A Student's Guide to Personal Branding
If you're currently taking courses as a freshman or sophomore you may not be thinking of graduation or the job search. But you should be. Crafting your personal brand and establishing your presence online now will benefit you when you do graduate and enter the job market. Waiting until you need a job may be too late. So, what should you do to get started?
First ask yourself some questions and write down the answers. To start with ask yourself:
What do I want to do in my career?
What makes me unique in the career I have chosen?
The hard cold reality these days is that whatever career you choose to go into, thousands of others will be able to do what you do as well or perhaps better. If you're a straight A student that's great! But, so are all the other people who will be interviewing for the job you are interviewing for. In this competitive environment you need to distinguish yourself and show what sets you apart from everyone else.
Here are some important first steps:
1. Learn as much as you can. Not only in your chosen major but learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Read current books relevant to your major but also read about subjects that don't seem relevant but are still important. I have linked to some useful books at the end of this post that should be on your reading list.
2. Make connections. As a result of your learning begin looking for and making connections. Find ways to connect unrelated topics to your major and look for ways to gain insights from these connections.
3. Document this learning. Start a blog. Today! These are free and easy to make using a website such as Blogger or Wordpress. Make posts to your blog on a regular basis. At least 2-3 times a week.
4. Establish your online presence. A majority of recruiters now Google prospective applicants before granting you an interview. If you have a minimal online presence or none at all this could cost you a job before you even get an interview. At a minimum you need to have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Each of these is free to create. Be sure to complete your profile and include a picture. Profiles with pictures generate more traffic and interest than those without.
5. Become active in your networking. Once you establish your online presence it is important to stay active. Join groups on LinkedIn that are relevant to your career path and curate content that is relevant on LinkedIn and Twitter. Follow others on Twitter who are in your field and request connections to professionals you already know in person on LinkedIn.
6. Don't forget your professors. One often overlooked element of networking is the importance of cultivating the professional relationships you already have. One of the most important for you is with your professors. Find out if they have profiles on LinkedIn and ask if they would conenct with you. Many will be happy to do so. Don't forget professors outside your major. An important principle of networking is that you can never tell who might know someone that you might benefit from being connected to.
7. Add value for your connections. A very important principle of networking is to view it as a way of cultivating relationships and providing others with value. Networking is not only about you and what others can do for you. In fact, if you approach it this way you will not be very successful. Instead, ask what you can do for others. How can you help people by connecting with them?