwards to write down your take on it (on a blog is best).  Share what you found most thought-provoking, or a lesson that you’ll apply to your own life, or a personal story about a time you saw what you learned about actually happen.  Pass on good information that you’ve learned, while adding your own personal touches.

    That’s how a business expert I know got her start.  She knew a lot about her field, but was completely flustered about starting her own blog. She had no idea where to even start.  So she started off her blog by combing the Internet for other experts’ work, and then responded to it.  Doing that for the first couple months helped her find her voice and then she was off.  Now she’s a respect business speaker, with a popular book and a booming business.

    This works for newbies in the field as well. Even if you don’t have expertise to share, you’re sharing that you are a passionate learner.

    Then, use what you find as a connection tool.
    When you’re spending tons of time learning about what is going on in your field, you’re probably finding some interesting stuff!  So use that to advance your personal brand.  Keep a database of interesting resources AND a database of people whom you want to impress with your personal brand.  Make sure you keep track of what they’re interested in – and what their concerns and needs are.  Then, when you see something in your research that you know they’ll find interesting, email them a link to it with a short note.  This works especially well after you just met someone at a networking event, especially if you can find something relevant to the conversation you had with them.

    For example, if you were talking to someone about leadership, you might send them a link to a recent TEDx talk by behavioral economist Dan Ariely about what motivates people to take action.  Or to an recent article in Fortune about how exposing employees to the actual customers who will buy a company’s products can be a powerful motivator to get employees more engaged in their work.

    Do this for a couple reasons.  First, if it’s an interesting article that is relevant to the person you want to connect with, they’ll probably be glad to receive it.  And, judging by how busy most people are in today’s workplace – it’s highly likely that they haven’t had the time to spend time browsing through current articles about their field.  So, not only are you demonstrating that you are someone who is paying a lot of attention to that field, you’re helping them by sending them articles they probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  And finally, it’s a great way to signal to that person that you’re someone who is bringing something to the relationship (instead of just being concerned about “what’s in it for me?”)

    If you’re just starting out, people don’t expect you to have the expertise of someone who has spent decades excelling in their field.  But what they want to see is someone who has a lot of passion for that field, and who is doing whatever they can to learn as much as possible.

    Employers want to hire people who are passionate about their work and who are eager to learn. So brand yourself as someone who is enthusiastic about the subject you’re interested in and work on gaining the knowledge that will make you an expert (in the future).  And in the meantime, use the knowledge you’re gaining to cement relationships with the people who can help you get where you want to be.


    Katie Konrath blogs about creativity, innovation and “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped” at www.getfreshminds.com.  She works for leading innovation company, Ideas To Go, and attributes her job to personal branding.


    Katie works with Fortune 500 companies to help them generate new ideas based on consumer insights at leading innovation company www.IdeasToGo.com. She’s worked with creativity guru Edward de Bono and uncovered new ideas across North America and Europe. Prior to that, she earned a Masters degree in Creativity and Innovation from the Institute for the Design and Development of Thinking in Malta, was certified as a Lateral Thinking trainer, and studied at the TRIZ Institute in St Petersburg, Russia. She writes the leading innovation blog, GetFreshMinds.com.

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    13 comments on “How To Brand Yourself When You’re Just Starting Out.
    1. avatar
      Terry Heaton says:

      Nice piece, Katie. I would add that establishing a reputation within the comments sections of blogs and sites within your interest area is also a good way to slowly develop your brand. The trick is to only add substance, because we’re hip to those who use the comments merely to position their own sites for SEO. I’ve “noticed” lots of people through comments, those who took the time to craft something meaningful to the discussion. There are others who disagree, but I know this is something I’d do, if I was just starting out. Keep up the great work.

      • avatar
        Robbie Hurtado says:

        That’s a wonderful response your repertation speaks to your success. Are if your going to be successful.

    2. avatar

      Thanks for this useful post. I think it was very thoughtful of you to have considered those just starting out without a very convincing track record. Sharing what you learn about your field is an effective strategy to use. At the least, it gets you the much needed attention to begin building your own track record.

    3. avatar

      Katie, would you say that having a passion for your field is more important than having expertise in your fIeld? If you had to choose between the two which do you think would allow you to “move up the ladder” more quickly?

      • avatar

        I would say that passion drives a man faster than expertise – Ebenezer Chizom Echehieuka.

        I would love to state that a man without passion is like a log of wood without use. You have to love what you do, that is where the passion plays. Expertise? is good, but when you have passion for what you love doing, you become an expert in it without knowing.

    4. avatar

      Thank you Katie for this interesting post! I could call myself a “newbie” when it comes to social media and putting myself out there. I am currently taking a course on Management of Brands and actually we are having a “Brand Me” project going on. That’s why I’m really into these tips for personal branding! Keep up with the great work.

    5. avatar

      Thank you Katie. I’ve been browsing the internet and reading tons of books on personal branding but none were as informative as your post. I think your comment on connection tools is brilliant. It’s something I will implement while networking for my start up. Thank you again for the great advise

    6. avatar
      Terry Heaton says:

      Mark, I don’t know about Katie, but I believe passion will carry you when everything else in you says “I give up.” Expertise is certainly important. Perhaps you could use that to build and then shift your brand. Good luck.

    7. avatar
      Yadu Karu says:

      Wow! very inspiring article! I learned something new by just reading it. Thank you for posting 😉

    8. avatar
      Jimmy Bua says:

      Very interesting perspective that too many ‘old hands’ forget really quick. This being that we all had to start out at the same humbling place…the beginning. Thanks.

    9. avatar
      dorothy says:

      Expertise and passion are like experience and qualification.there’s no substitution for experience.I’m in the hospitality industry,started from the bottom as a server,got promoted to supervisor the experience that I have is so broad that when I started doing my diploma in hotel mgmt everything just started falling into place.improve yourself to be marketable!!

    10. avatar

      this is an interesting write up,a fresh approach,keep it up Katie

    11. avatar
      Elias Yusuf says:

      Thanks Katie, I found your blog while looking for how I can brand myself and be a value to others … love the point you mentioned about Share what you found most thought-provoking, or a lesson that you’ll apply to your own life. Thanks again.

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