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Personal Branding Checklist

Personal branding is a continual process just as knowing yourself is a continual process

9  Signature
Next to knowing what you want, I think this is the most important, regardless of the industry. Your signature is what identifies you. People associate your signature with you, thus it is a direct reflection of you. Signatures give context to who you are, and provide people with valuable information, namely, an e-mail address and Website. When people are searching on Google for answers to their questions, they may come upon a forum posting or archived e-mail list thread where you answered the question they are seeking answers for. If your signature stands out, you've just gained a new fan.

At a bare minimum, they should include your name and e-mail. That way, when e-mails are forwarded, it's immediately apparent who wrote something, and how to get in contact with them.

Having your Website is nice too because sometimes it can differ from the domain your e-mail is on. While my current work e-mail is [email protected], my Website is jessewarden.com, thus, I include both my company's Website and my own.

Any extra is up to you. I personally like short and sweet signatures.

Jesse Warden
Flex Developer
[email protected]

Versus

Jesse Randall Warden
Flex, Flash, & Flash Lite Developer
[email protected]
[email protected]
http://www.universalmind.com
http://www.jessewarden.com
cell: 123-456-9000
home: 555-867-5309
AOL: [email protected]
MSN: [email protected]
Yahoo: [email protected]

In an age where screen real estate is in high demand, even with multi-screen and widescreen displays, if it fits in an e-mail window, you are visible, and having your brand visible and recognized is a good thing!

Some people like to add their mantras or a favorite quote. Be careful in your choices though. When in doubt don't put one in, as you could offend or alienate someone based on your literary or movie character preference.

The most important thing is that your signature needs to be text. Accompanying an image with your signature is dangerous. We're going for reach here, trying to get your brand everywhere. Not all e-mail clients, Web apps, nor devices support images and HTML layouts the same. You cannot depend on an accurate representation of your brand and that is a bad thing. What you can depend on is that if you make your signature text, it'll show up correctly in Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Gmail, Hotmail, and even Gmail on my phone.

Temper that Spartan, lowest-common denominator approach with your industry and technological reach. If you are building your brand in a big company like IBM, for example, you can be sure most have Lotus notes. If you design it, you can depend on, for the most part, that others will see it. If most of your customers have Outlook, you can get away with a lot of HTML and CSS formatted designs. Temper the value of the visual perception with the reach of your audience.

One last thing to watch out for: canned responses. They are rude, non-personal, and dehumanize your brand. You are a person building a unique and personal identity. You want to ensure that your signature is separate from your response. People are not machines and shouldn't be treated as such. Seeing this shows I'm sending mixed messages, and have apathy toward my signature's perception:

I'll get that file to you right away!

- Thanks

Thanks,

Jesse Warden

Closures to e-mails are similar to letters, thus you need to tailor closings to the situation. "Love, Jesse" to my wife; "Sincerely, Jesse R. Warden" to those in business; and "Peace Out!" to my homies. Don't let a machine write sincerity for you; it's cold, shallow apathy at that point.

If you are a programmer, every piece of code ever written by you in the public domain via some open source license or merely uploaded to your blog should have your name, e-mail, and Website listed in it, visibly. If you have code floating around in the wild that you've written that does not have your name in it, fix it now. I built my career by putting my name, e-mail, and Website URL in my code. You can too! There is nothing better for a programmer than looking on the Net for that one piece of example code to help, finding yours, and immediately recognizing that it's exactly what they are looking for. They are henceforth your biggest fan.

Your signature is who you are, your title, and your contact information. You should put this on everything you touch.

10  Logo
Shape and color are the two most important things in design. They evoke emotions, and shape people's perceptions toward what they represent. Brands have a visual representation in the form of a logo. While "Coca-Cola the product" is a bubbling, syrupy black liquid that extinguishes any flame that comes near it, "Coca-Cola the brand" is the white script text on a red background. The logo is the visual bridge of association for the brand, the pneumonic device people have in their heads of what the brand represents. If they see a logo, they should immediately recognize the brand it represents. That is the litmus test of a successful logo.

Nicknames are even invented around the logo, thus completing the loop of brand recognition. IBM's referred to as "Big Blue"; their logo is blue, and they are a big company.

Zorro had his trademark "Z" scratched with a rapier into his victim's clothing, or places of interest for the antagonists to see. It sent a clear message that he meant business, and struck with quick, fierce resolve. So much so, his logo required quite an impromptu canvas, written in swashbuckling candor. That same "I mean business" logo also struck hope into the hearts of downtrodden thousands.

