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Career Branding for College Students

Delphia Debra
Dec 11, 2020 5:20:21 PM

What comes to your mind when you hear the word "brand"?

I'm guessing large companies. Nike encourages individuals, regardless of physical fitness level, gender, or age, to "Just Do It."

Likewise, Apple challenges the world to "Think Different."

Over the years, these familiar slogans have metamorphosed into rallying cries, in turn, affecting how each company identifies itself and communicates in the market.

career branding

In a few words, these slogans narrate a story and have influenced how the world perceives the organizations behind them.

Branding is what organizations stand for. It's reflected in its actions, service to people, and its core values, including how it projects these values. A strong brand distinguishes itself from competitors.

However, branding isn't only for companies or large corporations. Individual professionals and college students have their stories to tell, even with no professional experience.

As the world continuously moves deeper into the digital era, a personal brand isn't just a nice-to-have; it's expected.

Wouldn't it be nice to specifically target your desired career?

This is where career branding can help.

Why Career Branding Matters

Career branding will help you identify and communicate your unique strengths to distinguish yourself from your peers; hence, standing out in a competitive job market.

Additionally, creating and managing your career brand ensures you remain focused on your personal goals to grow your preferred personality and achieve your specific objectives.

It's relatively easy to engage in activities that don't align with your goals if there isn't any vision for yourself.

Every college student should understand that building a career brand is an ongoing, life-long process that begins as early as your first year.

From your first day, you've already started making impressions on your fellow students and your professors; therefore, you ought to approach it strategically rather than reflexively.

Creating a brand now and building it as you grow changes the way people within your network view and perceive you. This increases the tendency of being associated with positive qualities by anyone, including your peers, professors, and potential employers.

manage your online reputation

What's a Personal Brand?

According to Dr. Sean Gresh, a faculty member in Northeastern's Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication program:

Personal brands are similar to corporate brands in many ways. It's your identity (who you are, the things you stand for, your values, and how you express them). Just as an organization's brand helps communicate its values to customers and distinguish it from the competition, your brand helps communicate your unique identity and clear values to the world.

A personal brand statement is your story. It plays an essential role in building or boosting your career.

Personal brands should emphasize strengths, establish a reputation, and build trust while communicating the unique qualities that you offer your desired industry. This signals to employers whether or not you'll be an ideal fit for a vacant role.

Numerous hiring managers have reported that a job candidate's personal brand is a significant determinant in hiring decisions.

Tips for Developing Your Career Brand

Building a career brand might seem daunting, particularly for college students; however, you can build credibility in your career with these incremental personal brand steps:

Establish Yourself

Figuring out who you are is the first step in building a brand that accurately reflects your personality. Be introspective. Come up with a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Find out:

  • What areas do you excel most?
  • What motivates me?
  • What characteristics do people consistently compliment you on?
  • Which projects can you spend hours on without getting tired or feeling overwhelmed, and which projects seem to drain your energy?

It's normal to struggle to get answers to these questions. You can ask family, friends, and peers to help identify you.

Once you've identified who you are, you'll now have to determine what you want others to know you for. Always keep in mind that your personal brand isn't just a reflection of your today's personality; it's a roadmap to where you're going.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to the career you wish to build.

This helps you discover the skill and traits that make you unique while highlight areas in need of improvement or where you need to acquire new knowledge.

Furthermore, forecasting your expectation in (x) years and the attributes you want to be associated with can help you better design the steps needed to get there.

Research Your Desired Career and Follow the Experts

As you establish your personal brand in your desired industry, begin to compile research on professionals in these roles.

Identify the thought leaders in your field of interest and follow them. However, don't stop here – go online and check if they have personal portfolio websites, personal blogs, or even where they contribute their knowledge. Check for the successful individuals and study what they're doing.

Imitate them and try to get better. Remember that when developing a personal brand, you aim to be unique and stand out. However, you can't reach the top without observing who's already there.

Additionally, don't be afraid to ask for informational interviews by reaching out to the industry leaders you admire.

This might be only a few minutes, but they're valuable. From this, you get to learn a few things about what it takes to excel in your chosen career. You also get the opportunity to build your brand by sharing a bit of yourself in such dialogues.

The idea here is to make an impression as this professional can be a future employer or mentor. You want him or her to think of you when they envision the ideal candidate to fill an opening.

Prepare an Elevator Pitch

Craft a 30 – 60 seconds story about yourself. This makes it easy for you to describe what you are all about briefly. It comes in handy at network events, informal parties, seminars, etc. Keep it brief and just focus on some key points.

 

Embrace Networking

Cultivating an ideal personal brand means networking regularly and effectively to help you nurture and grow your professional circle. Link up with peers and industry leaders by attending informal and formal networking events.

Making more connections and offering more value in your interactions increases your personal brand's likelihood of being recognized.

Statistically, 85% of jobs are filled via networking, so regularly going to these events helps develop your brand and potentially advance your career.

Remember that you can reach out to fellow attendees via LinkedIn or email to spark a conversation if you didn't get the chance to connect and interact at the event.

Grow Your Online Presence

According to Yariv Alpher, executive director of research at Kaplan Test Prep:

Social media can provide a more authentic and holistic view of applicants beyond the polished applications.

Engaging your peers and potential hiring managers with a captivating online presence is an essential aspect of personal branding.

Your online presence is bound to differ across the many available social media platforms as they all come with their unique tools. However, ensure your story matches across all platforms.

If you discover where you'll likely find your target audience, you can devote more effort to telling your story better there.

Below are some platform-specific tips to assist you in effectively developing your personal brand online presence:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the number one professional social media tool and the ultimate website for defining your brand. You can best leverage this platform by participating in groups, asking for recommendations or offering some, and making introductions with people that interest you. Some tips to effectively craft a stellar LinkedIn summary include:

  • Focus on crucial industry skills
  • Quantify your accomplishments.
  • Complete your profile
  • Use a professional photo

Twitter

You can include your personal branding in your Twitter bio by utilizing hashtags focused on your niche.

You can also follow your industry leaders and retweet top industry stories. Always remember, what you tweet is a significant part of your online image.

Portfolio or Personal Website

Suppose you're in the design or marketing field; in that case, it's very crucial to have a portfolio or personal website that helps visually highlight your work and provides critical information about who you are.

Explore:

  • WordPress
  • Wix
  • Squarespace

You can use these platforms to start your personal website.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that your career brand isn't restricted online. Your brand is you.

It's how you compose yourself at home, school, events, and on your daily commute. Take every opportunity you get to work and connect with other people, volunteer for projects, and affirm yourself as a leader, provided it reflects the brand you wish to build.

 

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