I was recently invited to share my knowledge on personal brand with students at the University of Warwick for the launch of #HERinnovationcollective – a Warwick Enterprise programme for female students interested in understanding and embracing a career or business in innovation.
Answer: because YOU care about what you have to say!
When it comes to building a personal brand, youth gives you an advantage - even more so if you focus on creating for your own age demographic.
Yes, it's great to learn from those who are older than you, from people who have decades of experience (at 40 years old, I clearly now fall into this category for students - $#!% when did that happen?!) but when you solve your own problem and create for YOU, your age will be one of the core things that connects you deeply with your target audience because they are your tribe, your generation, your people, You are one of them.
So if you’ve not yet hit 40 and you’d like to learn from someone older than you, here are my thoughts… If you're in the early stages of your career, please don’t be afraid of failure and don’t waste energy striving for perfection. Imperfection is perfect and 7/10 is good enough. Say yes to things that scare you, learn from your mistakes and trust the struggle - all of these things become the foundation of a strong personal brand. A human brand, one that people can connect with.
Whatever your age, when you share your own (sometimes painful) life experiences, your words deeply resonate with your audience. Your story may not have as many chapters as others but that's not a bad thing. It's an invaluable opportunity to reposition the ones that you've not yet written. (It’s all relative and at 40, my chapters are jam-packed but I don’t have as many as someone in their 60’s and I’m doing exactly that)
These days you can start consciously crafting your personal brand in your twenties but back in 'the good old days' we had to wait for someone to finish their call on the landline so we could use a dial-up internet connection to access our hotmail account. When we applied for jobs, we had to look through newspaper adverts, print our cv and then post it (not post it in an online way, post it in a post box way and then trust that Royal Mail would get it to its destination). We then had to start at the bottom and climb our way up an outdated hierarchical ladder. These days, you can create your own business, drive awareness to a social cause or get a job on the other side of the world because someone found you online and liked what they saw – setting up video interviews and offering you the job without an oversized pin-striped suit or a fax machine in sight. We enjoyed a lack of technology because we didn’t know anything else but these are your ‘good old days’ so make the most of the super-connected world we live in.
Social media now carries your message far and wide, allowing you to share your photos, your message, your story with people all over the world in seconds. We shared ours with friends and family who were often too close to it to hear us and in some cases, the reason that we had a story to tell in the first place!
Your personal brand is a way of defining and consistently reinforcing who you are and what you stand for. It should grow and evolve as you do but if crafted in the right way, the younger you are, the more of an advantage it presents.
It can lay the foundations for the career path you've yet to walk or for the business you've yet to build. It can give momentum to your desire to change the world and with time, that momentum has the potential to become a global movement. You can incorporate the advice of your mentors whilst still telling your authentic story of struggle, relationships, adventure and joy. Your personal brand can connect you with like-minded people, attract aligned opportunities and give you the power to shape a tailor-made future that you'll love.
Age is a mindset. I wasn’t a fan of age or the fact that three letter word has the power to create so many limitations so I gave it a rebrand and repositioned it as levels. I’m now on level 40, which feels great! There are people on level 20 running successful businesses and some on level 70 who are full of regret at all the things they didn’t do. What you do with your life is up to you – age has nothing to do with it and experience is always a work in progress.
I’d encourage everyone to take time to build an authentic personal brand, a human brand to help them amplify their message, to align them with the right opportunities and most importantly, to connect them with their people. So regardless of what level you’re on… think creatively, use today's connected world to your advantage and become one to watch!
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