Graham School News

Professional Development Certificates’ Event Focuses on Building Your Own Brand

Sue Ter Maat

What is your brand? That is what I asked myself recently at the Professional Development Certificates' event: A Night of Networking at the University of Chicago.

As a student in the Digital Marketing and Integrated Communications certificate, I had stopped by the event, hoping to talk to professionals who might give me advice on my career.

I met a lot of people who I would not have otherwise, but it was during the keynote speech that I started thinking about my own brand, or the fact that I did not have one. 

“What is your brand?” said Lindrea Reynolds, a career coach and motivational speaker, during the event’s keynote speech.

I had thought of products as brands and had studied it in my certificate classes, but I had never thought of myself as a brand.

During her speech, Reynolds gave the audience an example of a woman who had successfully branded herself.

She told the story of Rong Niu, who was taught by her father how to flip bowls from her feet onto her head while riding a unicycle. She practiced six hours per day, six days a week for many years to perfect her acrobatic act called Red Panda. She is now one of the most popular acts during professional basketball halftime shows, partly due to her branding efforts.

Reynolds said that this act has all the tenets of branding success. It is authentic and memorable and Niu knows her audience and arena.

“She is comfortable with who she is,” Reynolds said during her keynote speech. “Her fans are sports watchers. She knows her audience. She doesn’t change who she is to fit in.”

After the speech, I wanted to find out more about personal branding, so I made a point of talking to Reynolds.

She told me that my brand is my promise. She advised that I decide what I love to do and then find my specific niche, identify my target audience and find the right arena. In other words, the more specific I could make what I do, where and how I do it, the more successful I would be because I would have a specific brand.

“You should find your niche,” Reynolds said to me. “It won’t work if you have your hands in too many things.”

So now I am working on developing my own brand. So for me, the University of Chicago’s Career Day helped me meet a lot of new people and made me realize the importance of personal branding, which I likely would not have considered otherwise.

Sue Ter Maat is a communications professional who is enrolled in the University of Chicago Digital Marketing and Integrated Communications certificate program. You can follow her on Twitter @Sue_TerMaat.