[04.22.10]
26 great comments!

Personal Branding: Find Your Inner Dirtbag

It’s not every day that you get to feature a guest post written by a Pulitzer prize winning journalist.  How could I resist?

Peggy Lowe has worked at The Orange County Register since 2005 covering politics, immigration and courts. Work is her third blog for the Register and is dedicated to telling multimedia stories about jobs and joblessness in the Great Recession. Lowe was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan in 2008-2009. She lives in Long Beach, Calif.

dirtbag, personal branding, career

What’s in a name?

In these days of high unemployment, a great deal. The many experts out there trying to help jobseekers, including my host, Tim Tyrell-Smith, constantly urge folks to create a personal brand. Put old-school, it’s called making a name for yourself.

They are right, of course. It’s important to, as Ryan Rancatore told Tim, match “your inner qualities, strengths and passions with your outward, visible persona.”

So why in heaven’s name would anyone brand themselves a “ninja?”

The Wall Street Journal reports that “ninja” is replacing “guru” as the hot new job title. Apparently, computer programmers who are trying to distinguish themselves from all the other geeks sitting in cubicles across the country are touting their application of the “sly skills of the feudal Japanese warriors to writing software.”

I’m sorry, but if a resume came across my desk with the term “ninja” on it I would toss it to the trash as fast as one of those would-be warriors using a throwing star. The term “ninja”conjures a vision of my little brother in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas.

I thought the point is to be original, to set yourself apart from the thousands of people who want that job. I ran my theory by Catherine Kaputa, a personal brand strategist and author of two branding books. She agreed with me and said the key to personal branding is authenticity.

“The way to do well in business is not to run with the herd,” she said. “The two cardinal rules of branding are ‘be different’ and ‘be authentic.’ When you latch onto the buzz word of the moment like ‘ninja’ to describe yourself professionally, you brand yourself as an imitator, a B-player who hops onto the latest trend.”

So how to make yourself into an A-player? Be a Dirtbag.

Dirtbag lore goes like this: It was 1989 and Coach Dave Snow hired on as head baseball coach at Long Beach State. To creatively say Snow had a big job in front of him would force me to use 100 sports cliches. The team had a 14-45 record the previous year, had a bunch of new players and played without the benefit of a home field, splitting their season across three local ballparks.

Not only did these kids not enjoy a home field advantage, the infield guys were forced to practice on a nearby all-dirt Pony League. This is where the dirt comes in. After a hard day at practice and returning to the campus practice field, the infielders were teased and called “dirtbags.”

I don’t need to play the soundtrack that always goes with those come-from-behind sports movies, but that’s the kind of story this is. This scrappy, ragtag group of kids adopted what could have been a pejorative — dirtbags — and made it into capital D Dirtbags. And they created a legend at a school with a laid-back name. (Fans yell “Go Beach!”)

The Dirtbags finished the 1989 season 50-15 overall, which is still a school record, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for their first appearance at the College World Series. Since then, the program has become a West Coast powerhouse, with four College World Series appearances, 18 regional playoff berths and 28 players sent to the major leagues.

They also created a killer personal brand. To be a Dirtbag meant that no matter the tough circumstances, you play to win. It meant that you might not be the most talented player out there, but you will give 100 percent and go home dirty and proud. To go back to old-school speak, you play with a lot of heart.

Steve Tinoco, the Dirtbag’s current first baseman, is from Coto de Caza and grew up knowing the legend. I asked him for the definition Wednesday night, following his team’s stunning 16-4 win over No. 5 UCLA.

“It means you go out every single day and give it your all, leaving it all on the field,” he said, “being the dirtiest guy on the field and having fun. Having fun beating all the other teams.”

“We’re going to be reckless and abandoned on the field, but respectful off the field. We’re going to beat the other team, having that chip on our shoulders.”

My advice on this personal branding business? Dream up a name or image that best represents who you are. I’m not suggesting you put that on a resume — I might still toss one that uses a sports, warrior or guru metaphor. But use that name as your guiding force, your mind’s eye vision of you. Then own it, and wear that name as a badge of honor.

So get out there, dig deep and find your inner Dirtbag.

dirtbag, personal branding, career

You can read my guest post at Peggy’s blog by clicking here: The Long And Winding Road – When Job Search Lasts Over A Year

Photo Credit, Hit Bull, win steak


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
Tags: | | | |
Categories: Personal Branding
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  • I’ve watched too many cop shows on television to call myself a dirtbag… I do, however, call myself a kick-ass technical writer.

  • I’ve watched too many cop shows on television to call myself a dirtbag… I do, however, call myself a kick-ass technical writer.

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  • Get real – This “advice” is almost as asinine as the CareerBuilder piece wherein the writer told job seekers that using “To Whom It May Concern” on cover letters was questionable and bad. This personal branding nonsense is more of the same fluff. All form, no substance.

  • Get real – This “advice” is almost as asinine as the CareerBuilder piece wherein the writer told job seekers that using “To Whom It May Concern” on cover letters was questionable and bad. This personal branding nonsense is more of the same fluff. All form, no substance.

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  • Rolph Admundensen

    I’ve read hundreds of resumes and interviewed almost as many folks. If someone told me they were a “guru” or “goto guy/gal”, I’d focus hard on that area 1) to see if they could measure up to what those terms inferred and 2) because I didn’t want to hear that kind of chest thumping.

    I’ve found that folks that tag themselves like that tend to have more ego that you’ll have to deal with later (or a lack of skills that tick me off). I’ve taken a couple of leaps with folks that didn’t sell themselves well but measured up well during a technical interview. They were my best hires. They had a lot of humility and could do all the work of a guru. It’s shown to me that content and authenticity (old school) are more important.

  • Rolph Admundensen

    I’ve read hundreds of resumes and interviewed almost as many folks. If someone told me they were a “guru” or “goto guy/gal”, I’d focus hard on that area 1) to see if they could measure up to what those terms inferred and 2) because I didn’t want to hear that kind of chest thumping.

    I’ve found that folks that tag themselves like that tend to have more ego that you’ll have to deal with later (or a lack of skills that tick me off). I’ve taken a couple of leaps with folks that didn’t sell themselves well but measured up well during a technical interview. They were my best hires. They had a lot of humility and could do all the work of a guru. It’s shown to me that content and authenticity (old school) are more important.

  • Peggy – Very interesting article! Your unique viewpoint was illustrated beautifully by the story of the Dirtbags. I think this world needs a few more dirtbags and a few less gurus, ninjas, and wizards. Nice work.

  • Peggy – Very interesting article! Your unique viewpoint was illustrated beautifully by the story of the Dirtbags. I think this world needs a few more dirtbags and a few less gurus, ninjas, and wizards. Nice work.

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  • Thanks everyone for the great comments on Peggy’s guest post. Love to hear your ideas as always!

  • Thanks everyone for the great comments on Peggy’s guest post. Love to hear your ideas as always!

  • Raquel Figlo

    I really enjoyed this article. It is only meant to be positive. Readers shouldn’t focus on the words “guru” “Ninja” and focus on the message. Man up, own who you are, who you represent and do your best.

    In the economy as it is some people do need articles like this to give them a boost of confidence, encouragement and FOCUS!
    If branding yourself helps you focus, then you are ahead of the game!

  • Raquel Figlo

    I really enjoyed this article. It is only meant to be positive. Readers shouldn’t focus on the words “guru” “Ninja” and focus on the message. Man up, own who you are, who you represent and do your best.

    In the economy as it is some people do need articles like this to give them a boost of confidence, encouragement and FOCUS!
    If branding yourself helps you focus, then you are ahead of the game!

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