Many recent college graduates or emerging professionals don’t realize that creating the reputation of their brand or name will make them significantly more marketable. It’s like we’re in high school all over again. Your reputation matters in the professional world. The six degrees of separation theory is especially true when you’re trying to break into an industry, especially the little niche you want to be a part of. If you have a strong brand and people are saying positive things about you, then you’re “hitting the right notes.” (See what I did there?)

While networking and promoting your brand, make sure not to forget that in order for the brand to be memorable, it has to be unique in some way. What sets you apart from everyone else? What assets can you bring to the table that the person next to you can’t?

Now, let’s go over how to start or re-establish your brand.

  1. Introduce yourself and offer an understanding of who you are and what you do. Find a common ground between you and your audience about the subject of your brand.
  2. Here’s the part where you make them remember you. Have a story ready to tell. What is it that makes your brand different? Why should someone be interested in you?
  3. Who is your target audience and how do you reach them?

What is ‘Sue On Music’ ?  In short, it’s my brand.

My last name, On, is an easy name to manipulate into phrases, whether they be good or bad. I’ve probably heard every inappropriate pun in the book, but here I am making it into a positive one. Actually, there are two meanings behind the name ‘Sue On Music’ and I explain them using my three steps listed above:

1. It’s me. It’s my name, who I am, and what I do. I’m also a quirky, fun-sized Asian who enjoys talking to strangers and hearing their story. Everyone has a story to tell if you just take the time to listen.  Once it’s my turn to introduce myself, I briefly mention that I’m a musician, and for some strange reason people like calling me by my full name. It’s always “Sue On’” instead of just Sue. As for the musician part, I let the topic speak for itself because music really is a universal language. So now, within the first 5-10 minutes, there is an understanding of my name and what I am all about.

2.   ‘On’ being in the middle is also used as a preposition. For example, “Sue, high on [insert drug],” is a joke I hear all the time. In this case, my drug of choice is music. In the past I’ve worked with various non-profits. Often times, this means working with students from urban areas where drug and gang violence are real problems. This is my way of spreading the importance music education in everyday lives. You don’t need to be ‘on’ anything to have a good time and enjoy yourself, especially if there’s good music you enjoy listening to! I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes cheesy works.

3. I divide my target audience into three categories: entrepreneurs, educators and parents. Most of the time, the administrative side does not have experience in a classroom but requires the knowledge of how a classroom functions.  Educators love learning about innovative ways of teaching and they’re great at spreading new philosophies to other fellow educators.  Last, but definitely not least, are the parents. Parents always want what is best for their kids, and if it is a parent who doesn’t have a musical background, more than likely they’ll be doing some research on how to help their child hone their musical skills. I reach these different categories through various social media sites, word of mouth and simple networking.

For me, I chose the two industries where jobs are the hardest to come by; music and education. [Insert poor musician jokes.] [Insert “arts are the first thing cut” jokes.] When I go for teaching interviews, I pitch myself as an educator who understands the importance of classroom management, curriculum, content, etc. I also emphasize that I’ve had an administrative background specializing in the non-profit education field as well. On the other hand, when I interview for business positions related in education, I promote my administrative skills but accentuate the fact that I’ve taught in a public school system before. My diverse but interconnected experiences can potentially be more valuable than the person next to me.

You are your own brand. If you were a stranger on a park bench and I sat down next to you to talk, what would your story be?

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