We all have undoubtedly come across the buzz surrounding the so called “power of brands” or how they are a tremendously lucrative asset for a company. Yet not only companies can obtain profits from efficient branding. Students, such as ourselves, can also tap into it with the use of personal branding.
Personal brands set us apart and make us stand out from other people. A strong personal brand, therefore, can tell others, who we are and what we can offer. Moreover they can even influence the way we are perceived; significantly increasing our chances of professional success.
Now it’s your turn to embrace this power and use it actively in your favor. Here are some tips we have picked up from personal experience to help you craft your very own brand while still in college.
Define your Career and Life Goals
Even though it is quite simple, people often struggle on this task. The problem is that most cultures, especially in western countries, the main concern is about having enough money to pay for a decent lifestyle. The results of these choices are bad. Deloitte’s Shift Index shows that almost 80% of the employees in the USA are dissatisfied with their jobs (Shontell, 2010).
Fortunately, this is not a lifetime decision. You can have different activities and also professions during your career. If you love the sea, find a summer (or any temporary/part-time) job related to that to see how you feel before beginning a major in Oceanography. If you enjoy writing, ask your local newspaper if you could do some extra work to get a taste for the industry, before starting a journalism course. It’s about dipping your feet in the water. There’s little risk of failure, and it is a great way of finding your true (career) love.
It is important for you to focus on yourself instead of waiting on opportunities or things to turn up at your doorstep. List your strengths, traits and values, what gives you good sensations and makes you enthusiastic, and follow them. This is extremely important since you will be creating your brand based on these qualities and interests.
Build your Portfolio Aligned With your Goal
“Actions speak louder than words!” This expression could not be truer for brands; especially personal brands. The things you do in college and the activities you participate in will start defining the brand you are creating for yourself, since all these actions will become the foundations for your future corporate brand and will begin to affect people’s perception of you.
The projects and initiatives that you become involved in should be related as much as possible to your professional goal, as this will strengthen the message you want to convey in your brand. These are some examples of activities you can start doing to construct a strong portfolio:
- Attend to conferences, courses, events and seminars.
- Keep certificates from all your courses, seminars, etc.
- Get involved in relevant activities in your community.
- Volunteer in socially relevant topics that you are passionate about.
- Build a blog in your area to share what you learn.
- Collect testimonials and recommendation letters from people.
- Build contacts and forge friendships with people you make along the way.
- Offer free professional help to local businesses…
- …better yet, start your own business!
Don’t Forget your Online Presence
Social media and the Internet are amazing tools to build and enhance your personal brand. They offer a platform to showcase what you love doing, your skills, and more importantly, who you are. It is in fact where employees often look for and evaluate possible candidates. An article from Adweek even tells us that “92 percent of companies use platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for recruitment” (Bennett, 2013).
It is now more important than ever to take your online profiles to another level. First you need to carefully check your current social media accounts for any photos or comments that might give off a bad impression to potential employers and other people. After you have cleared all questionable content, you can go on to create a more meaningful one. You should upload pictures and articles of professional events you’ve attended and achievements that you have obtained.
Also sharing news and posts related to your field of expertise or joining social networks that are very specific to your career will show your interest and knowledge of your field. Additionally, don’t forget to update and manage your LinkedIn account, since this is the most important network for employers.
Having an immaculate profile can help, but don’t let it be too serious. People also want to know who you are beyond your achievements and professional skills. Use social networks to show your subjective competences like responsibility, resilience, compassion, leadership and so on. The market is starving for real nice people, not lousy fakes.
Avoid Unnecessary Mistakes
Strong and long-lasting personal brands require lots of care and effort, and parallel to commercial brands, they can truly suffer from seemingly small mistakes. Movie stars, politicians, and singers are people whose personal brands are so strong that they are regarded commercial. We know just how much their image can be affected by ill-judged statements, scandalous pictures of themselves, and conspicuous activities they engage in.
Think about your brand the same way. Everything you say and do influences the way people think about you, so do your best to avoid words and actions that might set you back on your efforts to design a valuable personal brand.
However, there are times when we all have to take risks to accomplish our new goal. If you are unsure of the weight of the risk, just ask yourself: in a year from now, will I be glad or regret having tried this activity?
Learn to Love your Career
You can learn to love your particular field of studies by staying updated with the new trends, discovering the different activities and possibilities that it encompasses, and by actively applying the knowledge you gain in your studies through internships and related work. At the end of the day this is the most important advice to create a solid brand.
Only loving what you do and really believing in it will allow you to stand out among others, to become the best in it, and to create a brand around it.
Feel free to peruse the sources below for more advice.
Bennett, S. (2013). 92% of Companies Use Social Media for Recuitment., Adweek, US.
Shontell, A. (2010). 80% Hate Their Jobs — But Should You Choose A Passion Or A Paycheck? Business Insider, US.