Personal branding for students in college: Massively Important.
However, a lot of young people do not recognize what personal branding means to their professional development and career launch. Every student, regardless of their major, must work on creating a personal brand during their time in college. It is the single most important thing you can do to help separate yourself from the competition when you begin your career. If you present yourself in the same ways as hundreds of other students on campus, how will you stand out for an internship or your first professional job?
To help you understand branding strategies, I am excited to welcome Lynnette Cretu to the blog. Lynnette is an accomplished graphic design professional who understands the power of branding. She is exceptional at conceptualizing and creating branding that defines a unique identity! She has successfully assisted clients with personal branding items. Lynnette was kind enough to share one of her favorite articles on the golden rules of developing your own personal brand. We collaborated on some branding pro tips images throughout the blog too!
Benefits to Developing Your Personal Brand
Personal branding lets you develop your very own personal stamp on your name or your career. It is one of your biggest strategic assets. You can use this mark to express and communicate your skills, strengths, personality, personal development, and values. Your brand allows you to cultivate your voice, helps you stand out, and develops your own unique attributes. After all, you want to draw people to you and everything you have to offer.
Note that your brand refers to more than just developing a website and maintaining your LinkedIn profile. It has to do with every action you take, from how you present yourself in an interview to how you write thank-you notes to how you handle social media.
Curious about how personal branding for students all comes together? Check out a recent career-launching student success story where Hunter landed his dream job from a pool of 500 applicants!
How to Develop a Personal Brand for Students
What do you want people to know about you? How do you want them to remember you? Think about these things carefully, then set about developing a brand for yourself. If you are feeling stuck with some of these questions, we are to help!
We use career assessments at Campus to Career Crossroads to help clients know their superpowers and how to incorporate them into personal branding materials.
You can also get some ideas by researching your desired industry and following experts in your field. What do you notice about them? Their hardworking persona? Their savvy creatives? One of our favorite marketing experts and influencers is Neil Patel. He understands the power of personal branding.
Use these guidelines and the following ABCs to grow your online presence and professional network.
Create Personal Branding Pillars
Personal branding for students does not have to overwhelm you. One of the simplest ways to establish your brand is to identify three superpowers you possess. Career assessments can provide the GPS to discover your key interests and attributes. They often have statements that may seem subtle but can include:
- Enjoy persuasive activities and for tasks involving numbers. Most people score high on one or the other.
- Unique blend of people skills, patience working with others, quality control, and attention to details.
Once you have your superpowers identified, now comes the fun part. Create a branding mood board. A mood board can be a collection of numerous visual elements — pictures, colors, fonts — that inspire your brand and help shape what kind of message you put into the world.
You probably see ideas like:
- Social media accounts you follow
- YouTube videos
- LinkedIn profiles for people or companies in your desired industry
- Pictures on Instagram
Save and bookmark all of the content and images that connect with you to help you sort through fonts, colors, and branding materials that fit your brand.
Personal Branding for Students 2023 Trends
Did you know that personal branding followed trends? It does, even for students! It is a good idea to keep up with the latest trends on fonts, colors, logos, and websites. You do not want to look outdated before you start designing your personal brand.
Let us take a look at three trends in 2023.
Personal Branding Paper Rules
Did you know there are ten billion business cards printed monthly? While we live in a digital world and can exchange information through our smartphones, the electronic transfer of information lacks a personal connection. Business cards allow you to remember how and when you connected with a person.
Also, make sure you have branded stationery cards. Mailed thank you cards can set you apart from the competition after job interviews. Employers notice after receiving a thoughtful thank you note in the mail.
Think about the details, such as the paper weight for these cards. It leaves an impression when you hand someone a business card or they receive your card in the mail. Upgrading to a luxury paper will not cost much more and lets people know you take your brand seriously.
QR Codes are Back!
QR codes are the perfect tech-savvy way to direct people to additional information about you. Looking to share your famous YouTube channel, website, blogs, or electronic portfolio? QR codes can easily be designed into the back of a business card, stationery card, or even your LinkedIn background banner image.
Video is King for Personal Branding
Videos are an opportunity to separate your personal brand as the demand to consume videos has not slowed down from 2022. Your iPhone has amazing capabilities to record, edit, and even add captions.
Video marketing can personalize your brand like no other type of marketing. Video will help you foster and deepen relationships. The possibilities for leveraging videos in your personal branding are endless. You can:
- Create an introduction video describing your strengths and job search goals.
- Start a YouTube channel to showcase your professionalism and expertise.
- Create a LinkedIn Cover Story to personalize your LinkedIn profile.
- Create a video to connect or follow up with a hiring manager.
- Make a thank you video.
- Ask a reference to make a video to speak about your character and strengths.
Your video rehearsing will help you fine-tune your elevator pitch and improve your overall messaging to future potential employers.
