Google’s definition of knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Let’s discuss each clause separately.
The underlying notion of knowledge is going through a transformation. Memorization of ‘facts and information’ is less important, and building skills is more important. All possible content is available to us through the internet, social media, and other networks instantaneously on computer and mobile devices. In the not so distant future, implanted devices will interact with our normal thought processes and create an ‘augmented reality’. (Love this video on what this might seem like; be forewarned it is frightening, but realistic .) Why is there rote-memorization in education? Should the focus be on building skills to find, synthesize, and discuss ‘facts and information’?
The ability to mix technical knowledge with solving real-world problems is the key.[i]
Look at the success of IBM’s Watson – a supercomputer that won Jeopardy and beat the top chess player in the world. Winning Jeopardy requires recalling facts and information in a wide array of subjects and winning chess requires cycling through a significant number of iterations for each move. In a chess match, a supercomputer beats the best human player, but a team of a supercomputer and a human player beats a supercomputer by itself (at least for now).[ii] Of course, humans build the computer and program the underlying algorithms. Players now learn chess in new ways. They optimize the computer for crunching out calculations, know how to process the data, and spend more time reading their opponent. IBM has just come out with mainstream application that utilizes Watson to bring ‘big data’ analysis to the average user.[iii] Learning to ask the right questions is paramount.
Memorizing a foundation of ‘facts and information’ is a requirement in certain professions, such as historians, doctors, and lawyers; a common thread in their responsibilities includes being able to recite facts and stats, classify elements, or identify precedence on the spot. Although there are huge online content reservoirs, such as Web-MD and Lexus Nexus, which can be accessed when needed. Nevertheless, a ‘theoretical or practical understanding’ remains critical in these high stakes professions.
Knowing ‘facts and information’ is required for developing a perspective. You cannot make an effective argument without a sufficient understanding of the prevailing schools of thought. Still, immediate access to huge reservoirs of facts and information online accelerates this process significantly. The notion of spending days in a library rummaging through printed copies of journals, periodicals, and books is over (still remember the awful, time-consuming process). Now you can follow new ideas in social media, conduct Google searches, and access websites of information distributors. Digital content is much easier to manage – make comments, highlight quotes, and copy and transfer to other platforms.
Understanding is key. But not superficial, light-bulb moment of understanding. In STEM, true and deep understanding comes with the mastery gained through practice.[iv]
Here are some thoughts for moving forward with a new concept of knowledge:
- Promote self-guided learning. Learning has become a lifelong commitment because of the rapid adoption of new technologies and dissemination of huge amounts of content. Professionals must keep their skills sharp with new applications. They must also follow the latest trends by following influencers in social media, taking courses, and reading articles, books, and blogs.
- Focus on skills required to manage, process, and analyze information and facts, as opposed to memorization. Computers are better at memorization and number crunching; humans are better at making decisions and showing compassion and empathy (soft skills).
- Competency based learning instead of the traditional credit hour model. With online learning, you can learn at your own pace and utilize many different resources.
- Use the latest technology in all levels of education. It is essential to put the latest hardware and software applications into the hands of students – a generation that is expected to use it.
[i] Tyler Cowen. Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. (Penguin, New York 2013).
[ii] … (page 81)
It is up to you regarding career development. The quicker you realize this, the quicker you are on a career path towards happiness and success. Moreover, you become an active participant and therefore increase the effectiveness of what you are trying to accomplish; for example, you show up to a performance review well versed on what you want to learn from it (rather than just attending it as a formality). This process of taking self-ownership and accountability plays out in many facets of career development: lifelong learning, building skills, career planning, and pulling feedback.
The traditional education model has changed. Before you went to college for four years to ‘become educated’ and then were employed for the rest of your life. However, due to the rapid adoption of new technologies, you are expected to participate in lifelong learning. It is up to you to for a self-guided education – a combination of taking courses, following influencers, and reading articles, blogs, and books. Do not depend on college administrators, professors, and parents to tell you what degree to major in and what courses you should take.
If you are employed, it is up to you to build and validate your skills. Tap into your employer’s resources by getting them to fund courses and certifications, provide mentoring, advise on making advancements, and perform 360 interviews and assessments. So if any of these things are not part of their standard routine, consider trying to get them to make it part of their routine (at least with you). However, do not depend on the employer to guide and make decisions regarding your career. (In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I discuss what things you should be doing during the building and validating stages of developing a skill set. Check out the website: www.skillsbasedapproach.com.)
Do not leave your destiny into the hands of your employer. Take a pro-active approach to your career and create opportunities for yourself.[i]
Feedback is a critical component of online personal branding. The key is to pull feedback to you.[ii] It is up to you to get others – supervisors, managers, peers, etc. – to give you feedback and make the feedback as useful as possible.
Career planning is only effective when you are self-aware. It is up to you to learn more about your core-competencies, passions, and values through self-reflection, testing (personality, strengths, and interests tests), and interviewing those who know you best. Hopefully, parents and professors expose you to subjects and disciplines that might interest you (but do not go as far as telling you what career to pursue). It is up to you to decide on your career pursuit.
There is a lot of discussions regarding what colleges should do to get their graduates a job and employers should do to develop their employees’ careers. No question these two influencers have the resources, knowledge, and experience to make significant contributions for their students and workers, respectively. And they should be obligated to do so (especially with colleges because getting a job might be considered part of a college education ROI). Still, I think the biggest gains in job placement and career success come from self –aware, – knowledgeable, and –driven professionals. Now more than ever, we have the resources in place with online learning platforms for persons to take control of their education. For many, it is a matter of maturity; it is up to you.
