Mar 21, 2009
The other night I attended a presentation by Dan Schawbel, “the leading personal branding expert for Gen-Y.” His approach to personal branding – the art of marketing yourself – is very methodical and he communicated it in a clear, practical way. Indeed, this blog is itself the direct result of some of the advice that Dan provided. Specifically, he said that you should own your name as a domain so I went home, registered “matthewtgrant.com,” and within a week I had this blog up and running.
Now, I’m no stranger to the discussion/debate around personal branding, having addressed the topic several times on Aquent’s Talent Blog, but I must admit that I’ve always found the concept de-humanizing. Aside from the notion that “branding” stems from the cattle trade and involves a painful, flesh-searing procedure, personal branding essentially calls for reducing one’s inevitably complex and even contradictory identity to a tag-line and one’s character to a commodity. This process was summed up by a grad school friend of mine who described his approach to the job search with the phrase, “I am a box of Tide.”
To the extent that “personal branding” means “understanding your capabilities and being able to clearly articulate them to people who may be interested in paying you for services rendered,” I’m all for it. In fact, I strongly believe that finding a job or landing a project depends on your ability to connect with a “target audience” (client/hiring manager), differentiate yourself from the competition (other vendors/job seekers), and persuasively communicate the specific ways that you will provide value and meet specific needs (marketing).
In other words, within the limits of one’s worklife something like “personal branding” unquestionably has it’s place. I do not believe however that it should be applied to all aspects of one’s life as some sort of path to enduring, personal fulfillment. Still, that seemed to be precisely what Mr. Schawbel was suggesting when he said, “You need to monetize your passion because that’s how you find true happiness.”
I understand that “making money doing what you like to do” is a widely accepted ideal. Nevertheless, I believe the contrary to be true: True happiness comes from doing what you like without consideration of loss or gain. To achieve that end, I believe we need to be able to monetize, not our passions, but the necessities of life. I mean can we envision a better “job” than getting paid to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom?
I think not.