How I Did It: Dan Schawbel on Becoming a Personal Branding Expert

The founder of Millennial Branding talks about establishing his position as the personal branding guru for Gen-Y.

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Dan Schawbel, the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding LLC, is a world renowned personal branding expert. He is the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, and the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog. He talks about how he created his own personal brand.

When I graduated college in 2006, I had to struggle to get a job at a Fortune 200 technology company, despite having eight internships, seven on-campus leadership positions, and a management roll at a small website design company under my belt. While in college, I learned how to sell myself through interviews along with using a website, business cards and a professional portfolio. But I was an introvert, intimidated by the idea of attending networking events and asking for jobs. As a result of my fear, my job search process was eight months long. After meeting 15 people and getting rejected for two positions, I finally landed a job in product marketing.

After a year of full-time employment, I read Tom Peter’s famous article in Fast Company called “The Brand Called You.” I realized immediately that Tom’s words reflected my own understanding and appreciation of the topic. I began searching online to see if there were any websites and experts who were already competing in the personal branding space and realized that no one my age was talking about it.
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My friends were complaining about how tough the job market was and that there were no resources to guide them through the process successfully. It became my mission to help young individuals embrace their own brand identity so they could have a more fulfilling career. And since I was only 23 at the time, I could relate to what they were going through.

I took my passion for personal branding online, and started, where I shared career and branding advice for students and young professionals. My age was my biggest challenge at first, and I was criticized for not having enough life experiences to draw from. So I started new projects that would reinforce my expertise. Within six months, I was publishing more than 10 posts per week, filming videos for Personal Branding TV, and writing articles for blogs and magazines. I also launched Personal Branding Magazine, which included an interview between Donald Trump and Guy Kawasaki, among other articles. For my efforts, my work was profiled in Fast Company, which positioned me as an expert in the field. The execs at my day job found the article and I was recruited internally to co-create the first “Social Media Specialist” position at the company.
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Instead of interviewing for a job, my company came after me based on the brand I had created online. I accepted the position and realized that I could help other young professionals do the same, so I wrote a book called Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future.

In 2010, I left my day job. I had spent three years juggling a full-time job, managing all of my online properties, consulting and speaking, and finally had the confidence to start a full-service personal branding agency. My former employer became the first client of Millennial Branding, LLC. My business and my brand have continued to grow ever since.

I learned that if you believe in yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and never give up, you can do anything. I’ve never taken venture capital money, and I’ve learned by doing exactly what I wanted to do. Day-by-day, I acquire new skills, new relationships, and continue to spread my story and advice across the world in order to make a difference.

Founded by Scott Gerber, the Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.