Attention Students: An Interview With Personal Branding Expert Dan Schawbel

Every Wednesday at 10am, as the weekly radio host, I jump on NY Brand Lab Radio and the best part about it? I get to coax out the spirit and power and sass in brands, and I have the opportunity of interviewing fascinating people with fascinating brands. One person I interviewed recently is Dan Schawbel, the leading personal branding expert for Gen-Y, and founder of The Personal Branding Blog which is now the #1 resource for personal branding online. I made a couple of notes throughout the interview here. On the other hand, if you’d like to hear the interview on NY Brand Lab Radio, go to the bottom of the page for details.

Dubbed ‘personal branding force of nature’ by Fast Company, this entrepreneur is totally immersed in a BRAND YOU WORLD. Ready to build your own personal brand and your company’s brand so you can stand out and shine? Meet Dan Schawbel, the leading personal branding expert for Gen-Y and founder of The Personal Branding Blog which is now the #1 resource for personal branding online.

VAN: OK, Dan. Let’s start with your definition of a personal brand.

DS: It’s what makes each one of us unique. It’s what people say after you leave the room.

VAN: Your thoughts about what’s going on online today?

DS: The internet is a global talent pool. It’s much easier today to craft your own online presence. It’s critical to own your brand now. Pick a specific niche. Become the top expert in your field. It’ll give you visibility. It’ll give you credibility, and it’ll bring in clients.

VAN: I find that many people have a resistance to ‘showing up’ online. You finding the same?

DS: It’s all about the fear of rejection. It makes it less likely for people to reach out to others. It stops people in their tracks. In the world of personal branding, you can’t get intimidated. You have to define who you are. Then you have to put yourself out there. PS Focus on a long term strategy.

VAN: What do you tell students about brands and why they matter so much?

DS: Unless you have a brand, you can’t scale your business. Your brand is what differentiates you. You choose brands you trust, right? If you prefer Dove soap better than others, for example, then there’s a relationship happening there. The Dove brand charges a premium for that.

VAN: I know you speak to many students across the country. In fact, I watched your video talking to Harvard students. What are you telling them?

DS: Most kids aren’t aggressive enough. They need to sit in the driver’s seat. I see many students as scared or shy and that is always going to get in the way. When I was a student, I had eight internships, I networked like crazy to get the jobs I wanted. I was out there. But then, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to make a difference. And I didn’t wait for permission.

VAN: Was the entrepreneurial gene evident in your family?

DS: My uncle, father and grandfather were all entrepreneurs. In March 2007, I first read about personal branding: Tom Peters. I looked around and realized that no one else my age (at 23 years old) was out there, positioning themselves, as a personal branding expert for the Gen-Y. Within 12 hours, I had my first blog up. Within six months, I had launched a TV show about personal branding. I wrote the book ME 2.0 and well, the rest is history.

VAN: What are you recommending students start doing immediately?

DS: Start a blog. Why? Because it’s a way to start having your own conversation with others. It’ll create a strong network. And that’s exactly what you need today: the world is now driven by word of mouth. Remember: Your online reputation will impact the way you’re perceived in the world and in the marketplace. The chances of getting the job you want depend on creating your own online presence. Recruiters are going online to fill jobs. The days of sending in resume in a Word Document are over. Just go to and create your resume on your page there. It has more credibility.

VAN: What’s the one piece listeners can walk away and know it’s a hugely important piece here?!

DS: OK. Know your audience. You have to know who they are, and your content has to reflect exactly what they want.

VAN: What’s the one thing you would dare our listeners to do? The one thing that might make them think differently about their personal brand?

DS: Start small. Just start building relationships, start writing – it’s all about building a strong foundation first. Then dare to put yourself out there. Forget about any fear you might have. You also need goals. But start writing your blog. Ready to do that?

PS Dan’s radio interview is up on my site. Go to and download the MP3 now (free!) Enjoy.

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