2 Signs You’re Trying Too Hard to Maintain Your Personal Brand, and How to Fix Them

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice

Listen, I want to warn you upfront that this article might make you uncomfortable. I’m going to be pretty blunt regarding these two signs you’re trying too hard with your brand on social media, whether it be a “traditional” brand, entrepreneurial brand, or career brand. I’m also going to tell you how to fix these two things, so don’t stress.

Sign 1: You think Thought Leadership is Parroting bigger Parrots in your industry
Seth Godin’s book Tribes, published in 2008, is an example of this parroting. If you’re involved in branding, then you’ve undoubtedly come across the advice to “build a tribe” around your brand. This is absolutely solid advice, but it did not originate from the social media power users with hundreds of thousands of followers from whom you likely got the advice. It originated from a book they read. They aren’t thought leaders, they are thought followers.

You see the parroting effect the most in Twitter chats. Instead of answering a question uniquely, a person or brand will parrot the influencers in their respective industries virtually word for word. This strategy does absolutely nothing to differentiate your brand.

The fix: Channel the spirit of your college self and do some old-fashioned academic research. Go to a bookstore and read actual books if you truly seek an authoritative source. Go to your local library and access its database to see if there are any scholarly articles relating to your topic.

True thought leadership comes from synthesizing information from a variety of sources to add something new to the conversation.

Sign 2: You’re a Trend-Hopper
The worst thing to be in the digital space is a trend hopper. I’m not saying you shouldn’t adapt to new platforms and strategies — you absolutely should. But the people who are trying too hard become obsessed with the newest trend.

One of these trends you might have hopped on is the “content curation = thought leadership” trend. Some “power user” probably told you that the “secret sauce” to “organically growing your brand” is to schedule your posts using Buffer or Hootsuite. This user probably told you to load up your queue with “articles your target audience will love.” This is going to be harsh, but it’s almost 2017: No one in your audience cares about your generic article shares. They followed you to interact with you and your thoughts.

The Fix: Absorb what the “power users” are doing, but don’t completely replicate their strategy. Don’t just hop on the latest trend because an industry influencer floods your timeline with 20 articles a day on how the given trend is the next big thing in marketing.

Instead, focus your social media efforts on real, human connection. Regardless of what the sexy platform is at the time, all social media platforms revolve around human connection. Instead of loading up ten generic articles and quotes into your queue each day, why not start ten conversations each day?

Final Thoughts of Encouragement
I apologize if any of that offended you. I just wanted you to understand that actual authenticity has never been more important in your digital strategy. In our increasingly automated world, what people really want is human connection. All you really have to do is revolve your branding strategy around being you, and you’ll be fine.

Halloween as a Twentysomething

Adulting, Author: Brett Pucino

Yes, writing about Halloween as an “adult” just didn’t feel right. When I think of an “adult” Halloween, I think of parents taking their kids trick-or-treating, or a grandmother handing out caramel flavored hard candy while watching Jeopardy. I’m 26 years old, and I only graduated college three years ago. I simply cannot pretend like I have any authority to speak on Halloween as an “adult.”

Changing “adult” to “twentysomething” broke my writer’s block. I realized Halloween is distinctly different for twentysomethings than any other subsection of adults. Here’s three reasons why.

Twentysomethings have one foot in the party scene and the other in the “real” world.
Once you are an adult adult, like above 30, you cross a certain threshold that disqualifies you forever from partying in a college town. Every year after graduation, it becomes less and less acceptable to hit your old college town for a night of mayhem on Halloween weekend. I went back to my college town when I was 25, a mere two years after graduation, and I felt old in those bars.

On the flip side, you’ll feel young at the bars in your town that are hosting Halloween events. It’s like you exist in a limbo between college town life and how to go out like an “adult.”

If you’re younger than 25, I highly suggest considering one last hurrah in your college town. If you’re older than 25, you’ll probably end up feeling old and awkward. Which brings me to reason two.

Reason 2: The FOMO Fallacy
Another reason Halloween as a twentysomething is different than Halloween as an adult is what I call “the FOMO Fallacy.”

See, FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out, is just your id playing tricks on you. Your id is the “inner child” of your psyche, and it pursues pleasure without considering consequences. FOMO happens when your id creates a false narrative regarding the amazingness of whatever you’re missing. In the case of Halloween, your id will want you to go to a crazy party. It will make you feel like you’re missing the best time.

We may think we have FOMO if we don’t have crazy plans for Halloween, but in reality, that feeling is just the sweet sting of growing up. Twentysomethings inevitably have that moment when they realize Halloween and all of the drinking holidays from college have severely lost their appeal. It’s better to just accept the reality of adulthood rather than chase the ghosts of Halloweens past.

