Build Your Brand at Business School
Personal branding has always been out there, but it has become a better defined and an increasingly popular concept over the past decade. More and more professionals across industries and functional areas are discovering the value of creating, communicating and maintaining personal brands, both in their career search and in their continuous professional development.
But despite its growing importance in the business world, many are still unclear on what personal branding actually is.
To clarify, personal branding is the process of:
- Identifying the unique and differentiating value that you can bring to an organization, team and/or project.
- Communicating it in a professionally memorable and consistent manner in all of your actions and outputs, both online and offline, to all current and prospective stakeholders in your career.
Everyone has a unique personal brand (a.k.a. the unique and differentiating value), and that brand is communicated in everything you do--both when you are looking for a job and after you've obtained one. Personal branding is so much more than what you post on your social network pages or write on your blog. It's who you are inside and out, online and offline. Your personal brand essentially encompasses your overall lifestyle.
It shouldn't take you very long to find examples of people you know who have successfully created and established strong personal brands. In pop culture, examples include almost all celebrities and personalities, such as Oprah, Rachael Ray, and Michael Jordan. In the worlds of business and politics, examples include Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, and Donald Trump.
However, you don't have to be famous nationally or globally to have and maintain a strong and successful personal brand. As a prospective or current MBA candidate, you are or will be going head to head with fellow MBAs and business professionals in pursuit of internship and full-time employment opportunities. The individuals who can effectively communicate strong and memorable personal brands prove to have a competitive edge over those who don't.
Your MBA program provides the prime opportunity for creating and developing your personal brand for many reasons:
- Your traditional two-year, full-time program gives you the time and freedom to take a step back and learn more about yourself, as well as experiment with new behaviors, styles of leadership and more.
- Your MBA internship search provides you a test run in your overall career search as you develop and work to perfect your personal brand and self-marketing efforts.
- For full-time students, time away from work allows you to catch up on and develop a presence on the latest online networking sites.
- Your diverse coursework offers the chance to identify new areas of interest and discover or rediscover other functional strengths you might have and want to leverage. It also may help you refocus your goals and career path for better personal brand positioning.
- Your classmates/peers are on your level and provide a real-world reflection of how you interact with, work for, and lead others.
- You are typically given a lot of opportunity for feedback from mentors, professors, and classmates. From this feedback, you can compare your own perceived strengths and weaknesses with those perceived by others, then strategize on what to leverage and what to develop.
Take advantage of this valuable time as an MBA student, and experiment with personal branding. Like the MBA degree itself, a well-developed personal brand is an essential brick of the foundation upon which you will build a successful career.
Chris Perry is a Gen Y Brand and Marketing Generator, career search and personal branding expert, and founder of Career Rocketeer, a career search and personal branding blog.