Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Dan Schawbel & The Importance Of Personal Branding

Whether we are self-employed or work for an employer, how we position ourselves is key to success. How we define and communicate our strengths and values, how we sell our skills and talents. It's called Personal Branding.

Dan Schawbel is a Personal Branding guru based in Boston and fast getting a reputation as the leading personal branding expert. Fast Company magazine said, 'Schawbel is a personal branding force of nature'. He produces a blog, a magazine and a video podcast series. And he has a day job.

And he’s only 24!

Dan and I met online where I asked him a few questions:

Q. You are synonymous with personal branding. When did you wake up and realise the importance of 'Brand Schawbel?' What was the catalyst for you being such an advocate for personal branding?

I was trying to find my own brand for years, but only uncovered a few interests and skills, such as mentoring, marketing, graphic design and web development. On March 14th of last year I discovered that personal branding was exactly what I had been talking about all along, without ever mentioning the term. I had 8 different jobs in college and my own consulting company, aside from 7 leadership positions in organizations. During each interview I would market myself with a resume, cover letter, cd portfolio, website, and more. I never realized exactly what I was doing and when I discovered that my brand was "personal branding" that changed everything. Since everything I loved matched the topic, it was quite easy to be an evangelist. My passion activates everything I do, no matter how much work I take on.

Q. You're writing a book on personal branding. Is it just aimed at people starting out in their careers and wantrepreneurs or is it also relevant to people working for big corporations too?

I personally think anyone can benefit from my book, but I tell everyone that the sooner you discover your brand, the better. I think the best time during one's personal lifecycle in when they are in college because they are given many choices that can impact their future. In saying this, I'm more targeting college students and young professionals, who, for the first time in history, have the ability to accomplish their dreams in a very short period of time. This group I commonly refer to as Gen-Y or "The Millenials." I think corporations can benefit from this book (I can't give much away), especially HR, because the book unveils career development from all walks of life. HR wants to learn how to recruit and retain Gen-Y and Gen-Y seeks to position themselves as hot properties for HR. When they come together opportunities are created and people have great lives.

Q. You're a busy guy. How do you fit in editing a magazine and all the other activities alongside the day job?

This reverts back nicely to the first question you asked. Passion drives just about everything in my life. I don't drink coffee and I do get sleep if that surprises people. I don't like taking notes either. Instead of storage I manage everything in my head. The magazine works out because it's quarterly, which gives me enough breathing room to pull it off. I blog 5 times a week, which gets intense at points, especially going on vacation, but I still pull through for my readership. The book is a beast in itself, but I'm in very good shape after 5 months somehow. I just love personal branding and the effect it has on people.

Q. My next book 'Juggle' is about the necessity of wearing many hats in order to be enterprising. It's about being a polymath. Do you struggle juggling all your various hats?

I wear more hats than anyone would ever realize. I'm 24 years old, with 7 years experience in marketing already, starting in 2001. Aside from the blog, magazine, book, TV show, awards, freelancing and full-time job at EMC, I also am on the board of advisers for a social networking site. I think my biggest struggle is on the horizon, when I go to publish issue 4 of the magazine, while sending in my draft to the publishers (of the book). I've never faced any challenges that great before, especially while juggling everything else. I've learned that "juggling" is actually very smart. Who knows when you can get laid off from one job. It's good to be doing many things, not just for your resume, your brand, but to have a secure career.

Q. You're still young. Has age ever been an obstacle to how you are perceived? Or has it been an advantage?

Age is a major obstacle at points. It is a criticism of my generation, but it doesn't bother me anymore. I think there is a lot of opportunity for people my age to make a difference in the world, hence the book. At every large corporation I've worked for, there are criticisms and people don't trust my generation with "the big projects." That is quite alright by me because I create my own projects on the side to learn outside of the normal work day. You need to keep gaining these skills and pushing yourself further to be a marketable knowledge worker. It's an advantage for me because I'm closer to my generation, so it's easier to talk to them and explain how important personal branding is.

Q. It looks like you're someone with drive, determination and all the other tools of an entrepreneur. But you still have a day job where you work for someone else. How long before you take the full leap to start-up Dan Schawbel Inc?

I get this question all the time, of course. I'm not really sure. I like to let some of my projects guide me to the next. I enjoy what I'm doing now, but I never let myself feel isolated in one area. You need to be constantly moving forward and with all the changes in technology, it's impossible to predict the future. I can't even keep track of the 2,000 social networks on the internet, or the 5,000 tweets I get each day, or the email, or the Facebook friends. My benefit is that I'm young, so now is the time to screw up, learn from it, and narrow down your path.

Check out Dan at


Chris A. Leone said...

I think Dan hit the nail on the head with his last response. The importance of being forward moving and adaptive when you are dealing with technology and the internet is key to survival.

Like Dan, I'm in my early twenties (23) and have developed a big interest in the topic of personal branding and how to use the internet to help create a brand. The advantage people our age have with the internet is we grew up with it. Some of the older generations knew life before the internet and before there was a computer in every home. In a lot of ways, our generation has the biggest grasp on the capabilities and potential the world wide web has to offer. It's ironic how people of older generations will pass us off because of our age - yet the internet and computer technology is embedded in Gen Y's more so than any other.

Ian Sanders said...

You are right Chris; I (just) bypassed computers at school and college; The 'Gen Y' have a real competitive advantage here. Our generation might also benefit from a more naturally entrepreneurial spirit: fluid, flexible and receptive of change. That's a good recipe for survival and success....

Eugène said...

A Roadmap for Building an Authentic Personal Brand

Authentic Personal Branding is a journey towards a happier and more successful life. Your Personal Brand should therefore emerge from your search for your identity and meaning in life, and it is about getting very clear on what you want, fixing it in your mind, giving it all your positive energy, doing what you love and develop yourself continuously. Your Personal Brand should always reflect your true character, and should be built on your values, strengths, uniqueness, and genius. If you are branded in this organic, authentic and holistic way your Personal Brand will be strong, clear, complete, and valuable to others. You will also create a life that is fulfilling and you will automatically attract the people and opportunities that are a perfect fit for you. If you are not branded in this unique way, if you don’t deliver according to your brand promise, and if you focus mainly on selling, market, and promoting yourself, you will be perceived egocentric, selfish and a unique jerk, and branding will be cosmetic and a dirty more ;

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