Personal branding for students in college: Massively Important.
However, a lot of students do not recognize what personal branding means to their 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 a step further, 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 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, personality, 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.
How to Develop Your Personal Brand
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. You can 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? Use these guidelines and the following ABCs to grow your online presence.
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 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 own personal logo, your business card should look like a tiny extension of your brand. Think of business cards as a miniature résumé. Your business cards may create opportunities! Let’s say a marketing manager totes around your business card after an interview, then offers it up to another employee at a better company. Who knows how far that business card can travel?
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 don’t really know how to build up their network. They feel uncomfortable reaching out to people they don’t know and don’t attend networking events. You should always continually build up your network, no matter where you are in your career.
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.
E: Email Signature
You want to look like a legitimate brand? Make sure you have an email signature at the bottom of your emails. We send hundreds over the course of a month and this is a prime area to message your brand. Your email signature helps create brand recognition among your contacts and should conform to your brand guidelines.
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’s 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.
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 I 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’s 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.
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?
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’s the text box at the top of your LinkedIn profile, just below your photo. It’s an open-ended space (2,000 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’ll see a very well-crafted LinkedIn profile. Use those as a model!
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.
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.”
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, 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’ll 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.
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.
And for heaven’s sake, tailor your résumé specifically for every company.
S: Social Media
Wipe your Facebook and Instagram 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.
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.
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.
Sure, you can develop a website. Why not? Now’s 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’s the internet. It’s flexible!
(E)Xamine Your Zest:
I know, I’m 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 doesn’t hurt to have a great vocabulary, either.)
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. Don’t put your brand off another day and contact Campus to Career Crossroads today!
Q: What is a benefit of a personal brand as a student?
A: 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.
Q: 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. Don’t fret as tacking branding alone can be daunting and we are here to help!