Personal Branding while in College

College is a time of excitement. There’s always new people to meet, activities to partake in (both on and off campus), and time to rest and relax. According to a study in 2003 (before the time of Facebook and Twitter), college students studied for an average of 27 hours per week. While this number varies from person to person, college students typically have quite a bit of free time. The question is: How are you spending your free time?

Many students have the impression that a great job is going to fall out of the sky, when really that is far from the truth. According to the Bureau of Labor, the unemployment rate is 9%, and is lowered to 5% upon graduation with a 4 year degree. Personally, I would prefer to work at a place that I enjoy; a place where I feel like my opinion is valued and considered. If you have the same desire as I do, you must set yourself apart from your peers. You must create a personal brand.

What is Personal Branding?

Personal Branding is the way you market yourself to the world, both personally and professionally. Imagine yourself as a brand; what makes you different from your friends? Why should someone hire you? What knowledge and experience can you bring to the table?

Imagine everything you look for in a product; it needs to be unique, fun, worthwhile, valuable, and able to get the job done. Likewise, you should market yourself in a similar manner.

How Should I Start?

If you are a college student, you are probably between the ages of 18-24. I’m sure you have had experiences and opportunities to partake in something that you were passionate about. It may have been volunteering at a soup kitchen, or teaching soccer to a group of rowdy young kids, but there are certain hobbies that you are passionate about. View your passion(s) as your mission and vision. A company will create a mission and vision statement – you should do the same. The mission statement will be a short few sentences explaining your purpose. My mission and vision is “To build businesses in Maine and assist non-profits…to be creative and challenge the conventional.

Create a Strategy

What are you doing right now? Do the activities that you participate in build on your mission and vision? Are there opportunities to build your personal brand? Create a short and long term strategy outlining what you would like to accomplish in the next few years. Be reasonable with your goals, yet don’t be afraid to “shoot for the stars.”

Start Building Your Brand

How can you show future employers that you are serious about getting your “dream job?” Start showing that you are passionate. There are a few simple ways to accomplish this:

1. Start Blogging

Imagine the situation: You send a resume to a job that you’ve been dying to get. On the resume is a link to your personal website, which includes everything that you have been involved in (both personally and professionally). To top it off, you have a blog where you have multiple posts about your passion. It turns out, that your passion aligns perfectly with the company goals, and the next day you are hired. In my experience, blogging has been extremely beneficial – I’ve become a better writer. I’ve also gained business opportunities, and networked with individuals all over the world. Be warned, blogging may not come naturally, yet over time (like everything), it can be something you enjoy.

Blogging

2. Create/Update your LinkedIn Profile

If you haven’t heard, a LinkedIn profile is extremely important to your personal brand. Many employers are using LinkedIn to find the perfect hire. A LinkedIn profile is a virtual resume, and make sure you portray yourself in a professional manner. Also consider joining LinkedIn groups, and network and converse with others who have similar passions.

3. Network Locally

It’s great to develop connections over the internet, yet make sure you set time aside to get off campus and network locally. It’s extremely important to meet up with others, it’s a great chance to work on your networking skills. I used to hate talking to someone I didn’t know, but over time (and with a little motivation), networking becomes exciting. I’ve also learned it’s good to ask questions – don’t pretend to know everything. Make sure you have business cards with your name, email address, and website URL, and make sure you follow up with them after the event is done.

 4. Read Stuff

Take time to read the latest news, both locally and nationally. Stay updated on current events, these can be your best talking points when networking. Also, make sure to read magazines, books, and research on your passion. Study what experts have to say, and don’t be afraid to develop your own pattern of thought. If you disagree with an expert, write a blog post explaining your point of view. The individuals I follow are Paul Graham, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Seth Godin.

Thought-Leaders

5. Be Social Media Savvy

Every time I see party photos, I want to cry. Silly college student, don’t you know that 50% of potential employees are rejected after the potential employer visits their Facebook profile? Did you also know that nearly 50% of employers will preview you on Facebook or Twitter before they hire you? Don’t post party photos, and please, if you do, have the decency to hide them from the public (and your mom). Learn how to use privacy settings – your future job may hinge on it.

Above all, work hard. Unless your grandparents owned oil wells, don’t expect everything to be handed to you on a silver platter. If you don’t want to work hard, maybe you should find something that you are passionate about. When you find it, start building your personal brand, and maybe you’ll land the job of your dreams.

What other ways can you build your personal brand? Let me know in the comments below!