I was meeting with my manager who was helping me prepare for an upcoming job interview. I came ready with a piece of computer paper suffocated with a study guide of answers to potential questions and all my past experiences that qualified me for the role. The first thing she asked me when we both sat down was, “Megan, tell me… what is your brand?” Suddenly, I was at a loss for words. That was one question I didn’t have a prepped answer for.
It sounds like a simple enough question, but it’s actually one that takes a lot of thought. In fact, there are people who help others uncover their personal brand and amplify it through media channels for a living. Former Chappaqua resident Stacey Ross Cohen is one of those people.
In case you are wondering what a personal brand is, Cohen describes it as “the public’s perception of you” and the “authentic and curated parts of the story that highlight your best self in order to help achieve your goals.”
Clearly, you aren’t the only one who is curious to learn more, considering that Cohen’s personal branding TEDx Talk entitled “Branding from Birth: What’s in a Name?” has over one million views on YouTube.
Whether it’s applying for college, a job, an audition, a scholarship, a leadership position, or you’re just preparing for your next move in life, Cohen believes that your personal brand will help take you there.
The CEO of marketing and PR firm Co-Communications and mom of two kids (who went through the competitive school district here in Chappaqua) had an epiphany while watching her eldest go through the college admissions process. In a sea of success, sports, and spectacular grades, how were kids supposed to stand out? The answer? Start marketing yourself early. And so, the pro-marketer set out on the journey of writing Brand Up: The Ultimate Playbook for College & Career Success in the Digital World.
“My hope for this book is to make personal branding and digital leadership part of every student’s high school curriculum,” Cohen said. “I want it to give all teens an edge, no matter what their path in life.”
Cohen said the book poured out of her, as she was able to write it in only three months. The guide touches on topics that can be applied to different stages of life, not just when applying to college. Things like networking, interview tips, empathy, email templates and more are all covered in the 189-page playbook. The chapter on Linkedin is especially useful, as Cohen wants readers to know that the platform isn’t just for professionals.
Since college admission counselors spend an average of 10 minutes on each application, Cohen believes that leveraging social media will help you rise to the top of the list – creating a Linkedin account in high school and using it as a sort of portfolio is one way to do so. Whether it’s posting images from your latest volunteer work, your soccer team winning sectionals or your most recent college visit, it’s just about building a platform that houses all you do.
On top of connecting with your college recruiters on Linkedin, just as you would with a company recruiter, some other tips include utilizing the valuable real estate that is your email tagline and making sure you are intentional with your posts – “Recruiters can smell a phony miles away.”
One activity in the book involves finding the perfect adjectives that best describe you. While Cohen recognizes that this might not be the easiest thing for people of all ages to do, it’s important to be self-reflective or ask others why they think you stand out. These answers will help you come up with your personal brand.
“Self awareness is not something that a 15 or 16-year-old is comfortable with,” Cohen said. “I think that comes later in life. But start digging in now – it’s just going to jump start your success for later.”
Cohen wants to be clear that there is a difference between being self-aware and self-absorbed and that having a personal brand doesn’t make you the latter. “Personal branding is no longer a luxury, it’s a requirement,” Cohen said on the Tedx stage in Hartford, CT in 2019. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a 50-something professional or a college-bound high school student, a strong personal brand can make all the difference.”
Next time you are prepping for an interview and cram the entire English language on a piece of paper, be sure to have an answer or some adjectives to help describe your brand somewhere on there.
So, who’s up to Brand Up?