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The Young and Exceptional™: Dan Schawbel


“You need to be the real you because everyone else is taken and replicas don’t sell for as much.” —Dan Schawbel

 In the world of personal branding, especially for Gen-Y, Dan Schawbel is the man. A Millennial himself, Dan is the author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan, April 2009). My copy is already on the way. Can’t wait.

With over 150,000 results for his name in Google (wow!), Fast Company calls Dan a “personal branding force of nature.” He is the founder of the award winning Personal Branding Blog®, publisher of Personal Branding Magazine®, head judge for the Personal Brand Awards® and director of Personal Branding TV®.

As if all of that weren’t enough he is also a Social Media Specialist with EMC Corporation, which is one of the leading technology companies in the world.

When I started looking for The Young and Exceptional™, Dan is one of the first people that popped into my head. Now we get a chance to poke around in his.


Can you give us a sneak peak at your new book, Me 2.0? What are some of the main things people, Millennials in particular, will take away?

Millennials will take away that there are massive opportunities for them right now because they are technologically competent and have the least amount of responsibility right now.

Millennials need this book as a wakeup call so they can figure out what they want to do in life early, instead of after switching careers ten times. Millennials, especially students, have so many choices and so many influences on their lives, but this book gives them a framework they can use to align their passion with their expertise and really kick ass.

“I realized that the brand I developed online
had indirectly told my employer exactly
what I wanted to do for the company,
without even asking for it.”


The book concept was contrived about two years ago, after I started a blog and was actively recruited to be a social media specialist for a large company. I realized that the brand I developed online had indirectly told my employer exactly what I wanted to do for the company, without even asking for it.

In this way, I was recruited based on my passion without applying for a job. This is a fundamental difference between interviewing with 15 people and finally getting a job after 8 months! The book teaches young individuals how to use social media tools for personal empowerment, for networking, and to become more successful.

Of course, the book isn’t 100% focused on social media. I give the history of personal branding, why it’s important in today’s working world, the opportunities for Millennials, my 4-step proven personal branding process, the benefits I’ve received by doing this, a bit about entrepreneurship, and some case studies.


A lot of young professionals and entrepreneurs as well students of all ages struggle with finding their purpose. I believe that a person’s personal brand directly relates to their purpose in life. How did you find your purpose?

During college I was trying to figure out what type of job I wanted before I graduated. I had announced my college major as marketing during my sophomore year. I did eight internships in all marketing fields, in both large and small companies, such as Reebok, LoJack, Lycos, and TechTarget.

I even started my own consulting business on the side. The purpose of this was to narrow down the position I would want when I graduated, as well as build a resume that would make me stand out amongst my peers, especially because marketing jobs were slim.

While interviewing for these positions, I had a personal branding toolkit, with a business card, website, portfolio, resume, cover letter, references document, and more. People noticed it and I started a blog in late 2006 called “driven to succeed” and it was to teach college students self-marketing.

It wasn’t until March 14, 2007 that I read Tom Peter’s “Brand Called You” article and fireworks went off. I realized that much of his advice is what I had been preaching for years and then I embraced it.

On that very day, I started a blog, which turned into awards, a TV podcast series, a magazine, and now a book. I speak at schools and do consulting as well. Personal branding is my destiny and it’s something I will be evangelizing for the rest of my life.

If it made me no money, I would still do it because it comes natural to me and it’s why I believe I’m on this earth: to create personal branding classes for every school in the world.

Luckily, my background was in website development and graphic design, so I was able to do everything I do now on almost no budget. In this way, I matched my expertise with my passion.

“Sleep doesn’t matter to me…
I’ll put in 100+ hours of work doing
everything and not care.”


Personal Branding is a passion and a business that you’ve built while still maintaining a career as a Social Media Specialist for one of the leading technology companies in the world. Work/life balance is important to a lot of Millennials. How did you make the time to build your dream and still have a life?

