Around the World at UCLA

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This weekend, I held my twice-yearly personal branding boot camp at UCLA, brilliantly guest lectured by Jeffrey White, the SEO/reputation management genius and attended by a full complement of fired-up attendees from around the world. The intellectual endurance athletes hailed from Japan, Germany, Venezuela, the US and beyond.

Personal branding knows no bounds

The group’s lack of any shared, defining demographics shocked and impressed me. Apparently, personal branding matters whether you are a patient’s advocate who was nearly killed by flesh eating bacteria or a street musician who just shot a film about the solar eclipse in Mongolia. We also had a professional organizer plus the guide dog she was training for the blind and a college administrator bravely making her way from enemy territory (our rival school that used to have a football dynasty). If you wanted to ask how to get a ticket for the Kentucky Derby, where to hear G-rated comedy or what media really delivers the best CPM for your local business, you missed out on meeting all the right people.

What does this tell you?

Whether you were on campus with us or not, you are among the futurists. That is, you are among those people who are not just on social media. You are among those who by virtue of thinking about social media are shaping it. That crosses a lot of cultural or occupational barriers and binds you to people with whom you might not share any other interest. Isn’t that interesting? It gives you so many opportunities to lead a truly global tribe.

To us it matters that Facebook is selling our posts to advertisers, who then target the newly engaged among us with wedding trinket promos or the like. Not that we necessarily mind the targeted attention, mind you. What’s important is we are aware that social media is evolving before our eyes and under our thumbs.

Awareness in personal branding, like with substance abuse, is a giant first step toward controlling how your life turns out.

What you do brands you, whether you take action with intention or by accident. As personal brands, we choose to live our lives or at least our careers intentionally.

At boot camp, we build strategies for life before we build strategies for LinkedIn profiles and presence. Before impulsively liking Pinkberry or broadcasting your devotion to the Beebs, consider what that means about you to your 650 friends on FB and the roving recruiter checking out how you spend your free time. You are branded by the brands (companies and people) with which you surround yourself in clicks, pics and posts, after all. In reality, there are neither surefire privacy settings nor BFFs.

If you leverage social media for a living – not just use it as a place to leak your good news or frustrations – give some thought to your life’s mission and purpose, at least as far down the road as you can imagine. At camp, our work for the first eight hours was to decide on those qualities and traits that made us or betrayed us, given what we each want to accomplish and be known for during the balance of hours we will be here – and I don’t mean at UCLA.

Have you asked yourself the big life questions yet or in the very recent past?

A personal branding boot camp (which you can do at home instead of a Shark Attack marathon) needs to include your taking your life’s inventory, divulging some true stories, getting inspired revelations, and surviving the surprising pain of accepting your limitations.

When you have a grip on you are and where you might like to go, only then does it make sense to dig into social media details, like in how many languages you need to translate your FB posts and what to do with that drunk friend who keeps tagging you holding beer. Both really good questions to address – once you’ve asked and answered some larger ones about your life.

And, what did you do this weekend?

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