Settled adults in their 30s or 40s probably have a fair amount of “normal” Halloweens under their belt. What they did on Halloween five years ago was probably very similar to what they’re doing this year. For most twentysomethings, Halloween five years ago was probably one of the craziest Halloweens of their lives. I know it was for me. For us twentysomethings, we have to be aware of the FOMO fallacy. Which brings me to reason three.

There’s a struggle between the Dreamer and the Realist for twentysomethings
The Dreamer is the part of you that says you’re taking Halloween off and going crazy at some high-profile event, and the Realist is the part of you that’s saying “why even waste the sick day?”

That’s the reality of Halloween as a twentysomething. It’s a struggle between wanting to live in the past and party like its Freshman year, and accepting your place in the real world. Adult adults have long-since accepted that Halloween is watching “Freeform” (ABC Family)’s 13 Nights of Halloween and daydreaming about the glory days. Will this be the year you accept the inevitable?

What’s your favorite thing to do on Halloween? Go out and drink? DVR Hocus Pocus and watch on repeat? Stare at your black cat and wonder if there’s a Puritan boy’s soul trapped somewhere inside? Let us know in the comments below.

How Showcasing Your Volunteer Experience on LinkedIn Helps Your Job Search

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice

Let me ask you a question: do you use the Volunteer Experience box on LinkedIn? If you have volunteer experience, then I hope the answer is yes. I’m not saying it will be a difference-maker in getting you a job — you still need a solid core profile as well. What I am saying is that a good recruiter can tell a lot from that experience.

Showcasing your Volunteer Experience shows you’re altruistic
Volunteer work differs from work-work in one glaringly obvious way: volunteers aren’t paid. In today’s time-obsessed world, you’re a good person if you donate your time to a worthy cause. How does being a good person matter to your job search?

It shows you’re a good culture fit. Today’s business world is seeing a shift toward socially-conscious capitalism. Consumers, especially millennial consumers, demand brands to be environmentally and socially responsible. In order for brands to achieve the goal of such a reputation, they need good people from the bottom up. Not to mention your volunteer experience makes your more attractive to B-Corps and nonprofits.

Showcasing your Volunteer Experience can show off soft skills
This point piggy-backs on the previous — it’s pretty much impossible by looking at a person’s resume to tell if that person cares about anything other than themselves. You can’t tell if the candidate has interpersonal skills like compassion and a desire to help others. You can’t tell if the person is good at working with others.

Your volunteer experience shows off these interpersonal skills with concrete evidence. It can also show off other hard skills depending on your position. For example, being President of your fraternity or sorority chapter in college shows that you have leadership skills.

Your volunteer experience also shows you believe in something bigger than yourself. This is important when it comes to culture fit. A recruiter who sees this experience in a candidate is more likely to deduce that the candidate will be an employee who will fall in line with the company’s overall mission.


Showcasing your Volunteer Experience attracts networking opportunities
In my mission statement I outline my five drives, and one of them is embodied by this quote: “Your Network is Your Net Worth.”

I believe people should always pursue opportunities to grow their respective networks, which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest benefits of volunteering. It is emotionally rewarding in that you grow your network through the people you help, and it is professionally rewarding in the contacts you make with those you volunteer with.

Listing your volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile provides an instant common ground with anyone who browses your profile and believes in the same cause. Even better, it can lead to meaningful connections with people who have also volunteered with the same organization. All of these could potentially lead to a job opportunity someday…you never know.

Final Thoughts
Like I said in the intro, I’m not hyping up volunteer experience to be the secret sauce of a successful job search (if you’re looking for that, then I have a book for you). All I’m saying is that if you have this experience, you absolutely should be highlighting it on your LinkedIn profile. Just because you weren’t paid, doesn’t mean the experience has no value.


Author: Brett Pucino, Author: Danny Abriano, Real Life Stories

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, and we’re here to speak out. In support of #MIAW, both our Editorial Adviser and one of our authors bravely share why they’re #NotAshamed.

If you’re reading this, we want you to remember how brave you are. You are strong. You are needed. And you are loved.

#ImNotAshamed of being diagnosed with depression and anxiety because it has made me know and understand myself on a level I would’ve never thought possible pre-diagnosis. In all actuality, the three years since my diagnosis have been the happiest and most productive time of my life.

Having an “invisible illness” has helped me develop a genuine empathy for people. Even the happiest people on the surface can be struggling with inner turmoil.