I don’t believe in work/life balance. There is a major convergence right now between what you do on the job and your social life, due to these web technologies. At some point, you won’t even be able to decipher between both because you’ll be friends with your manager and co-workers on Facebook.

What you do for 40+ hours a week is a major part of your life. I talk to a lot of people about communicating what they do because when you first meet someone, you’ll be asked “so what do you do.” Your response will make or break everything for you, so you need to be doing something!

A lot of the conversations you’ll have in your social life come from your on-the-job experiences. It’s really inescapable in my opinion. Managing both a full-time job and all of my side projects is difficult and is the reason why I don’t sleep at all.

You can find me on Twitter at 2am, but I do it for a reason. I believe in the power of personal branding to a point, where sleep doesn’t matter to me and I’ll put in 100+ hours of work doing everything and not care.

“We are accountable and
held responsible for everything we do.
We need to realize what makes us tick and
work like hell to get paid for doing it.”


I believe that everyone has a seed of greatness in them. Describe the relationship between personal branding and greatness. How does personal branding help a person realize his or her potential?

Personal branding is all about figuring out who you are, what you’re capable of and how you want to be positioned to the world. It’s actually impossible to succeed with personal branding until you’ve realized your potential. The reason I say this is because you need confidence and a sense of being in order to make things happen for yourself.

My main message in the book is how we all have to be the “commander of our career” because at the end of the day, success lies in our hands. We are accountable and held responsible for everything we do. We need to realize what makes us tick and work like hell to get paid for doing it.


One of your personal goals is to start an international class on personal branding for college freshman. Why is personal branding crucial to a student’s success?

Well, right now you have 1.3 million college graduates and there will be 22% less jobs for them because of this economy. Students are given no guidance in college on how to brand themselves and what they need to do to be selected for a job.

I believe that underclassmen won’t have to apply for jobs when they graduate if they start the personal branding process early. I say this because personal branding uses attraction-based marketing in order to pull employers and other opportunities into your world.

College students, although very tech-savvy, are clueless on how to use these tools for networking or job seeking. This class would be required by every school and right now it’s actually a differentiator.


Talk to us a little about Personal Branding Magazine. What came first the blog or the magazine? What are you planning to accomplish with PBM?

The blog came in March 2007, while the magazine was launched on August 1st, when Fast Company profiled me. The first issue had Donald Trump on the cover with an interview by Guy Kawasaki and the eighth issue will be coming out this May. The magazine has over 40 writers, 14 regular columnists and 2 editors.

The content of the issue is focused on personal branding, but with twists in each issue. For instance, one issue was called “the future of recruitment,” while another one was called “Millennials: changing the way we do business.”

I look at my media vehicles as complementary products. The blog is regular TV, the magazine is cable television and the book is PPV [pay per view]. The magazine’s purpose is to update everyone quarterly about what’s going on with personal branding and it is the leading magazine for this “industry.”


People look at you and see nothing but success. Great job. Great business. Tell me about a time you’ve encountered adversity and how you dealt with it.

I appreciate [the compliments]. I encountered crazy adversity when I was working to get a publishing deal. I got rejected by 70 literary agents and 2 publishers. It was so easy to quit and continue working my 9-5 job, but that just wasn’t me.

I gave myself no choice but to get published and would not accept defeat, especially after hearing people laugh in my face. I survived because I had confidence in myself and I really wanted to create a resource that took everything I’ve talked about and mend it into a book. The world needs this book and I felt I was the right person at the right time to make this happen.

Final thoughts?

While going through the personal branding process, I recommend that everyone stays authentic, transparent, and tries to have fun with it. You need to be the real you because everyone else is taken and replicas don’t sell for as much.

Thanks, Dan.

Al, thanks so much for doing this.


Hey! Are you a positive, high achieving young person? Would you like to be interviewed by me? Do you know any positive, high achieving young people I should interview?

I’m looking for outstanding young leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs to feature in my new Q&A interview series called The Young And Exceptional™. If you would like to be featured in this series please fill out the form located here. Be sure to include a short bio (less than 100 words) in your message.


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