Developing strong video skills will serve you well — video résumés will be prevalent very soon.
How would you describe your personal brand? Does your personal brand scream, “Put together, polished, and ready to tackle anything?”
Or is it more of a “sweatpants, tousled hair and wrinkled term papers” kind of brand? Remember, your personal brand involves everything that shapes how people view you, including your friends, colleagues, professors, and future employers. Let’s say you wear a wrinkled shirt to every job interview. That would have a negative impact on your brand.
So. Answer honestly. Do you have an appealing personal brand as a student or do you need to work on your appeal just a little more?
B: Business Cards
In addition to bursting at the seams with your logo, your business card should reinforce your brand authority. Think of business cards as another first impression to create opportunities! Do not leave the back of your business card blank — this is prime branding real estate. The back of the business card should always convey a key message or two about your brand.
Let’s say a marketing manager totes around your business card after an interview, then offers it to a hiring manager at another company. Who knows how far that business card can travel?
Another pro tip is to leave a business card with your professors each semester (you are visiting them during office hours, right?).
Your professors are often gatekeepers to internships and professional opportunities. Happy alumni often reach back to a favorite professor to inform them of hiring opportunities before they contact the career services office. The majority of students never connect or take the time to leave a business card with a professor to be top of mind when opportunities arise.
You must build key relationships as part of your brand. Start in college with the alumni office. Wow, is that a great group of people with an enthusiasm for their alma mater! What a great place to start building up your contacts!
Many students do not really know how to build up their network. They feel uncomfortable reaching out to people they do not know and skip attend networking events. You should always continually build up your network, no matter where you are in your career.
Be sure to track your contacts. A Google Doc can work wonders to keep track of all their important details such as phone number, email address, company info, and even a note mentioning where you met them. Be sure to send a thank you and keep in touch regularly with your contacts. This will keep you and your personal brand fresh when leveraging your contacts for internship or job opportunities.
D: Design Elements (of Personal Branding)
You may first think of only tangible elements of personal branding — not a warm handshake and friendly smile. However, the tangible elements also matter.
Your brand will always have tangible elements like your name, logo, colors, and fonts — all of those things you learn in Marketing 101. Think about the colors and design elements you want to use on your website and social networks.
Always be consistent with all branding materials. Consistency will help your personal brand stand out and allow people to feel connected to you and trust you.
E: Email Signature
Do you want to look like a legitimate brand? Make sure you have an email signature at the bottom of your emails. We send and receive hundreds of emails every month, and this is a prime area to message your brand. Professional and brand email signatures provide an eye-popping benefit because they stand out from the crowd. A majority of people miss this golden opportunity and do not have any information in their email signature!
Your email signature helps create brand recognition among your contacts and should conform to your brand guidelines (tagline, colors, fonts, etc.). It will create a professional appearance with all of your contact information clearly displayed and any other key information such as your social media channels, website, or online portfolio.
F: Follow Up
Your personal brand grows when you employ thoughtful follow-up to anything you do. Let’s say your college alumni office does a fantastic job of matching you with an alumnus in your hometown. You send a follow-up thank you letter and email address (with a beautifully branded email signature, of course) to both the alumnus and your college alumni office.
Both individuals get both items, say, “Wow!” and the alumnus automatically hires you at an entry-level position in his company.
Things really can look that easy if you take the time to build your personal brand!
G: Growing Online Presence
What is your online profile look like? Snapchat and a poorly utilized Instagram account? You must beef up your game if you want to attract employers to you. Almost every student has an online presence today, whether you “exist” on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, some other social networking site, or your own blog. Use the technical knowledge you’ve developed to your advantage! As always, you want to project a positive self-image whenever you grow your online presence.
It takes time to build an online presence but be patient and keep posting. The long-term benefits are invaluable. Social media consumption is not slowing down. More users across all social media platforms love and engage with video — another great reason to get comfortable with recording videos on your smartphone! TikTok gains eight new users every second, according to Hootsuite’s Digital 2022 Global Report.
H: Hired Designer Through Campus to Career Crossroads
Doing your own branding is not for everyone and takes a special skill set. If you miss the mark and look the same as everyone else, what is the point? Have you ever compared a poorly designed website to a website designed by a professional? What outcome do you want your branding to convey?
Campus to Career Crossroads partners with Lynnette to ensure our clients stand out in every aspect of their branding. When we craft résumé and LinkedIn messaging and Lynnette blends that messaging into résumé and cover letter designs, email signatures, professional taglines, LinkedIn banner images, and thank you cards, it is a game-changer. Your brand is worth a professional designer and never settle for “do it yourself” branding.
