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How to Discover Your DNA

gold fish -- one is greenIf you can’t say what your value is, how can you expect others to understand it?  It’s not enough to wait for someone to critique or praise you to know what your strengths or weaknesses are. You can take control and own your brand. What’s your brand? It’s the first thing that comes to a friend’s or a colleague’s mind when they hear your name. Are you perceived as being reliable, smart, creative, adaptable, trustworthy, easy-going, ambitious, fun, loyal or something else?

Here’s a simple way to identify your value or your personal brand. The concept of this technique was introduced in the Career Development Program ( at the University of California by Dr. Mojdeh Rezaee. It’s called your DNA. It’s how you present yourself to the world and how you are viewed by others. D stands for DEPENDABILITY. it’s what people rely on you for.  N is for NOVELTY. it’s what makes you unique.  A is your ATTITUDE.  Leslie and I used the DNA questions below as a starting point to write our staff profiles for the California Digital Library website (Leslie’s profile and my profile). Now, Let’s find out what your brand is.

What’s Your DNA (Personal Brand)?

Ask yourself these questions to pinpoint your unique strengths. Pick the questions that work for you.

  • What’s the one thing people can count on you for? (for example your candor, your reliability, your analytical ability, you get things done, you’re a good mediator, etc.)
  • What do people care about and value about your work?
  • What trait or behavior would people most associate with you?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you do that is consistently appreciated?
  • What makes you unique?
  • How do you present yourself to the world (your demeanor, outlook, attitude, appearance)?
  • How do your colleagues/boss view you?
  • How do you want to be known? What adjectives do you want your colleagues/boss to use to describe you?

Try the Water Cooler Exercise

You overhear two people standing by the water cooler. They are saying good things about you and your work. What are they saying?

Do the Right Thing

The most important thing to know is your brand ultimately lies in the mind of the beholder. Your brand is not automatically what you want it to be. It’s what people think your value is. Do you have any say in your brand? Absolutely. You can influence and shape others’ perceptions by saying, doing and even wearing the right things. Actions speak louder than words so live your brand. Don’t just talk about your value, prove it.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — unknown author

Now It’s Your Turn

Answer the DNA questions or do the water cooler exercise and summarize your value/brand into a few simple sentences.  Think of different words that describe your value so you can say it in more than one way. Define what you are at your essence. For example, I am a connector — I connect ideas and people. I am a visionary – I open doors to new opportunities.  I am a mediator — I bring people together. Be prepared to give concrete examples of your strengths.

If you’re not happy with your brand, this is your opportunity to make some changes. Practice describing your value to yourself or your career development partner first and be clear about what you offer that matters to someone.

Check out the social media do’s and don’ts and advice on establishing your brand:

Personal branding 101 ( (blog)

Your Virtual Brand (article)

Dig even deeper and answer the “hard questions” (scroll down to the middle of the post)