Gen Y: Personal Branding Experts

A posting on Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog this week posed the question “Is Gen Y better than everyone else at promoting itself?” The answer is ‘You bet!’

The concept of ‘personal branding’ has been around for many years, ever since William Arruda and Tom Peters first introduced the then controversial concept 20 years or so ago. What’s changed are the tools and the mindset.

In the past, communicating about yourself meant a resume and a web site, at least for those who could build one or afford to pay someone else to build one. Now, social media makes communicating about yourself free and easy. What is Facebook if not an ‘ad’ for youself? What is Twitter but a new type of press release? What is Linked In but a rolodex on steroids?

The other, more important change, is mindset. Gen Y sees its career path evolving much differently from their parent’s. They don’t expect to ever see the rewards for staying with one company, so they think of themselves as free agents, with no qualms about having a series of short term jobs. Many are by-passing jobs altogether, selling their skills directly as freelancers or starting their own companies.

Dan Schwabel, 25, is emblematic of this new approach. In a matter of a year or so, he has built a personal brand on the subject of (what else?) personal branding. This week, he introduced his new book, Me 2.0. Dan must practice what he preaches because the blogosphere is alive with news of this book, as are the mainstream media. Here he is on the Huffington Post.

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success is the first book written by a millennial (I’m 25), for the millennial generation, about personal branding and it is the paramount book for using social media tools to build a personal brand. Me 2.0 follows my journey through social media, while walking the reader through my proven 4-step personal branding process (discover, create, communicate, maintain). It also includes over forty expert quotes from leaders including Don Tapscott, Libby Sartain, Penelope Trunk, Guy Kawasaki and David Kirkpatrick. There are more than seventy research reports, three personal case studies and enough tips to keep you occupied for hours. “

I have been following Dan on Twitter for many months (@danschawbel). He has over 16,000 followers and over 4000 tweets focused on personal branding advice and links. His blog, has over 5000 readers. There is also a magazine. He has been featured in Businessweek, NYT, Fast Company and more.

Dan may be the most accomplished Millennial in the personal branding space, but he is not the only one creating significant personal brands to showcase their areas of expertise. Here are a few of the more interesting Millennial marketer brands I’ve discovered:

Leah Hennessey: The Millennier: Millennials + Wine

Adrienne Waldo: Ask a Millennial @adriennewaldo

Blake Sunshine: The Perennial Millennial @blakesunshine

Nick Armstrong: I’m Nick Armstrong

Greg Rollett: Gen Y + Youth Culture Marketing

Jabez LeBret: Jabez Productions@jabezlebret

According to Schawbel, here are five reasons why Generation Y is better at this process than everyone else:

1. We have the least amount of responsibilities.
Personal branding is a very time consuming exercise that most adults don’t do because of the sheer amount of responsibilities they have, which are priorities to them.

2. We’re already marketing ourselves intuitively.
We’re all marketing ourselves without thinking much of it, but Gen Y is doing it on steroids. Gen Y is all hyper-connected with mass media, including the fact that their cell phones are an extension of their hands and that we go online more than any other generation.

3. We are equipped with a bottomless pit of marketing tools.
Every communication channel is a marketing tool, and since Gen Y is the most plugged in generation, there isn’t a tool we don’t touch.

4. We understand how to build personal connections to build a brand.Gen Y’ers are the masters of social media, which means we understand that marketing exists through other people. We use social media tools to put us in touch with other people who can help make us more successful. Gen Y-ers can position themselves in their company as the go-to-person for all technology needs, making them an invaluable asset to their work group.

5. They have no choice but to be marketing mavens.
Standing out among the millions of job seekers is quite hard in this economy and the competition to succeed in any industry isn’t declining anytime soon. Internship hiring will be cut by 21%, co-op hiring by 11% and 22% less jobs for 2009 graduates, according to NACE. The amount of pressure on millennials is immense and it forces them to rethink the way they are perceived and how they market themselves to stand out from the pack.

Perhaps the strongest testimony to Schabel’s approach? He is advertising to hire an intern!