Always, always do your best to develop your personal brand within the context of an internship in college. Internships offer a great time and place to start growing your personal brand. Show up, work hard, and portray yourself as an eager learner to get your foot in the door at that job location. Who knows? That internship might end up providing you with your first entry-level job.
If you need a few more tips to land an internship, check out these twelve steps to secure your dream internship.
J: Job Interviews
Practice, practice, practice! One of the perfect times to inject your personal brand into an interview occurs during some of the most common interview questions:
- Can you tell me about yourself?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What’s your greatest achievement?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What are you passionate about?
- What do the words “successful career” mean to you?
Your personal brand enables you to stand out from other candidates, showcases your skillset, and ultimately (hopefully) helps you nail the job.
K: Killer LinkedIn About Section
Put some time and effort into your LinkedIn “About” section formerly known as the summary. What is this? It is the text box at the top of your LinkedIn profile, just below your photo. It is an open-ended space (2,600 characters max) where you give an overview of your professional life.
You get to define yourself in your own words without confining start dates and titles that your résumé requires. You can use it to highlight your biggest achievements or show off your personality. No other profile section gives you quite the same brand real estate.
Notice I mentioned LinkedIn twice? No accident there! You absolutely must optimize your LinkedIn profile. Add a professional headshot, fill in your employment history and build your profile up to 500+ connections. Look at well-branded individuals’ LinkedIn profiles and you will see a very well-crafted LinkedIn profile. Use those as a model!
If you are looking for more one-on-one help, our career expertise will provide you with a behind-the-scenes understanding of how recruiters search for candidates. We can help you optimize your profile to be found in the world’s largest career database.
M: Make a LinkedIn Background Banner Image
Your LinkedIn background banner image, the important area behind your headshot, should coordinate with all of your branding efforts. Can you believe that this area sets the professional tone for your profile? It does! You never get a second chance to make a good first impression! Looking for an outstanding example? Please checkout Lynnette’s background banner image.
One insider’s tip: Have you noticed the bell on the right side below the banner image? This is a new LinkedIn feature rolled out for 2022 called “Ring My Bell.” Clicking on a dark gray bell means you will receive all post notifications from a connection or someone you may follow. A white bell means you will only see top posts from a connection or someone you may follow if the LinkedIn algorithm feels it is relative to your news feed. This feature will allow you to gain more control of your news feed.
You can build your personal brand with networking. Creating trusted interpersonal connections can help support your brand. When you meet others with a firm handshake, a great conversation and a perfect business card, that leaves an impression — no matter how much time occurs between the handshake and “Let’s meet after coffee next Thursday.”
Always go out of your way to network, no matter where you are — at a young person’s professional development organization, at an alumni gathering, with your dad’s business associates, or at a wedding. Think about making a favorable impression wherever you go.
Networking is the most effective way to land an internship or a professional opportunity. As we track where clients secure internships or career opportunities, the overwhelming majority comes from networking. While applying to online job posting seems like the easiest route, it is not. Many online job postings receive hundreds of applicants. Networking can connect you with opportunities that never get posted, often called the “hidden job market.”
O: Own Your Logo
You want your logo to reflect you. Where should you put your logo? On your cover letter, résumé, business cards, email signature, personal website — everywhere you can! You want to brand yourself and make sure it reflects your overall personality and professionalism.
P: Podcasts (or Other Methods)
Students can benefit from sharing their thoughts via podcasts, media articles, or polished, professional Instagram feeds. Focus on your long-term goals and then reverse-engineer a plan for how to get there. For example, let’s say you plan to get a job as a coach. You will take videos of you coaching other students, coaching your sister’s junior high basketball team and more. Then, put everything on social media or even create a coaching podcast.
For example, let’s say you plan to get a job as a coach. You will take videos of coaching other students, coaching your sister’s junior high basketball team, and more. Then, put everything on social media or even create a coaching podcast.
Q: Quick Responses
When someone emails you, how quickly do you respond? For example, let’s say someone emails you for a first-round job interview. Do you whip up a (carefully crafted) email and send it off in a jiffy? Or do you take a couple of days to think about it, then rewrite the email six times and then send it back — three days later?
Remember, you create your personal brand when you respond to people as well. Part of your personal brand revolves around how well you tailor your responses, messages and a lot has to do with your response time!
You bet your résumé has a lot to do with your personal brand. From your own little logo at the top to the way you carefully express yourself, your résumé should carry your brand. In fact, you cannot understate the value of getting your résumé picture perfect. Many job seekers botch their résumés, complete with misspelled words, misused punctuation, and terrible grammar. Chuck passive voice to the wind, delete the section about your star eighth-grade performance in “Sleeping Beauty” and focus on what drives you, what motivates you, and what makes you the perfect candidate for a particular company.
