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As the school year ramps up, as students of business schools, colleges, and universities return to class and start soaking in the knowledge about the profession of marketing again, you’re going to hear an awful lot about personal brand. To the students out there, I’ll offer this advice: for the most part, ignore it.

Now, I don’t mean ignore common sense. For example, live moderately, party moderately, don’t do blatantly stupid things that will tarnish your name (because Google and our friends at the NSA remember all). That’s kind of a given, I would hope.

No, what I mean for you to ignore is the advice of personal branding gurus who will be asking you to mold yourself into a narcissistic perversion of who you really are, focused only on what other people will think of you when they Google you in the months and years to come. The perfect resume, the perfect social media profile, the blog with a few posts of corporate drivel designed to give the impression that you know more than you do – all of that is what I mean by ignoring your personal brand.

Fine, you might say, I can ignore pretending to be someone I’m not. But you may ask, won’t that put me at a disadvantage when it comes to job hunting time if some of my peers are pimping their professional rides?

The answer is simple (but not easy): it depends on who you serve.

When you serve yourself, the only person in the world who cares about you is you. This is the destructive trap that awaits those who obsess about their personal brands, and it’s not something that the personal branding industry is ever keen to admit.

When you do work that serves others in some capacity, when you do something that impacts other people’s lives positively, they will care about you. They will value you. They will build your personal brand for you, because others vouching for you counts hundreds of times more than you vouching for yourself.

Instead of tuning and perfecting a “brand”, go and do something effective. Build something worthwhile. Create something that impacts the lives of a few people. Develop an app that serves a useful purpose. Volunteer somewhere and create real change. Help someone else achieve their goals in some way. Teach someone something they didn’t know.

If you’re still worried about your personal brand, then make a bigger impact. Focus on scaling up the good you do and the people you serve until your community, your potential employers, your personal world can no longer ignore you for any reason. The more people you lift up, the more shoulders that will be offered for you to stand on and be noticed.


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