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Personal Branding Lessons From Sgt. Bergdahl

Five years in captivity changes you. Whether Bergdahl walked away from his duty in Afghanistan into the arms of the Taliban or not, he was unable to return until his release was negotiated. He is now being held at a medical facility and won’t be reunited with his family for weeks.

It takes a lot of support to be brought back into society as a functioning member.

Perhaps you have been in college. Hanging out with friends. Living with your parents. Working a barista gig while writing a novel, playing in a band or otherwise trying your hand at the thing you thought you wanted to do.

It will take a lot of support for you to be incorporated into the workplace.

Recently, a freelancer emailed me to say: “I want you to know I am disappointed.” She feels disappointed with the work my company had paid her to do. And she wanted me to know? Really? Apparently, the work – which she did poorly – wasn’t what she had in mind for her time or talent or whatever vision she has of herself. This is a person who has been through three years of internships, and we are her first paying gig.

What’s the first thing that should occur to you, if you aren’t hired by the company you interned for? What’s the first thing that should occur to you if there’s good work to do, and you’re not getting it?

You were not good enough? You did something wrong? They didn’t like you?

I don’t know. I was hired by the organization that brought me in as an intern. So I only know what it is like to be judged by my work, skills, attitude and the like, when the judgment is positive.

Bergdahl made lots of mistakes, starting with his first deployment. If you read what he said and how he acted, it was clear that he was immature to say the least. According to reports, he was disappointed once he got to war and found out the role he was going to have to play. He did the wrong thing and walked away from duty. He will pay the price.

The analogy may be too dramatic to compare to my freelancer, for sure. But it occurs to me that acting on how you FEEL and letting people know, is WRONG.

Work calls on you to think. To do anything less than hold yourself responsible, is bad for your brand, your career and perhaps something greater than that.