I’m also not ashamed because I know that so many people in the history books for their achievements struggled with mental illness. So many great writers, speakers, artists, and entertainers, both from the past and contemporary, have struggled with mental illness. Not to mention the countless number of everyday people with a mental illness succeeding in life. That success is inspiring and contagious. – Brett


In 2008, around the time my Grandfather died, I began getting feelings – both mental and physical — I couldn’t pinpoint. They eventually snowballed, leading to the most difficult experience of my life. It was severe anxiety.

If I hadn’t told those closest to me about it then, I’m not sure how things might have turned out. And that’s why #ImNotAshamed to talk about my anxiety.

2008 and early 2009 for me was almost impossible to describe, though I tried to do just that in the piece linked above. And that’s part of the reason why there’s often a stigma attached to those who have dealt with or are dealing with anxiety. And when a stigma is attached to something, it can be hard to talk about it.

But if you think you’re dealing with severe anxiety, the best thing you can do is talk to those closest to you about it. It’s not something you’d ever want to battle alone, nor is it something you can conquer alone.

You need to discuss it, address it and perhaps get treatment for it. Again, those are all things that often come with a stigma attached. But they shouldn’t.

When I was dealing with my anxiety, there were lots of friends who were incredibly supportive, but there were also some who simply didn’t understand what I was going through. They would ask me why I couldn’t “just stop” when in the midst of an anxiety attack. They’d tell me to “relax,” which would of course result in the opposite happening.

It’s not that anyone is being malicious when making comments like the above, it’s that they simply don’t understand anxiety since they haven’t dealt with it before.

Extreme anxiety can be unbelievably scary. If you’re going through a serious attack, it can mimic a heart attack. Although it won’t kill you, it feels like it might. It’s impossible to explain what it’s like to have those feelings and those thoughts at the same time.

#ImNotAshamed to have shared this, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about it and address it if severe anxiety ever happens to you. – Danny

Learn more about Mental Illness Awareness Week at www.nami.org/miaw.

How to Create a Career Brand Mind Map

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice

Remember back in school when you first learned about brainstorming? You were most likely taught this concept with a visual component like a Venn Diagram or something similar. A mind map is a more sophisticated version of those diagrams.

What is a Mind Map?
The mind map gets its name from how a completed mind map resembles a neuron. It is a visual representation of holistically thinking about a given topic.

I want to stress that this is not some revolutionary new tool that is part of a fad. Its origins can be traced back to the days of Aristotle, but its modern incarnation was popularized by British Psychologist Tony Buzan. I’m not championing this as the best brainstorming methodology, but I fell in love with mind mapping the first time I tried it.

I’m going to show you screenshots of my most recent mind map for my mission statement of my personal website that you can use to guide you through creating your own career brand mind map.

How to Create a Career Brand Mind Map
You know what’s cool about a career brand mind map? Since it’s about you, your center node is your name. Boom. Your mind map is started. Now, let’s get into the meat of the process.

Step 1: Determine Your Core Values
What are your core values? What ideals drive your personal and professional decisions? What called you to the career you’ve chosen? What are your career dreams – and more importantly, what are the motives of these aspirations?

These questions aren’t meant to have easy answers. They’re meant to get you off autopilot and truly contemplate the values that drive your behavior and decision-making. If it helps, you can use a quote, saying, or phrase that represents a value you can’t quite nail with one word. You’ll be elaborating on these values in step two anyways.

Here are my five core values:

  • Passionate curiosity
  • Boxless thinking
  • Always in Beta
  • The Phoenix must burn to emerge
  • Your Network is Your Net Worth

Mind Map Stage 1.JPG

Step 2: Elaborate with 3 – 5 “whys” for each value
There are two meanings of every word: denotative and connotative. The denotative meaning is the literal textbook definition. The connotative meaning is subjective and loaded with emotion. Why do I bring this up? Because those values you listed are just textbook definitions until you assign whys. What does that value mean to you? Here are my whys to give you some inspiration.

Passionate Curiosity

Passionate Curiosity.JPG

Boxless Thinking

Boxless thinking.JPG


Always in Beta

Always in Beta.JPG


The Phoenix must burn to emerge

the phoenix must burn to emerge.JPG


Network = Net Worth

Network = Net Worth.JPG


The mind mapping tool I use is Mind Vector. I don’t get paid to endorse it, I just think it’s awesome. I highly suggest using Mind Vector for its ease of use, but there are other effective mind mapping tools out there as well. If you need some guidance creating your mind map, reach out to me on Twitter @BPucino.