As society moves towards the digitalization of everything from shopping to social influence, the most valuable asset individuals can possess is a personal brand. Whether you're a 16-year-old high school student or a 40-year-old working in corporate America, regardless of whether or not you hate or love what you're doing, creating an online persona gives you credibility and visibility.
To learn more about how to stand out in a crowded marketplace, I spoke to Manu Goswami, who goes by Swish. Swish is a 19-year-old from Toronto, Canada studying at the University of Toronto. He is a serial tech entrepreneur and innovator, UN Youth Ambassador, LinkedIn campus editor, and TEDx speaker. In addition to his excellent TEDx speech, Swish is known for winning Startup Canada's Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the United Nation's Outstanding Youth Leadership Award, and Plan Canada's Top 20 under 20 award. Swish shared some of his thoughts with me about why it's advantageous for young individuals--and everyone else--to build a personal brand.
First, a personal brand establishes credibility. "A huge way to combat that perceived lack of experience is to position yourself as a thought leader," Swish says.
Second, creating a personal brand creates a strong network. Swish claims, "When you interview someone, you can build a good connection with them that you can leverage later on--someone that you can then talk to and get help from."
Third, a personal brand creates job security in an evolving marketplace. Swish indicates, "There's almost no job in the changing world we live in that's safe. If you're doing something that you're passionate about, you're going to find both personal and professional hurdles along the way. The best thing you can do to truly provide job security is to have a personal brand that you can always fall back on."
He notes that, while there's no guaranteed success when you build a personal brand, "all you're doing is simply increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome."
Describing tangible ways people can get started building a personal brand, Swish states, "The first thing for you to realize is that a lot of the tools that young people are on currently can be turned into a way to build a personal brand."
Whether you're using Snapchat, Facebook, musical.ly, Instagram, or LinkedIn, Swish says that you need to start shifting the focus of your content towards speaking more about the field you're most interested in. He says, "Influencing the way people see you on that platform as an online avatar or persona and changing that to focus on a particular subject can just be the simple fix that you have to make for you to make others realize your value."
The second tip to get moving is, "To start reaching out to people that are already building strong personal brands within your field of interest and asking to interview or meet with them," Swish iterates.
Many people, both young and old, are afraid to build personal brands because they fear being criticized by others. Instead of shying away, Swish recommends reaching out to thought leaders and experts in your area of interest so that you can first learn from them and then share that information with your followers.
Swish indicates that, "The last thing you can do to get started is find your medium and go all in. Look at audio, visual, or written content--figure out what you are the best at-and find platforms that allow you to showcase that and become the best at it."
Another benefit of building a personal brand that's rarely mentioned is that, "When you start putting yourself out there, you come to realize that your flaws aren't nearly as important as you make them seem," Swish explains.
With the help of a personal brand, young entrepreneurs around the world can show that they have value by making meaningful contributions to their areas of expertise, all while challenging themselves to overcome their fears. However, ambitious younger individuals along with their inspired aging counterparts need to remember two crucial points about building a reputable personal brand.
First, don't be fake. Embrace who you really are and share that with the world. As Swish says, "I think people all live interesting lives. I think everyone has an interesting silver lining that they can find if they really think about their life and what they're doing."
Second, invest yourself in bolstering your network and giving back to your community. Swish articulates, "Building a personal brand is not done in a vacuum--it's done with people. It's done with networking with people, helping people, and connecting people to one another."
He continues, "The biggest thing you can do when building a personal brand is to not think about building yourself up as much as thinking about building other people up, which is what I believe is the basis to every strong personal brand."
Wise beyond his years, Swish's words inspire all of us to become better people and better professionals by taking the leap and building a personal brand that can provide a plethora of opportunities.