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Every Saturday I salute someone or a group that deserves a little extra attention for his or her good deeds, achievements, creative solutions, witty comments or meaningful acts of customer love.

This week my hat goes off to the fall graduating class at American Intercontinental University and their families. American Intercontinental University is a global learning institution with campuses across the United States, in London England and an award-winning* Virtual Campus called AIU Online.

I was the commencement speaker today addressing over 200 grads, 1300 + university professors, staff and friends and family at the graduation celebration in Chicago.

Held at the Pier, surrounded by Lake Michigan, it was a picture perfect day to celebrate such a meaningful and huge milestone for the grads and their families.

Many of the students have held full time jobs and run businesses while getting their degrees. The class was diverse, it was made up of all ages and all ethnic groups with a common goal of bettering themselves with a solid education. They traveled from around the US and world to celebrate their newly earned degrees.

They all inspired me! (The grads, the professors, the staff, the alumni and the families)
To see and feel such love for life, learning and the dedication to catch dreams was a wonderful occasion.

As promised, here are the words I shared. A taped version of this commencement address will post on AIU’s  Youtube channel soon. I will share the link once I get it. Until then, here is my notes. Pardon any typos, I’m running out the door 😉

At 22 I started my first company. I made lots of money. I had fun. This went on for nearly 20 years. I was unstoppable.

At 39 I led a company that failed. I lost lots of money and my confidence. I was devastated.

At 42 I found my first gray hair in my head. I was freaked out.

At 43 I discovered hair color. And I was happy again.

Life is colorful, crazy, and challenging.
Life is wonderful and a rewarding journey.

We will all face windy & scary paths, with unexpected potholes.
We will experience great joy too!

Like today, as we celebrate your graduation, your passage onto a new and exciting road—full of dreams and opportunities.

So as you step into this new journey,
Who will you be?
And what will your brand stand for?

Will you be a courageous leader of a big company?
Will you express yourself and be a rule-breaking artist or a passionate writer?
Or will you be an entrepreneur and start your own business?

Whoever you want to be, you can be. IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE.
Look at Lady GaGa, Oprah Winfrey or Steve Jobs. They are all successful. They are all super brands.
And they all know success is more than an education and even talent.
Success requires a mindset that personal BRANDS matter.

Your personal brand is the sum of all you do.
It is your reputation, your identity and your image—that is captured in the minds of your market, your peers, your clients, your employers, people you know, people you don’t.

Your brand is: what the market thinks about you, feels about you and expects from you.
You are a brand – just like a product on a self that wants to get selected over another.
You are a brand- just like a company that buyers are attracted too.

The marketplace is competitive. You must stand out and stand for something.
I know first hand personal branding works. It can be the difference in getting something you want or being passed up.

I told you about a dip in my career 11 years ago. When I had to shut down a company, and lay people off.
My identity was shattered. I felt like I was in a dark hole with no way out.

In June of 2000, I committed to developing my personal brand. I started with a plan and clear goals.

I said to myself, Karen Post, “I will be an international branding authority. I will travel the world, speak, consult and write books. My nickname will be The Branding Diva. I will be high-energy and bold. My signature colors will be red and black and I will be a non-conventional thought-leader”.

My brand has helped me live my dream.
This past year, I even made history. I was the first woman ever to be invited to address the Saudi Arabian Airline in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. After my presentation I asked the meeting planner, “Why did you select me over all of the other branding speakers in the world?”

He replied, “It was your bold brand. We wanted someone who’d rattled our thinking and was high-energy. When we visited your website and saw the name The Branding Diva, we knew you were the one.”

While the formula sounds simple, building a brand takes work, discipline and understanding these key points:

The dress rehearsal is over.
We are all on stage everyday competing with others for the same job, the same promotion, that same piece of business, often we get only one chance to win.

We are judged.
From how we look, to how we speak, to how we shake hands, to how we perform. Everything we do matters, like what we put on our Facebook pages to who we associate with.

Failure and rejection are both Just temporary events.
The road to success is paved with failures and rejection. Successful people take the hit and then shake it off, and get back to stuff they can control.

To build a personal brand
1) You must believe in YOU, exude confidence, stand tall–be an authority in your chosen field. IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE

2) You must know your target market and package yourself consistently, so you are relevant and appropriate. IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE.

3) You must know your competition and position yourself so you stand out. IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE.

4) You must show up and ask for what you want. IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE.

and finally, when you earn your fruit, give back, mentor someone, contribute to a scholarship fund, keep dreams alive, so you can tell a new student, IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE.

There are no limits to your success. Your personal brand counts. Go enjoy your new journey.

IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE! Congratulations to all!

In closing, a special shout out to just some of my new friends: Sergeant Angela Mitchell, Erica J. Reese, Dr. Phylis Gooden, Jennifer and Grover Iverson, Syerita Lockes-Turner, Carol Garner, Omari Martin, Tricia Sigler, Todd Frugia and team, President Tober and a sincere thank you to Amy Crocker with Five Star Speakers Bureau. And what a small world, I even ran into a friend from Tampa, Renauld, Erica’s Uncle!