Personal Branding - A Gateway to Future Opportunities

Alok Krishna Pillai, Associate Professor, XIME Kochi

It's a stand-out world and we are all trying to stand out. This is true whether you're trying to excel academically, get an entry to a prestigious institution, land your ideal job, or even find a life mate. That's why it's crucial to establish a distinct, genuine, and constant identity for oneself, or a "personal brand." When one has a solid reputation, they are more likely to make choices and engage in actions that are in line with their values.

Before we go any further into personal branding, let's take a moment to review the definition of a brand. Author and marketing expert Seth Godin defines a brand as "the combination of expectations, memories, stories, and connections that, taken together, account for a consumer's choice to pick one product or service over another." Jeffrey Harmon, an entrepreneur, and journalist, has a unique take on branding - “Attention is a scarce resource. Branding is the experience marketers create to win that attention”.

In this context, what is the relevance of personal branding?  Each of us has a unique personality, competence, skillsets, experiences, and history. Further, we also have unique ways of responding to diverse stimuli and contexts. It's possible to cultivate and nurture this uniqueness to establish yourself as a brand.

By adjusting several "levers of distinction", we may set ourselves out from the crowd. Let's take a look at "packaging", one of the major differentiating factors. Do you know that people can tell a lot about you, just by looking at you? This includes how you dress, how you look after yourself, how you walk, and how you carry yourself. Your encounters with others in your social circles, in the classroom, and in the larger world (including possible employers) all contribute to the impression you radiate to the world. It is interesting to learn how your decisions, taken consciously or otherwise, will affect the reputation you've worked so hard to cultivate over the years. Even little actions have a compounding effect, increasing or decreasing your equity relative to the earlier position.

As a result, it becomes pertinent that you begin developing the most crucial brand you'll ever get to oversee: your own. The starting point could be an honest introspection of what your likes are, what interests you, what motivates you, and so on.  Reach out to your friends, parents, faculty, and other well-wishers for input. Understand your strengths and see how it could be leveraged to create your unique self that will become your identifier – your unique value proposition (USP). Once you've nailed down your USPs, it's time to find ways to hone them and start broadcasting them to the world, all in an effort to carve out a distinct niche in the minds of your network over time. Your "personal brand" is the sum total of your online profiles, in-person communications with peers, and professional achievements.

One option for getting started in this direction is to enrol in a top-notch business school like XIME. Immersing oneself in an environment that has students from over 24 states, that too in a fully residential campus provides ample scope to diligently work on each of those traits that add up to build your personal brand. Working in clubs, taking up leadership positions, participating in events, being a mentor to your peer groups, exchanging thoughts, involving in meaningful debates in class and outside, all these provide opportunities to hone your personal brand. The 2 years of time one gets in a PGDM programme can prove to be one of the best investments that one can make to carve out a niche for oneself, laying the foundation for a fruitful career and life ahead.

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