When you incorporate personal branding elements into your résumé, be sure all of the text fits into the standard margins sizes of a Microsoft Word document. Placing information in the header, footer, and outside of the standard margin ranges is not often read by a majority of applicant tracking systems (ATS) in the hiring world. I have seen many applicants placing their contact information in the header area.
Please make sure you take out “references upon request” from your résumé. This phrase can quickly make you look outdated to a recruiter or hiring manager because it is understood that you will provide references when asked. Every line of your résumé is sacred real estate that should explain why you are the best candidate for a position.
And for heaven’s sake, tailor your résumé specifically for every company.
S: Social Media
Wipe your TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook accounts clean of any incriminating photos. Even if you can drink legally, you should avoid photos with alcohol. Period. Get rid of anything in your past that your future prospective boss might deem “unemployable material.” Also, delete anything with terrible grammar.
Delete anything questionable, including messages from others that might mar your professional image.
You should be sharing social media content that fits your brand voice. Yes, I know posting on social media can be intimidating at first, but the benefits are huge. You have an opportunity to interact with your online community and craft your brand narrative. Even the comments you leave on posts can project your professionalism and personality.
T: Thank You Notes and Emails
Thank you notes put a final stamp on your personal brand after you complete an in-person interview or even a phone interview. You want to send a thank-you email right after the interview and follow it up with a thank you note.
My advice? Start drafting your follow-up as soon as humanly possible to write an amazing interview thank you note. It does not have to be long, but it should reference things that stood out to you in the interview.
Hi [Interviewer Name],
Thank you so much for talking with me today. I really enjoyed learning more about the team and position. I would enjoy the opportunity to join [Company Name]’s team and help you [sell widgets/write exceptional content/whatever else].
I look forward to hearing from you about the next steps in the hiring process. Please let me know if I can offer additional information.
All the best,
U: Unbelievable Cover Letters
Even if a job posting does not specifically ask for a cover letter, should you send one?
Absolutely! Your cover letters should look and sound professional, should convey exactly why you believe you’re the best person for the job and also offer a contact section, a salutation, the hiring manager’s name, information on why you are qualified for the job, a closing, and your signature. You want to smash your brand home with this message.
V: Very Polished
You want all of this — all of it — to look extremely polished and professional. Goes without saying, right? However, if your overall brand looks sloppy, employers will think of you as just that — a sloppy person.
Ensure your photos and logos are high resolution, your copy looks sharp, and your posts are thought-provoking, relevant, and positive.
Sure, you can develop a website. Why not? Now is the time! Your website is the tool that will advance your brand and by default, your career. Your website offers one of the best ways to continually ramp up your personal brand. Plus, you can continually change your website all the time — it is the internet. It is flexible!
(E)Xamine Your Zest:
I know, I am really reaching for X, Y, and Z! However, it begs the question — how much do you show spirited enjoyment or excitement in everything you do? Your brand should show ebullient characteristics. (And it does not hurt to have a great vocabulary, either.)
Remember to remain positive in your posts, LinkedIn, social media profiles, and more. You are trying to “up” your brand, not constantly bemoaning the state of the economy, your dislike of the government, or your complaints about your alma mater. You could derail your brand quickly if you do that.
Is Your Personal Brand Up to Par?
Branding offers you numerous opportunities to standout and Campus to Career Crossroads can get you there. Every student should work on a personal brand in college, then continue to hone that brand over the course of your career. It is one of the most impactful things you can do to ensure your future success!
Campus to Career Crossroads is proud to partner with Lynnette Cretu to ensure your personal brand is exceptional and coordinates with our résumé and LinkedIn profile writing services. Do not put your brand off another day and contact Campus to Career Crossroads today!
What is a benefit of a personal brand as a student?
Building a personal brand as an undergraduate student helps you market yourself, build on your skillset, and experience to make you a stronger candidate in the job market. You need to stand out to employers. Once you have your brand established it is easy to enhance as your career evolves.
How do you define your personal brand?
One great way to get started: Ask around! Ask your friends, parents, and professors what words come to mind when they think of you. Then, start to weave those positive characteristics into your personal tagline. Continue to hone those and add more positive attributes over time. Tackling branding alone can be daunting, so we are here to help!
Can I update my personal branding?
Absolutely! You do not have to perfect everything about your brand right away. It will evolve as you hone your messaging. You can update your personal branding as you advance from internships throughout professional positions.
Where can I find personal branding examples?
Great question! One of the best ways to shape your personal brand is to look at other examples. Check out this helpful resource that showcases eighteen personal brands that stand out from the crowd. You may be able to get inspiration from the wording, design layouts, taglines, social media posts, and brand colors.
What is an example of personal branding for students?
One easy example of personal branding involves cultivating your LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile summarizes your experiences, including your internship, jobs, career aspirations, clubs and activities in college, professional organizations, and more. In other words, it offers a comprehensive overview of you.