Managing Your Brand
The other night at Murphy’s (hangout spot here in Hanover) a group of us touched on everything from unemployment to relationships in business school and everything in between. One of the more interesting discussions was around ‘Managing Your Brand’ while in business school. Truth is, getting thrown into a whirlwind of activity as a first-year you might think this goes by the wayside. It’s never really top-of-mind, unless you’re running for class President and will always take a backseat to your career search… But should it?
How do I evaluate my Brand?
Before I start on this I just want to say I am NOT an authority on personal brand management so from this point forward will essentially be my unqualified opinion.
- What are others saying about you?
- What do you want to project to key stakeholders? (Friends, Faculty, Companies)
- Have you set the tone and is it consistent?
- Are you making an effort?
What are others saying?
This is the single most important factor in establishing a credible and memorable brand. In one of our leadership classes at Tuck we were told that in many respects, self-assessments have little value, for obvious reasons. What really matters is what your peers and coworkers say about you. At a small school like Tuck, it’s difficult to be anonymous and personal interactions are amplified. But I think the key to making sure that others are saying ‘nice’ things about you is establishing a strong base of initial interactions. My advice to getting solid footing is to keep it real. Almost all of the people you will go to school with have a low BS threshold and can sniff out fakers as if it was a sixth sense. Make it a point to be upfront, honest and authentic and remember to keep your ear to the ground to make sure your name isn’t getting looped into anything with potential adverse future (emphasis future) consequences.
What do you want to project?
Ever hear the expression “Actions speak louder than words”? Thought so. I’ve seen, rather heard fellow classmates at Tuck say, “This is the type of person I am.” “Really? Because for the past three weeks you’ve been acting the complete opposite.” Let me give you an example. A colleague of mine who was also recruiting for investment banking talked all the time about how he/she was a team player and that all the banks would instantly recognize it by looking at their resume. Turns out said person was projecting the exact opposite by crowding people out in the infamous networking crop circle, asking too many questions and always being first in line when cocktails were served. Interviews were a rude awakening for this person, to say the least. Thankfully this individual started to ‘get it’ towards the very end of interviews ended up with an offer for the summer. I recount this story to say, be self-aware at all times. Your ‘results’ will either validate or invalidate what you’re personal brand is projecting and if it’s in sync with what you think it is.
Have you set a consistent tone?
Nothing is worse than waking up to a Princess on Monday and then a Godzilla on Tuesday. Choose one or the other. Look, everyone has an off day–that’s completely understandable especially given the stress level academics and finding a job can bring, but actively managing your brand means putting on a smile when you just don’t feel like it. This is especially dangerous for friendships in business school. You don’t have a lot of time to waste and you want to spend your precious time with people who are consistently themselves. If you go from being the guy who’s this soft cuddly teddy bear, to the overly aggressive heavy-handed boozer you’re going to lose friends quickly and worse be perceived as being insincere. Recall my point above about authenticity.
Are you making an effort?
Effectively, your MBA is the last big step towards the rest of a hopefully fulfilling professional life. It’s painful to be around classmates and faculty who just don’t care. And it’s not just about effort in the classroom, more generally it’s effort in crafting one’s identity. Tuck is a school that’s impossible to be anonymous (as stated previously). I know 99% of my classmates by first name and every one of them has a unique identity and brand. Occasionally you’ll bump into someone who either lacks the ability to sell themselves and their personal brand but more than likely they just don’t give two hoots for whatever reason. Here’s the thing folks–you’ve spent $200K on your education, and this is the last opportunity to define yourself in a failure free environment. Whatever you do, give 100% of yourself, 90% of the time. Establish a distinguishable authentic personal brand, sell it and your two years at business school will be rewarded.