Brand Building For Young Professionals: 6 Simple Steps

ImagePersonal brand and reputation building is big business.
It’s virtually impossible to keep up with the never-ending wave of “how to build your personal brand” articles and books. It’s especially tough for young people who are just out of college and are looking for their first professional job in an employment market that often favors candidates who make the most noise.
Twenty years ago, or even 10, I don’t think many newly minted college grads were paying too much attention to personal brand building.  And using technology to build a personal brand, or to start earning a reputation, was nearly non-existent.  Then, one relied more on word-of-mouth and good old fashioned networking.  But today, the social network LinkedIn provides young, professional job seekers with the best platform ever for showcasing in full view of prospective employers their ambition, passion, competency, business smarts and networking savvy.
Like anything else, though, a tool is useless in the wrong hands.  For LinkedIn to become a true personal brand building solution, there are a few rules of the road.
I see too many young people — interns I have worked with, the sons and daughters of friends of mine, etc. — who are wasting a great opportunity by not investing time in LinkedIn. Meanwhile, those who get it — like Dan Schawbel and his disciples — are reaping the benefit.
Schawbel has built a tremendous business by advising Millennials on personal brand building. While there are scores of other personal brand building experts, Dan’s focus is on Millennials (young people who are generally in their 20’s and early 30’s, the focus of this post) who are just starting out. One of his books, “Me 2.0:  4 Steps to Building Your Future“, has been a best seller here and across Asia and Europe.
For young job seekers who may not have the time, or who are unwilling to make the time to read Dan’s or others’ books or attend the many personal branding seminars that are available, there are six relatively simple steps they can take on LinkedIn to grow their personal brand and begin to build their reputation as someone with something important to say.
Here are my six:
1. Can the profile picture of you at a party, or at an event or on vacation. Save those for
ImageFacebook.  And kill the glamour picture unless you’re in the entertainment industry.  Replace with a straightforward head on shot of you in professional attire wearing a nice smile.
2.  If you don’t yet have relevant work experience for your intended field, then fill your profile page with relevant skills instead.  For example, if you want to work in public relations but spent your college summers working as a waitress or waiter at Texas Roadhouse, then let’s hear about your customer service, problem solving, team building and communications skills. Find the relevance.
3. Build out your LinkedIn network.  To start, connect with college classmates, your professors, high school classmates who went to a different college than you and may already be working. Also, connect with your parent’s friends who may run their own small businesses or may be employed by big companies.  I guarantee they will be happy to hear from you. Don’t forget the professionals you talk with at the health club, or people you meet at summer weddings and graduation parties.
4. Ask for LinkedIn recommendations.  Don’t be shy about asking for help from managers you may have interned with, past summer employers or professors you may have assisted.  If you did good work, they will not refuse you.
5. “Follow” companies on LinkedIn you think may be a future employer.  Then visit their LinkedIn page and see who you may already know who works there.  Reach out to them even if you don’t see any jobs of interest posted.  Many open positions are never posted and those who are best networked often get first dibs.
6. Get involved.  Join a handful of the thousands of available LinkedIn groups. Guaranteed there will be groups in your chosen field no matter how obscure.  A couple of times a week visit the groups and eavesdrop on the discussion.  When you think you can contribute to a discussion, weigh in.  After the first time, it gets easier and easier.
Give LinkedIn your best shot.  Your competition already is.

Millennials And Boomers: Hardwired To Be Different Consumers

ImagePerhaps the differences between Baby Boomers and Millennials begins with the fact that there’s ambiguity about the birth years of the latter (early 1980s to the early 2000s).  But a boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post–World War II baby boom between the yeiars 1946 and 1964, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  No ambiguity there.  Millennials are simply harder to pin down.

In the U.S., Millennials and Boomers represent roughly the same number of consumers-but that might be where the similarities endThat’s the opening salvo in an updated report by Nielsen NeuroFocus entitled, “The Me Generation Meets Generation Me,” with the central point being that both demographics are in equal demand by advertisers. But for advertisers to be successful in reaching and engaging boomers and Millennials with brands, they have to understand the vast differences between these two coveted consumer groups.

Boomers have most of the gold.  We represent more than 40 percent of all new car purchases, 80 percent of leisure travel spending and account for half the spending on consumer packaged goods.  And this aging population group accounts for nearly 80 percent of what is spent on prescription drugs.

And while those aged 19-36 have, for the most part, yet to accumulate any real wealth (they are, in fact, facing academic debt of epic proportions, which is one reason they are not buying new cars and going to Aruba), they spend more than 80 percent of their income and represent 25 percent of the U.S. population (and 30 percent in each of Brazil, India and China). Millennials are a big target, no matter how you cut it.

One of the areas boomers and Millennials fine a common thread is use of technology. Boomers love technology.  After all, many of us were in our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s during the rise of PC’s, then local area networking, then the Internet period and finally the .com boom.  Though, while boomers embrace technology in our every day lives, we still tend to be tethered (I’m writing this post on a desktop PC with a 22-inch screen).  Many boomers have yet to give up their land lines and for the most part, we watch our favorite programs on 40+-inch HD TVs hanging on a wall and have to be home to receive delivery of the daily newspaper.

Millennials, on the other hand, think land lines are redundant and ridiculous, watch their favorite programs on-the-go on 4, 7 and 10-inch screens and consume all of their news digitally.  My two Millennial daughters are home for the summer, and they bring the Nielsen report to life everyday.

So how do advertisers get better at engaging boomers and Millennials?  Well, Nielsen thinks the answer lies in understanding how these groups are hardwired.  As the brain ages, the report says, it craves repetition which breeds familiarity.  But a younger brain responds more favorably to a more dynamic, ever-changing presentation.  And while boomers lose, with age, their ability to compartmentalize information, Millennials are better equipped to handle “bleeding-over communication”, like banner ads.

Mad Men didn’t have access to anywhere near the levels of neuromarketing research, if any all, that advertisers enjoy today.  Madison Avenue didn’t need to think about how the drop in dopamine and serotonin levels in the aging brain would impact how brands communicate with prospects.

But things are vastly different for today’s advertisers.  Brands that work the hardest to understand the triggers for boomers and their children will walk away winners.