As a young professional, I have had the great opportunity to attend a number of professional development opportunities. In my career field of higher education, the topic of the millennial generation has increasingly been a popular area of research and study as we strive to better serve them.
I have heard the whole gambit (and you probably have, too):
- Millennials are lazy.
- Millennials are civically and politically disengaged.
- Millennials will change jobs about 15-20 times in their working lifetime.
- Millennials are coddled and need handholding.
- Millennials are extremely connected online, yet socially isolated.
To add fuel to the fire, an online search will yield newspaper headlines like these:
- “Do Millennials Stand a Chance in the Real World?”
- “Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up”
- “Millennials: Bringing Mom to Job Interviews”
I hope you are just as insulted as I am. Sure, some of you may look at this list and think, “Well…I am sorta like that, actually.” Trust me, I’m a millennial and I look at some of these and shrug my shoulders.
But we all know that as individuals, we do not have to be bound by stereotypes. The perceived profile of yourself can be controlled, manipulated and navigated through the powerful use of personal branding.
Let’s take our dear friend, Miley Cyrus as a perfect example. As a child star, we all had this longtime perception of the young, innocent Hannah Montana. Miley wanted to rid herself of that profile for a sledgehammer-licking, wrecking ball-riding twerking pop queen that would hit the top of the charts.
And guess what…love her or hate her, it worked. After a memorable VMA performance and an SNL appearance, her Bangerz album soon became “number one on the Billboards, net the year’s biggest sales week for a solo woman and became the second largest for a pop album.“
Celebrities and musical artists know this well. They know how they want to be seen in the media. These people work with their PR manager and agents to have their profile actually portrayed.
So consider YOUR brand. Now I’m not asking you to shave your head and become the next Miley turkey twerking meme. But imagine yourself as your own personal public relations manager. How do you want to be portrayed?
The biggest benefit to creating a personal brand is that the Brand of You gives your life direction.
The Brand of You will say who you are and who you aspire to be. It opens a network of contacts, opportunities and possibilities. And soon enough, your brand and identity may blend together which will empower you to give your life direction.
Step 1: Define
As people, one thing that brings and connects us together is a story. Define your story. What integral moments in your life make you who you are today? What moments helped positively shape your passion and your future?
Then, imagine the future chapters that are still Unwritten (shameless Natasha Bedingfield plug). Where do you hope to be in the future? Take control of where your brand is being navigated. Remember, only you are ultimately responsible for your brand (and your future, at that).
Step 2: Discover
Find people you aspire to be like.
These are your role models. Learn from their successes, as well as their mistakes. Ask questions about their journey (trust me, people like to tell their story and hear that people are interested).
Find people who share similar dreams.
This is your support system. These are peers that will help you along the way. Befriend them. Share your resources and your story. Listen to theirs. Push and be pushed to challenge yourself to your dreams.
Step 3: Defy
Now go out there and push your brand. Take a professional headshot. Start a website that illustrates your brand. Blog about the things that make your heart race. Develop relationships, expand your network and never underestimate the value of a connection. Post positive, relevant updates on social media. Show the world and your network who you are.
Once you take your brand seriously, it becomes an innate part of your identity. Remember to always stay humble throughout this process, a big ego and arrogance is not only destructive to your friendships and networks, but self-destructive.
Remember to always stay humble throughout your journey; a big ego and arrogance are not only destructive to your friendships and networks, but can be self-destructive to your wellness and your brand. Your brand is your story and you want others to empathize and relate to it.
So whether you want to be a twerking sensation or an attractive future employee, personal branding can certainly make you unique, stand out in the crowd and defy the stereotypes and images people have about you (whether you’re a pop star or a lazy millennial).