ODKM Students Take Lead in Colorful ‘Personal Branding’ Workshop


On a blustery, gray day in February, 60 people learned how to “color their personal brand.” That was the theme for the Spring 2019 Learning Community, an event that challenges Organization Development and Knowledge Management master’s students to become instructors for a day. Here is ODKM student Katya Davydova’s account of the personal branding session. 

As part of a capstone for the Master’s in Organization Development and Knowledge Management program, my team and I led a full-day workshop at Founders Hall in Arlington to help participants discover how they see themselves and how the world mirrors them back.

So what is personal brand, exactly? The way we termed it, based on an amalgamation of research from authors like Dorie Clark and Hubert Rampersand, is this: “Personal branding is about taking the time to understand our internal and external influences and then living strategically and authentically so that the world sees you in your best light. It’s what other people say about you when you leave the room.”

To satisfy some of the math-inclined folks, we created the following equation to hone it in: Internal Exploration + External Feedback = Personal Brand

With each of our six team members dressed in each color of the rainbow, representing the six subsections of personal branding, this was truly a colorful journey.

The first part of the day focused on “exploring our internal influences”: understanding our values, learning how to show up authentically, and how to discover our purpose in life. This portion culminated in drawing individual and group vision boards (which research posits offer a 42 percent greater likelihood in completing goals), as well as crafting personal brand statements.

After a catered lunch, we invited participants to seek feedback from their crafted “feedback communities.” Clarifying how others see us helps to shape our personal brand so that we can portray a consistent and powerful image. We equipped them with tools of how to ask the appropriate questions in order to extract feedback, and how to navigate the information they would collect from their circle of confidants.

Since feedback is difficult to ask for and even harder to internalize, we encouraged participants to make a commitment to themselves to step outside their comfort zones. After all, our primary goal was to host a space for learning, reflection, and ultimately, action.

A beautiful and novel addition to our workshop was the immensely talented Lauren Green’s graphic facilitation. Throughout the course of the workshop, Lauren visually documented key points that culminated in a stunning spread.

By the end of the eight-hour workshop, participants came away with their completed workbook, action steps to further propagate their self-discovery, and an understanding of how to color their personal brand.

Seven months of diligent work of blood, sweat, and tears later (definitely the last two!), and my team felt immense pride as the final round of applause boomed in the presentation hall. It truly was a job well done, and we were grateful for our participants’ feedback.