I’ve written about how transformative a two-week senior experience was for me. From it, I developed a loose ten-year plan for myself that, more or less, took me to where I am today, both professionally and personally. I appreciate my past self for doing so.
Much like 2010, this year has already been a pivotal one for my life. Amid all the craziness, I felt I owed it to myself — and my future self — to take a step back, honestly evaluate, and plan. The next five years will be an adventure, so I figured I’d map it out. Only this time, I’m making a nifty booklet. Because I’m extra.
If you are a young professional, or really anyone looking to reach personal or professional goals, you owe it to yourself to write it all down. Hold yourself accountable, and smile when you’ve worked hard to reach them.
Here’s a question you may have never thought to ask yourself: “Should I have a personal brand?” My answer: Yes!
A personal brand can, and should, last longer than your hunt for a new job. It is a powerful networking tool. After all, aren’t we always trying to sell ourselves to every connection we make?
Is now the right time to work on your personal brand? Absolutely!
The old adage is, “There’s no time like the present.” Let’s face it, there is no certainty in the world. And while it’s comforting to think you have job security, you do not want to be caught off guard with whatever COVID-19 uncertainty comes next.
You are joining me as I finalize my personal brand. I decided now was a great time to refine it, not out of a concern about survival, but because I simply had the time to sit and focus. For a while I thought about refreshing the look of my website and unifying it with other items I produce, such as reels, business cards and even invoices.
Start with the basics
By its nature, design is the most visible component of any brand. You have a logo, digital and print assets. Even buildings! There’s a reason most freestanding McDonald’s look alike. A simple place to start when developing your own brand is picking a font you like. I began with Proxima Nova, but started to explore other serifs as the rest of the design world fell in love with Proxima Nova. A key to an effective brand is consistency. Use your font on everything that represents you: your emails, your resume, your business card, your website (if you have that flexibility — I do not). Heck, I go out of my way to change the font of a document no one besides myself will ever see, just to keep it on brand.
Next, pick some colors you enjoy that work well together. I’m not a colorist, but there are plenty of free online tools, such as Adobe Color, to help you create your own swatch. My color scheme, for example, samples colors of a sunrise over the ocean. Makes you feel warm, right? Does it have a particular meaning? Sure, but not really. I draw a lot of inspiration from the sky and from nostalgia. One of the places I am most happy is the beach at a resort in Fort Lauderdale that my parents and I would often visit. I also think the color blue is visually pleasing, especially on a screen.
But wait, there’s more!
Any brand efficianto will be quick to remind you that a brand is much more than graphic design. Brand voice is just as important. This is something I am cognizant of for my job but only recently thought about applying to my personal brand. Am I creating a whole lexicon for my personal brand? Of course not. Rather, I am paying closer attention to the way I’ve always written and spoken, identifying commonalities and making note of overall tone. In the process, I realized my writing style tends to be more upbeat and friendly. I start most emails with “Howdy!” and end with “Cheers!” Can I tell you exactly why say that, when I started or what influenced me? Nope. So my stuffy traditional LinkedIn bio needed to be refreshed.
Consistency is key
I’m only scratching the surface with personal branding. If you want to take a deep dive, take a look at your favorite Instagram motivational star or beauty blogger. The people behind that sort of content tend to have a pretty good grasp on branding. If you go to her page at any given time, every post should have a similar look from a 10,000 foot perspective. Color and imagery will be consistent. Text will look the same. Copy will be written with a familiar tone. One of the more impressive examples of personal branding I’ve seen is from a high school classmate of mine on LinkedIn who works alongside his father selling life insurance. His pictures are compelling and consistent, depicting him and his father working. His writing has a clear message and consistent tone. He has a good grasp of his personal brand and weaves it well into his business.
That makes me think of other people who have successfully made their personal brand a business one, but that veers away from my original topic. “Make ‘em pay!®”
Full disclosure: I am in no way an expert on personal branding. I’m just a dude with glasses, a scratchy beard and an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. But I love this branding stuff and I’m getting better at it!
Farewell to a man whose larger-than-life story is like something out of a Hollywood writer’s room. A man who never knew the meaning of “a bad hair day.”
My one degree of separation from the most influential figures of the mid-20th century, including MLK. The man who told Nixon “No” (when he tried to control a photo opportunity) and the man who “took on” Muhammad Ali (by accidentally running into him in a hallway) and, my 9-year-old favorite, “Barnacle Boy” a.k.a. Tim Conway. Dad’s stories of the golden age of television never ceased to amaze, though he did like to embellish.
A creative content visionary and brilliant producer of television and video, he made a name for himself as a producer-director at KYW-TV (now WKYC-TV), WJW-TV and went on to have a successful career in corporate communications, first at Eaton Corporation and finally at American Greetings. It is by coincidence that my professional path closely follows his, and he could not have been prouder. I was fortunate to work with some of the same people he did, and Dad was fortunate they were able to validate his stories!
