I just got back from a short vacation in Atlanta, where I connected with a few friends and was actually able to unplug myself from the personal branding world. You probably noticed my lack of activity on Twitter and other social services as a result. I finally had the chance to reflect on the past two and a half years working endlessly in this space, helping to lead a revolution/evolution with all of you. For the past few years, I preached about Me 2.0 and how personal branding is required in a crowded marketplace and web 2.0 tools can be leveraged to get your name, face and value out to the world. I still stand by it and will be for the rest of my life.
You’ve probably noticed each Monday that my posts have been more aligned to the networking aspect of personal branding and this trend will be ongoing for the next year or so. I’m very interested in how brands grow through networks, both online and offline. I believe that your network is your only insurance policy and that people searching will replace job searching. In addition to these bold statements, I would like to add that a personal brand cannot grow without a strong network of supporters.
The personal branding success triangle
All of this leads us to a new framework for personal branding success. I touched on how passion and expertise are key elements for career success, but I left out the missing element, a support system. The below diagram is more related to the “discover” phase of personal branding that is discussed in Me 2.0.
All three parts of this triangle are inter-related. They are all critical for personal branding success and if you’re missing one, it will prevent you from moving forward in your career or you might not be able to establish the career you want in the first place. Let’s quickly go over all three:
- Passion: I like to think of passion as having “kinetic energy” that drives you into accomplishing goals. The lack of passion is obvious online and offline. If you aren’t passionate, your audience will be turned off and you won’t have the ambition to work hard enough to succeed. Also, if you want to develop a following, you have to get people excited about your work, so they want to join you and participate, instead of feeling isolated.
- Expertise: Passion alone won’t make you wealthy enough to live a fulfilling life. If you’re very passionate about a topic, but you aren’t an expert or have any knowledge, then it doesn’t matter. Without the skills, you won’t be able to make enough money doing what you love. I tell a lot of people to find their passion and use it to work as hard as they can to gain the skills necessary to solve client problems. Having both skills and expertise allows you to position yourself, where you can be happy, while making money.
- Support System: The good news is that you already have a support system. You have your family and your friends, which account for the strongest relationships in the “network strength pyramid,” which I blogged about a long time ago. A support system is less about professional networking and is more about strong relationships build over a long period of time. It’s about finding people who compliment your weaknesses and actually want you to succeed. You don’t need thousands of followers, but you do need a few close friends who are watching you every step of the way and giving advice. You should be selective about who you deal with at all times because you don’t want to waste your time or theirs and shared interests in always encouraged.
How to develop a support system
In Me 2.0, the personal branding process I developed is called DCCM or discover, create, communicate and maintain, as it pertains to developing your own brand over the course of your life. As we start to think of ourselves as brands, we must be aware that our support system is co-branded with our success. They must have a stake! When it comes to personal branding, we need a new process for relationship/networking success. In the past few months, I’ve honed down a four-step process for building a powerful network: become interesting, conduct a people search, connect with the right people and develop your relationships.
- Become interesting: Would you rather meet someone who is interesting or boring? Becoming interesting is part of the discovery phase of personal branding because you need to figure out what makes you interesting before you communicate that to the right people. You’d be surprised how many people there are that choose not to be interesting over job security or because they are either afraid or too comfortable. The more interesting you become, the more people will want to talk to you and thus, you can become more connected and more successful.
- Conduct a people search: I’m really big on using search engines to find the right people that can help support your career. It’s like recruiting people to be on your team. You’ll want to do your homework before you start sending out job applications. You’ll want to be associated with the media/bloggers in your industry, as well as other experts, authors and people in your geography. You get additional points for finding people who are more successful than you are and those that have already earned respect from society.
- Connect with the right people: It’s not hard to make a new friend, but it is hard to make “the right friend.” I have no problem with making as many friends as possible because you never know when one can really help you, however, I feel that you should be more focused. I always talk about narrowing your lists down, so that you don’t waste people’s time and so that you can pair yourself with those who can really make a difference in your life.
- Develop your relationships: Once you’ve found the right people, then it’s imperative that you focus on building those relationships. Keep a short list of those who you should be checking up on. They can be your board of advisers. These relationships may start online and then be pushed offline with some effort on both of your parts. Either way, you’ll want to get to know these people as much as possible and let them into your world. Be slightly vulnerable and let them help you when necessary.