Personal Branding: How to become the Mercedes Benz of Interns
I was just contemplating a direction for my latest internship blog post… in front of the TV, of course. I saw a Mercedes Benz commercial staring what was certainly a really pretty “luxury vehicle” (that was what the narrator kept calling it… I call it a “car”).
Normally I don’t pay much attention to cars. I regard them more for their function and utility rather than whether they have Italian leather seats or a “megatronic, sport-reactive-whatever suspension”. Then, I thought about what the Mercedes brand represents to most people… and what it suggests about their owners: refined-taste, status, wealth, power, advanced education… fantastic dental hygiene, perhaps. Most people – when they think of a Mercedes customer – likely think all of that. In reality: despite the leather and the mega-whatever suspension, it’s really just a car… seats and some wheels – a conveyance to get where the owner needs to go.
Because of the brand the company has built, however, their product becomes anything but “just a car”.
This branding example is a great way to view yourself during your internships – and to set yourself apart from your competition.
Think of Your Internship as a Mercedes
On the surface, your internship has mere function and utility – you are a vehicle to help the company get where they need to go. Just like Mercedes is regarded as more than just a car, focus on building a strong personal brand beyond just your utility as an intern:
- The work ethic you display… is your brand
- The reputation you earn… is your brand
- The communication style you develop… is your brand
- The personal dress code you adhere to… is your brand
- Your consistent attention to detail… is your brand
- Perhaps most important, the personality and “coachability” you demonstrate… is your brand
Through its brand that represents high quality, Mercedes has built a loyal following of customers. Like any manufacturer, however, they sometimes recall products en masse for an issue; or individual “lemons” have consistent reliability problems. Yet people still loyally buy Mercedes because overall the product is high quality; their reputation solid. Driving that car conveys a positive association about the owner – and the success they’ve achieved.
As an intern, building a solid personal reputation means you will never be considered “just an intern”. Instead, you build a loyal following – and will be relied upon to carry increasing responsibility.
I once hired an intern who can only be described one way… He kicked ass! Everything I asked for, he nearly immediately got it done. In his downtime, instead of waiting to be told what to do next he researched and initiated new social media projects that helped the company.
Sure, sometimes he’d screw up – we all do. However, I, and others I worked with, knew this was a rare occurrence. Our faith never wavered because, in large part, he had developed a strong reputation for high quality work, a very strong work ethic and consistently met deadlines.
This intern was also great because his effort made me look good to my boss; my reputation was enhanced as someone who could hire well. Additionally, my department ran more efficiently… more work was produced faster. My intern helped me tell our co-workers, vendors and customers that my department rocked!
My intern moved on to another company with a full-time offer. Since his internship ended, though, I have served as a stellar recommendation for three of his job interview reference checks. Because this intern developed a strong reputation with me, I am a loyal “customer” – and a champion. If I’m ever given an opportunity to hire this person full-time, I won’t even need to interview anyone else.
His reputation – his personal brand – is that good.
Work hard in every one of your internships. Gaining all the tangible utility you can. Build your transferrable skills. Throughout your internships, set and maintain high standards for your personal brand.
This “Mercedes Benz” reputation will serve you well – both during your current internship, and as you serve future customers.
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