How to Reinvent Your Personal Brand After Failure


In the dark days following a failure–whether it is business, career or school—it seems as if the sun will never shine on you again. You feel like the world has forever marked you as a loser and you are doomed to fail.

All of us have faced failure at some point in our lives. Failure by itself is not the end of the road. It is how we deal with it that determines whether our lives move forward or get stuck in a downward spiral.

I have a story of hope and redemption to share with you. This is a BrandingPays success story. If our hero (whom you will soon meet) can make it, so can you.

Meet Tommy

Tommy (a pseudonym) has not had an easy life. When he was young, he moved with a single mom from Japan to the United States where he had to learn English as a second language.  Because of his mother’s job, Tommy moved to a new school every year of his childhood, making it difficult to make friends and feel part of a community.

Flunking Out

He spent his days playing computer games with virtual friends and flunked out of college. After tiring of moving from one fast-food job to another for years, often couch surfing at friends’ homes, he decided enough was enough. He needed to grow up and graduate from minimum-wage jobs. His answer was to get a college degree.

Was it too late?

Tommy took stock of his assets: a high IQ, good SAT scores, bi-lingual communication skills and an aptitude for math and science.

To minimize his checkered past, he needed to fill in the gaps with some forward momentum and evidence of success. He needed to stand out in an area of focus.

He took two years of community college courses to build up his academic resume. While he was a student, he worked as a computer science tutor and as a research assistant to one of the computer science professors.  With every step he took toward his goal, he felt better about himself.

Finding Something Special to Offer the World

Fortuitously, he attended one of my personal branding seminars in New York, got the BrandingPays book, and started applying its principles to reinvent his personal brand. He filled out his positioning statement and brand strategy platform, feeling a new sense of confidence that he had something special to offer the world.

He found an Ivy League university with a special program dedicated to giving a second chance to people with potential. BrandingPays gave him the framework and tools to reshape his narrative to be attractive to this small Ivy League program for older students.

Changing His Narrative

Tommy knew he could come across as a computer-game junkie and pizza-boy slacker who was a big college failure. Instead, he changed the narrative to show that his flunking out of school was not because he was a slacker, but because he never found his place in such a large school.

He attributed his initial college failure to his feeling of complete alienation on a huge state campus. He talked about a dark period in his life where he drifted without purpose. While making pizzas on the West Coast, he became part of a vibrant community of artists and hackers.  He had dabbled in computer programming before, but during this West Coast period, his interest in software development intensified.

Eventually, however, he had to move to New York to work and take care of an ailing mother. Later, when he resumed his studies at the community college, he knew where his talents and passions lay—in helping others through the use of computer technology. Through grant-funded projects with his computer science professor, he developed mobile phone apps to detect bus stops for the blind and video games to teach foreign language in classrooms.

From the Dark to the Light

He got excellent references from his professors and wrote a moving essay on how he had to go through his dark period to find the light and purpose in his life.

The result is that he was accepted into the program of his dreams and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from a great school.

Tommy reinvented his brand from a college failure to a brilliant Ivy League computer scientist with a humanist bent.

Instead of wallowing in negative thoughts that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, Tommy got off the couch, opened the blinds and got some perspective on life. He put the work in to fill the gaps in his resume and, with BrandingPays as a guide, repackaged his strengths and experiences in a brand story that connected with the college of his choice.

Tommy’s story is true. We may not have the perfect childhood and our path to redemption may have many roadblocks, but the lesson is clear: anyone can reinvent their personal brand.


If you’re interested in learning how to build or improve your personal brand and you would like to use a proven framework, read my BrandingPays book in hardcover or ebook (downloaded in less than a minute!).

Follow the #BrandingPays Twitter stream or leave a question or comment for @KarenKang. If you prefer, connect with me on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn.   

Thanks for being part of the BrandingPays community! Feel free to leave a question or comment on this blog. Let me know how I can help you with your personal branding journey.

~Karen Kang



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