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5 Personal Branding Lessons I Learned At The Food Court

Around 11:30 a.m. each weekday I hear papers rustling faster than usual. Laughter ensues.

I can hear the clacking of people walking into the office kitchen. The small refrigerator door opens and closes. The microwave door slams shut and beeps. I smell tomato sauce heating up as the microwave hums.

Soon after I head downstairs and survey the gaggle, the throngs, the crowds of people taking up battle stations in various corners of the food court.

It occurred to me that one can observe these people and learn a few lessons about personal branding from them, as follows:

1. Sushi is a success food. People who pay $6.50 for 4 tiny pieces and another $4.50 for a miniscule container of seaweed salad look classy in their self-restraint and athletic in their pursuit of nutritional nirvana.

2. Coffee is always good to get in terms of your image, but not from the vendors that also sell tacos.

3. Hold a Subway sandwich baggie, lose a bit of dignity as you resemble someone whose mom made them lunch in 5th grade. (If you decide to eat at Subway, sit down at a table rather than carry that baggie around.)

4. No-name vendors can go either way. Some foods appear exotic, like Middle Eastern fare. Others can look a bit cheap if the display is greasy - I've noticed this with Chinese food and Cajun. Whatever you choose, please don't be seen shoveling it in your mouth.

5. Sitting alone in the back of the food court, you will be seen. Sit there with a Wonder Bread sandwich and clementine orange and chips from home, wearing loafers, and you probably aren't part of the inner circle in the executive suite.

Key takeaway: People see you wherever you go. Dress for success, even when you're hungry. Try to eat in groups rather than alone. And watch that the food you eat doesn't end up on your shirt.

Good luck!

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