Personal Branding Tips from Dan Schawbel: A WorkAwesome Interview

In the constant quest that we undertake to showcase our work in a truly awesome way, personal branding is a topic that becomes more relevant daily.  Who you are online is becoming less distinguishable from who you are in the real world.  One of the best examples of personal brand management is Dan Schawbel, the brilliant mind behind Personal Branding Blog, founder of Millennial Branding, Personal Branding magazine, and the author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, a #1 international bestseller published in 4 languages and was rated the #1 career book of 2009 by The New York Post and the #1 Amazon bestseller in Japan.

Oh, and Dan just turned 27.

On top of writing for Mashable, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, Brandweek, and Advertising Age, Dan has been a regular tweeter of WorkAwesome articles, so we were thrilled at the chance to interview him in hopes that he might have a few nuggets to share with tour audience.  Of course, he did beat us to the punch by interviewing Joel Falconer, the managing editor of the Envato business publications WorkAwesome, FreelanceSwitch, and The Netsetter.

We asked Dan what the readers of WorkAwesome will find useful in Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, and he shared that the second edition of Me 2.0 is scheduled for release on October 5. It has an extra 60 pages of content – including an entire chapter to help you use the top social networks in your next job search so you can target in on the exact position you want.

Why did you get into personal branding?

I had a marketing position right out of school, for just about a year at EMC Corporation, and I started playing with social media towards the end of that year.  After I started a blog, the personal brand awards, and personal branding TV, I decided to do a magazine, which got me written up in Fast Company magazine.   The PR group within EMC saw what was happening, and hired me to be the personal media specialist for EMC.  It took me months to get my first position at EMC, but I didn’t even have to apply to become the social media specialist.

I never set out to make money with personal branding; it was more of a hobby.  It was something I was doing during high school and college.  I took the title of “Personal Branding Expert for Gen Y” because no one else was out there doing it yet.

Can you apply your personal branding techniques in the workplace?

Employers need to understand that employees want to build their own brand to share their expertise and build credibility in their chosen field.  Since your employees are brand ambassadors, whether they like it or not – especially in a Web 2.0 world – allowing your employees to demonstrate that they are the best talent will showcase your company in the best light.  Letting your employees build their brands, and get their name out there, is going to help your business be successful.  In the future, job descriptions are going to have self promotional elements, as this benefits the employee and the employer.

Your personal brand has evolved over the years – why is that?

When I first realized the value of personal branding, I wasn’t sure that I had the relevant experience to call myself an expert, so I told people I was “The personal branding spokesperson for Gen Y.”  Over time, I realized that the people that were interested in what I had to say were not the Gen Y’s, but actually the boomers.  And this revelation led to the title changing to “Your Personal Branding Expert”.

A few years ago you did a video on the #1 social media tool, comparing Twitter, Blogs, Wiki, Facebook, Ning, and Youtube.  Has your answer changed since then?

When you go into business, you start looking at the Return on Investment (ROI) of each venture, and Twitter and Facebook aren’t great marketing platforms.  There are too many people, and it’s too hard to find the influential members that will help spread your message.  Blogs let you narrow your niche, and speak directly to the people interested in hearing what you have to say, while allowing you to use the right keywords in order to be found in organic searches.  Long tail will always prevail.

What are 5 things that we should know about you?

  1. I’m wildly passionate about personal branding.
  2. The Tom Peters article “The Brand Called You” changed my world, and inspired me to become the Gen-Y spokesperson for personal branding.
  3. I am very good at managing my life.
  4. I get criticized a lot because some people don’t like getting advice from young people.
  5. I’d like to start a university.

Any advice to help our WorkAwesome readers become more awesome at work?

Within a corporation, you want to brand yourself as a team player and as someone who’s giving value. Be known as the “go to” person for your specific skill (so that you are needed), and this will increase the chances that you will progress within the company.

Concentrate and focus on one area that you know you can be the best at.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone, and don’t feel like you can’t experiment.  See what works, and what doesn’t work, and then focus on what does work and you will be successful.

Popular search terms for this article:

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After spending way too long in the corporate world, Jason has switched to full-time freelancing. With any luck you enjoyed this article - and if you need one of your very own, give him a shout! @brandscaping on the twitter, or at


  1. Bret Juliano on the 21st September

    Great article and tips to keep in mind. Being a “go-to” person for a specific specialty also helps with job security; you know how to do it, others know you know how to do it and if people want that related job done right, then they’ll come to you with it.

  2. Danijel Šivinjski on the 21st September

    “The Brand Called You” for the win, really!

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