Teaching Kids the Importance of Personal Brands

Teaching Kids the Importance of Personal Brands

Today’s kids will move in and out of jobs with greater frequency than ever before. Rapid innovation means employers’ needs are changing with greater frequency. Making work far less static.

This new world of work will require a new set of skills. Not just skills to do the work. But skills to get the work.

Updating a resume, or LinkedIn profile, every few years, will no longer be enough. Tomorrow’s workers will have to brand and market themselves. As if they were a corporation of one. As if they’re the CEO of “Me, Inc.”

That’s not to say it’s all about “Me.” That kids should learn to focus on what’s good only for themselves.

No, it’s more like thinking about one’s skills and paying attention to where those skills will have the most value. Then, articulating that value in a way that catches the attention of a potential employer. Just like any corporation has to think about their products, find the best market, and advertise.

It may seem implausible for kids to consider branding and marketing themselves before their careers have even begun. They have too few skills and experiences.

And, to some degree, that is true. But, to be fair, they should at least be made aware that they’re already building their personal brand.

What is a personal brand? It’s just like branding for any business, but applied to one’s more personal traits.

Here’s a definition of “branding” from Entrepreneur magazine:

“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

Kids’ favorite products have a brand. They may not know how that branding drives their purchasing. But, they’ll be able to differentiate one company’s brand from another.  Taco Bell vs. Chipotle. Converse vs. Under Armor. Twitter vs. Snapchat. 

Then, they just need to apply that same concept to themselves.

Are they someone who shows up when they promised and follows through on commitments? Or, are they perceived as someone who makes plenty of promises but breaks more than they keep?

Are they known as a leader? The kid who can help rally the class? The kid who consoles a teammate?

Kids might not see how they treat others as relevant to their future. But, that’s where we, the parents and teachers, can help. 

We can help kids understand that work is changing. That how they compete for work is changing. That showing up on time and following the rules is no longer enough. That work today, and even more so in the future, demands greater autonomy. That employers will need fewer cogs in their giant machine. And, when they do, it will be cheaper to use a robot or AI.

So, to stand out from the crowd, kids will want a strong personal brand. They’ll want to be known as someone who follows through on commitments. That treats others with kindness and respect. That can lead from the back of the line.

We can also help kids understand that branding is hard to change. Brands may evolve, but that takes time.

Kids will understand this, once explained. They know they wouldn’t suddenly trust Converse to make a high performance shoe like Under Armor. Nor would they easily believe that Twitter is the new Snapchat. They’d need some convincing, over a period of time.  

And so, with a little work, kids can be taught to appreciate how they’re already building their personal brand. And, how once built, that brand will be hard to change.

This is not to say that kids can’t be kids. Of course, they should. But, we should also be fair to them, and tell them that the world of work is changing. Tell them what will be expected. What will matter most. 

Part of our personal brand, as parents and teachers, is that we’re the ones who prepare kids for tomorrow. Helping them achieve a bright future. And, so, to be consistent with our own brand, we should at least talk to kids about the Future of Work. At least give them the opportunity to start building a strong personal brand. A personal brand they may not fully appreciate now, but will greatly appreciate later. 

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