It wasn't just the letter "z."

11  Personal Goals
Life can be measured by how many breaths you take. A journey can be measured in how many steps you take. In working toward what you want, you do so via milestones. Personal milestones are a set of goals. Setting personal goals for yourself helps gives your desire purpose, shows trackable progress, and helps build your self-esteem as you build up a set of personal accomplishments through attaining goals.

My greatest stretch of personal programming growth was a span of two years. In those two years, I had a set of goals for myself. My overall milestone was to be able to duplicate a favorite game of mine in code. The deeper I dug, the more complex things I found that I didn't know how to do. Every day after work, I'd pick something I didn't know how to do.

"These characters in the game somehow know how to walk to a point I click on the screen."

Then I'd dive in for hours, researching online, writing my own test code to compare my results with others. When I'd get a final result, the rush was awesome. I'd do it other ways to see if there were better ways of doing things. Then, I'd do it again.

"These characters seem to know how to walk around things. How in the heck do they know how to do that?"

The abyss of complexity was open at that point. Sometimes I'd take two steps backward in order to relearn the exact same approaches. The whole time I had a file structure that was proof of my accomplishments. It also showcased how far I had come. I'd open code just six months old and go, "I wrote that!? What an idiot...you do it this way now...". It made me feel really good to see I was making progress. A lot of the time I'd get angry that I wasn't progressing fast enough, but I could not deny the reasonable proof of progress.

By having a goal to shoot for, you have a clear path, and thus purpose in your day-to-day work life.

12  More than One Resume
You do not "have a resume." You have a template of your skills in digital form that appears as a resume at first glance, but in fact is a living, breathing document. Every single potential employer or contract should receive a customized resume. This can be as minute as a modified objective, the top part of your resume, to an entirely different design and set of content.

When applying for an "in the trenches" job, your resume's objective should clearly express your desires to work hard, get your hands dirty, and yearn for the approval of your employers on a job well done. If your objective showcases you enjoy leading teams, enjoy managing multiple teams, and are also skilled at delegation, an employer will question why you are applying for a hands-on job when you are clearly looking for a management position instead.

You never lie. Lying is wrong, immoral, and shows that you are not being true to your brand. If you are a trench warrior, proudly announce it as such, and having your objective on your resume clearly indicates your bayonet is ready for duty. If you are a leader, and want to guide your troops to victory, articulate that you are more than ready for marching orders. Life is too short to shortchange yourself and others. Happiness is the ultimate goal. An honest goal, both to yourself and others, will help you attain goals toward that path.

You shouldn't be all over the map, either. Your objective should be directly related to your ultimate want. If your objectives are all over the map because your wants are, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. You will attain goals quicker, with more satisfying results, if you focus your wants into a singular purpose. It makes things a lot easier to articulate, at least to an employer. If you have grander goals in your head, no problem. Just make sure your employer reads an objective that is applicable to the job you are applying for.

Skills can be readjusted based on the job. For example, I sell myself 100% as a client developer. I make no illusions that I want nor am I willing to do server-side development. Flex? Yes. Ruby? Hell, no. If I have a dry run of contract / consulting, you can be sure I'll be changing my tune to adapt to market conditions. I'll only do so, however, when I'm extremely broke. Even so, even Flex jobs can be tailored to. For example, consider the following scenario: "We're looking for someone with experience with Flex to interface with some legacy systems as well as Spring and Hibernate."

I am not going to showcase Flash first in my list of applicable skills. They are looking for Flex, why did you put Flash first? Yes, yes, those of us in the software industry know that job ads are typically not written by geeks, thus are the dumbest things ever written because they don't accurately represent the job in question. Thus, we are of the opinion not to take them seriously, assuming we'll hash out the details in the interview. Don't make that assumption. At the very at least, give them the benefit of the doubt, take them seriously, and organize your skill set to the job. If you are clearly not qualified, don't apply, nor try to finagle your skill list to match. Again, all of these edits and modifications done per job / client are honest and sincere.

Each potential employer or client gets their own, unique resume.


More Stories By Jesse Randall Warden

Jesse R. Warden, a member of the Editorial Board of Web Developer's & Designer's Journal, is a Flex, Flash and Flash Lite consultant for Universal Mind. A professional multimedia developer, he maintains a Website at jessewarden.com where he writes about technical topics that relate to Flash and Flex.

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