Though cancer ultimately dropped the curtain on this talented singer and creative video production pioneer, your work and legacy live on. Though the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to hold immediate services, we look forward to celebrating his life in the manner he deserves. It was said that, under normal circumstances, the whole town would show up and then some.
I catch myself thinking: “if it had happened 10 years earlier how would I have reacted?”
In 2010, I was a high school senior who, like everyone else in my class, had a lot of decisions to make. The first decision influenced the next, and so on. Knowing what you wanted to study would influence where you would go to college, et cetera. As one chapter of life comes to an end, we think a great deal about how we want to start the next. To quote the bumbling Kevin Malone from NBC’s The Office, “It’s only human natural.”
By February, I knew that I wanted to pursue broadcasting and was accepted into Kent State University, though I was not sure which aspect of the field would be right for me. The next decision I had to make was where I wanted to spend my “senior project,” essentially a four-week internship during the final month of school at a business in your intended field. In Cleveland, there are only a handful of places that fit that bill, and finding a place that would let you hang out was harder than finding a girl on ChatRoulette, tending your farm on FarmVille, or getting that Numa Numa song unstuck from your head.
As fate would have it, I knew that the mom of a friend worked at WKYC Channel 3, the local NBC station. I asked him if he could ask his mom if they wouldn’t mind some 17-year-old hanging out with them in May. Now, I’ve recounted this story dozens of times and at the risk of sounding too dramatic I can honestly say that this one action I took in February 2010 steered me into the career and developed the talents I have today. Not long after, I received an email from a woman named Micki Byrnes, who headed-up Channel 3’s marketing department at the time. She invited me to visit the station and chat and, upon doing that, said she’d be happy to have me shadow her department for a week, in addition to a week with SportsTime Ohio, the cable sports channel run out of WKYC’s building at that time. Those in broadcasting know the month of May is a “sweeps” (a major ratings) month and is typically a very busy time at TV stations. For that reason, Micki suggested I split my senior project and spend two weeks with the marketing team at the Cleveland Indians, which she arranged. I began my first week at Channel 3 on May 3, 2010, exactly 10 years to the day that I am writing this.
The lengths Micki went to for a random high school senior, albeit a friend of her son’s, was an incredibly generous gesture that was not lost on me. It also drove home the importance of trying to make a connection. I returned three years later as a summer intern with Channel 3’s marketing department and, one year after that, interviewed for and accepted a job with the station. And that, my friends, is the power of networking and hard work.
Obviously, May 2020 looks a little different than May 2010. Hey, I look different (the picture accompanying this post is me -10 years, +30 pound and running on 98% anxiety, but I got better).
If a form of COVID-19 cropped up ten years earlier, or the H1N1 Swine Flu of 2009 could not have been controlled, my senior experience would have likely been wiped-out. It goes without saying that I’m not alone in that; my peers would be without experiences that helped pave their pathway into the professional world. That’s where the scary, selfish thought pops into my head: “How would that have changed my life?” But more importantly: how is this impacting the paths of the Class of 2020? Will someone else miss out on a life-defining opportunity like this?
I was recently on a Zoom call with other alumni from my high school, in which the Head of School explained the transition to distance learning. The pandemic struck at a time when technology allows us to telecommute (e.g., work from home) without much hassle. It certainly allowed me to do my job remotely. I’m pleased to see stories of how video conferencing allows today’s high school seniors to participate in a variation of that senior experience and having opportunities to chat “face-to-face” with professionals in their field of interest. Networking can take unconventional forms.
I have no doubt the high school seniors in the Class of 2020 will overcome the challenges brought forth by the disruption to their spring semester. Those students firm in their interests and intended career paths still have plenty of opportunity to discover what they like doing and with whom to network. As for college seniors, they’re about to enter a world that’s been turned on its head. Doesn’t mean there isn’t hope, though!
I was recently asked to record a video message to students at my college. Here’s an excerpt of my message to them:
Yes, this is a crazy time to graduate and look for a job. The whole communications industry — broadcasting, print, PR and the like — was turned on its head literally overnight. But much like us currently working, you too will rise to the occasion. Really, the fundamentals are the same: network. Innovate. Differentiate yourself, and you will succeed.
Do I think my experience finishing high school and entering college would be drastically different if some sort of global disruption happened ten years ago? Undoubtedly. Do I think it would have drastically rewritten my professional career? There’s no saying for sure, but I don’t think too much would have changed. I think I would have found my way to where I am now. Or, perhaps, discovered another path and have been just as happy. That’s the crazy thing about the Butterfly Effect. I do not think I would be worse off, nor do I think today’s high school and college seniors will be worse off.
As one chapter closes, another begins. A lot starts at the end.