Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Building your personal brand

I've led a tutor/mentor program for 30 years and it constantly frustrates me that so many of the kids who come each week don't do more to take advantage of all of the help volunteers are offering. Some don't show up regularly. Some don't speak to volunteers, or show minimal interest in homework or school. Some are what I call "volunteer killers" who because of their behavior cause volunteers to leave the program.

I'm not sure this condition is limited to kids living in poverty. I think it's a condition of being a teen. Yet, when teens in more affluent areas create a poor brand image, they have an existing network of family, neighbors, community members willing to help them overcome a poor start, and help them move to careers.

If kids in poverty don't get it right the first time, they can end up out of school, out of luck, teen parents, ex-offenders, and with no network to help them get their lives back in order. Every now and then one of our former students reinforces this message when they talk about how they are now struggling to get a GED, and get a job.

If I had a medicine that would motivate teens to listen to the advise adults were giving them, when they were young, I'd be a wealthy man. And Cabrini Connections would not need to be asking you for money all the time.

Nicole wrote an article on her blog recently about building your personal brand. It talks about how important your personal image is and how it influences how other people help you. For instance, if a student just shows minimal interest in class, by asking a question from time to time, it's amazing how much more the teacher will work to help that student. It's the same in the tutor/mentor program. The more interest you show, and the more responsibilities you take on, the more people will respect you and want to help you.

I think many of us can learn from this article, because it applies to more than kids. It applies to all of us. As you read this, I encourage you to think of ways you can discuss this with your student, to help them begin to build a their own brand image.

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