Albert Qian
February 12, 2014

Millennials, You are Your Brand

How this situation turns out matters, both online and off.

“What do you believe in?”, a fellow networker asked me at The Art of Active Networking in San Francisco.

Confused, I gazed ahead, nursing my alcoholic drink while wondering what he exactly meant. A lot of people at networking events liked asking me what I did for a living, but few cared what I believed in. It wasn’t something I had considered in my journey of meeting new clients, people, and professional acquaintances.

“Here’s my card”, he said as he handed over his contact information. “You have homework”. He flipped his card over where it contained information on what he wanted to know and how to contact him.*

Our conversation finished, I walked into the larger conference room where the event is held and sat down. It was a really good question. Even though I had created social media presences and even maintained my own on my social networks, it was difficult to fathom what exactly I believed all about it that allowed it to make so much sense. I needed to give this some great thought.

Simon Sinek, author of “The Power of Why” and the TED talk everyone should see, explores branding from the perspective of “why”, not “what” as people traditionally are told to think. He cites Apple and their belief that great technology should be beautiful, easy to use, and be met with good customer service. Only after does Apple mention those strengths is there a call to action, as opposed to most other products which start with the reason, and hit on why later on in the conversation or advertisement.

There’s a reason why Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world. And you know what’s great? You could be right up there with them.

Many millennials and professionals today are taught along the lines of coming from what their experiences are. I’m no different — my resume can boast the labels of Fortune 500 companies, technical software platforms, percentages, and books written. In every sense of the word, there are hundreds if not thousands more like me on this planet who share the same experiences who could probably talk a hiring manager’s head off. The same likely goes for you the reader as well — if you stared at your resume for awhile there are probably things that everyone else has too. Unfortunately, while you and I may be able to manage the software platforms, analyze, and open Microsoft Word, the fact of the matter is that it will bore our audiences.

Millennials (and professionals), it’s time to transform the way we look at who we are. We are our brand. Here are 5 reasons why you are your brand:

1. Reputation matters more than ever. In richly populated Silicon Valley one would think that reputation doesn’t matter. It is actually quite the opposite: reputation matters more than ever here, and where you are it does as well. Whether you do something good or something bad, people will know. Your reputation is your brand. Do what you say, and follow up with your talk. This helps you stand out.

2. You are your message, and by extension, your story. We live in a world of storytelling, and we are all storytellers ourselves. Rich with experiences, we can use these stories to share with others our message and inspire the world for greater good. Whether you do this in one-on-one networking, the publishing of your own book, or the founding of your company it’s all very possible. Start with a message.

3. Companies hire ambassadors, not employees. In the social media driven world, companies want to hire ambassadors to their brands, not employees anymore. Are you passionate? Will you bring others into the conversation? Does the company mantra fit with your message and story? No longer is employment about what you studied, but more about what your identity is. Don’t know what your identity is? Look at your habits. That should get you started.

4. You are your intentions. Post-graduation you have just about a half a million things you could do, from going out on Friday to sitting in on that talk about social media. Whatever you choose to do, those are your intentions, and if you choose to share those on social media, they become your brand as well. You are your intentions, so choose wisely who you choose to spend time with, what you choose to do, and where you choose to do it.

5. You are what you post. More and more this is also becoming the norm. If you post nothing but party photos on Facebook you will become someone who is known for partying. If you do posts about marketing, business, entrepreneurships, and startups you too will also become that topic as well. Like the previous point, set your intentions. Your brand is you, so control what you post. Sometimes saving that post about venting to a close friend is a better call than actually sharing it to your greater audience.

While skeptics (you?) may look at the new transition of marketing and personal branding as selling out and giving up your privacy, the important factors to note are this: If you want to get noticed, stand out, and leave a legacy, this is the way to go. They say that life is not about finding yourself, but really all about creating who you are. This is the new paradigm now — and in an increasingly social society, the way the world turns.

Have fun building your brand!