Too often, when students and job seekers first hear about the importance of developing a personal brand, they think of it as something akin to a power suit- something that you slip on when you are headed to an interview, when you really need the “MBA look”.
Some even think of it as a sort of disguise, a bright, shiny covering designed to mask potential flaws. Both can be detrimental misconceptions, and can rob the personal branding approach of its long-term value.
The most successful personal branding processes take the opposite approach, using extremely frank self-assessment to remove external trappings and determine the essence of a person’s character.
We ask our clients tough questions about their lives, their attitudes and their values, and help them determine what drives their decisions, what strengths have brought them to this point, and what values they want to live out in their lives.
The results we come up with are not intended to be pretty answers to MBA questions, or fancy words to trick admissions officials. They are intended to be a mantra of sorts, a reflection and reminder of a candidate’s most authentic self.
In the corporate world, the world’s best brands are true to their brand simply because it is the truest reflection of their corporate culture.
Disney is a good example- hospitality and attention to detail are hallmarks of Walt Disney World, and every level of the experience reflects that commitment.
Google is another good example- they have branded themselves around “innovation”, not as a buzzword, but as a way of doing business.
Similarly, your personal brand should not just be a collection of buzzwords,- it should showcase the traits and actions truly characterize you, the things that make you who are.
Additionally, it should be visible in every aspect of your life, whether you are hard at work, or hanging out with friends on the weekend.
To achieve this, it is important to think of your personal brand as something outside of the MBA application process.
Though it certainly helps you create a compelling application, your personal brand is not simply a tool to help you get into B-school.
Don’t forget about it once the application process is over and done with.
Remember it when you are in your B-school classes… when you are meeting your new classmates and professors… when you are interviewing for jobs and talking with employers.
Remember it when you are doubting yourself, or wondering what to do next. In those situations, the personal branding process, and the effort that you have already put into it, can be truly helpful.
It can help you see situations and make decisions based not just on pros and cons, but also on who you are and what matters most to you.
It can help you identify when a particular situation is not a good fit for you, and to articulate what you need and what you are looking for.
In short, a strong conception of your personal brand can be nearly invaluable long after you have turned in that final application. So, don’t sell the process short.
Put in the work now, be honest in your assessments, be candid about your motivations, and you will reap the rewards for many years to come.