Thoughts for further discussion regarding education:
- Low-income students have a disadvantage because many have to work while they are full-time students (in high school and college). Can we provide resources (living expenses) so students are fully dedicated towards learning (and their future can be up to them)?
- In Academically Adrift, the authors provide evidence that students are not learning much in college. In a follow-up study, a third of the students report “studying less than five hours a week.”[iii] Some are distracted by jobs and/or social activities and some simply lack motivation. Should colleges target maturity rather than teaching issues?
[ii] Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Penguin (2014, New York).
Original Image © Depositphoto/ olly18 #7626816
I recently read counter-arguments regarding the relevancy of personal branding. Some of the common themes include: heavy self-promotion, blog and social media commitments, and attention hogging.
My first reaction to the recent trend of “personal branding,” that it’s really just an ego-driven waste of time. (1)
Still, I think most professionals benefit from projecting their online personal brand.
Not all professions require an online presence… There are many jobs that do not require for you to be online and active in social media to perform your responsibilities. Although, considering how often a typical professional changes jobs and careers, you might be investing for something later in your career by establishing credibility and connections. Perhaps it leads to a second career.
Not all professionals have to self-promote… Too many professionals associate personal branding with self-promotion, which is a big reason why they are turned off to it. I cannot deny that there is usually some self-promotion in personal branding; though, it might only play a minor role and does not have to be excessive or emphasized.
I define a functional model for online personal branding that relies less on self-promotion. I emphasize presenting and validating a skill set, radiating an authentic personality, and being connected. I also argue that prevention content, balances promotion content. So professionals have to engage in varying degrees of self-promotion and sometimes very little of it, yet benefit from online personal branding.
Not everyone has to blog and Tweet regularly… I agree that not all professionals have to blog or Tweet on a regular basis, especially if your job does not demand it. Adding these time-consuming responsibilities is something the personal branding naysayers harp on. Regardless whether it is a job requirement, create and curate content if you have something say! Why not? It is technically feasible (it is a file on your computer or mobile), so challenge yourself to be insightful in your area of expertise.
Only leaders and marketers must participate in personal branding… Most personal branding experts assert that if you have an online presence in social media then you should consider how it reflects on you; this reflection is essentially your online personal brand. It is clear that the majority of young Americans use social media; eighty percent of Millennials use Facebook. Many professionals use LinkedIn; there are currently 100 and 200 million monthly active users in the US and outside the US, respectively. Therefore, since most professionals participate in social media, most professionals should think about online personal branding.
Why does it matter? Most employers are going to check out your digital footprint before hiring you, regardless of the nature or your work. You should also have some understanding regarding the impressions you leave with your connections in social media. Why not project a meaningful, unified representation of you as a personal brand?
Personal branding is a waste of time… It can be a deep, effective way to plan and develop a career for most people. You think of a holistic view of yourself – something that is much deeper than planning a degree or profession. You are forced to think about skills, core-competencies, weaknesses, personality traits, values, passions, interests, impressions, relationships, and vision. And then once you commit, you self-reflect, continually learn, works towards mastery, follow a regiment, solicit feedback, and connect with an audience. Personal branding is a powerful maturation process.
Personal branding is all about the number connections you make…It does not have to be. In fact, I discourage professionals from hastily making a ton of connections to gain influence – avoid getting enamored by the ‘network effect.’ Instead, I suggest patience and restraint. First, get your identity squared away. Second, identify a reasonable target market. Third, calibrate the release of content and adding new connections – aim for a steady stream. An effective personal brand is based on differentiating your skills and talent within the boundaries of your target market (not the entire world).
Do not need to personal brand, so a personal website is unnecessary… A personal website acts as a centerpiece of an online personal brand and a replacement to a standard resume, becoming what I call a ‘multi-dimensional resume’. I read a blog where an author delineates between a ‘branding personal website’ and a ‘resume website’. Disagree with this separation. You should have a single website that adapts to various career stages; sometimes it is an employment evaluation platform and sometimes it effectively projects your brand. Since there is significant overlap in content and you want to establish an online identity, a single website works best. Ultimately, a personal brand is the best representation of you anyways.
Whenever possible, you should follow a logical progression as you construct an online personal brand. (I say ‘whenever possible’ because for many of us it is something we have to react to what is already out there.) But ideally speaking, you want to establish an identity before projecting it onto networks and social media. And as you construct your personal brand, you want to get a handle on how others perceive you in stages. So you can respond and take control of impressions before releasing your personal brand to an entire target audience. Finally, it is an ongoing commitment so it requires constant attention and monitoring.
I created a simple ladder of eight steps to illustrate this progression, and once you get there, there are another four things you should consider doing in perpetuity; personal branding is a career long endeavor.
- Become self-aware. Take personality, interests, and/or strengths test to get a firm grip on what you are all about.
- Take inventory of brand assets. What content, core competencies, or knowledge do you already possess?
- Identify a target market. List clients, associates, potential employers, and whoever else you are trying to reach. It is not all about you.
- Conduct competitor analysis. Know who you are competing against, so you can differentiate and benchmark.
- Build a personal website. This is the centerpiece of your online personal brand; it is something you will keep throughout your career.
- Create social media profiles. If you do not already have an account, build a profile based on the intended purpose of the service and what you are trying to project. If you already have an account, you want to repurpose what’s out there to fit your personal brand.
- Get feedback. Release the ‘Alpha’ version of your personal brand to a small cadre to get an understanding of their perceptions. Respond accordingly.
- Start making connections. Now you are ready to reach out to your target audience.
Learn more about online personal branding at: www.onlinepersonalbrand.org