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How Students Can Build Their Personal Brand While In University

BY: Nguyen-Ngoan  |   Sept. 3, 2018
Personal Branding
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Personal branding is a hot topic, but a lot of students don’t understand what it really means. Although I can imagine that certain business classes examine the subject, most students go all of undergrad without learning how to market themselves properly.

Jeff Bezos defined the term by saying that “your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. If you’re in university, then your classmates and fellow interns definitely talk about you when you’re not around – and personal branding is how you influence and curate their opinions.

Your personal brand is everything that shapes how people view you, including your friends, colleagues, professors, and future employers. If you wore a snazzy three-piece suit to a job interview, then that would have be a positive impact on your brand. Conversely, if you were always 15 minutes late to interviews, then your brand would suffer.

Your personal brand includes the Google search results attached to your name, all of your social media accounts, and your CV. These are key components to landing an interview for your dream job – and thankfully for you, they are easy to improve.

You need to curate your social media into a blend of your unique personality and the themes related to your future field of employment. If you’re studying engineering, then you would benefit from LinkedIn updates about winning engineering competitions. In contrast, a budding PR professional could build their brand through tweets about image management crises in the news.

Here are the major steps involved in building a personal brand:

Firstly, you need to wipe your Facebook and Instagram clean of any incriminating photos. Even if you are of legal drinking age, you should avoid photos with alcohol unless they are very, very classy. Every day, when Facebook shows you your old “memories”, you need to take time to purge your cringe-worthy posts from high school. Moreover, any content with bad grammar should also be deleted.

Secondly, you must optimize your LinkedIn profile! Add a professional headshot, fill in your employment history, write a killer summary, and build your profile up to 500+ connections. When you have wiped your social media accounts clean and optimized your LinkedIn profile, then you are ready for the next steps: content creation and relationship building.

Content Creation

Students can benefit from sharing their thoughts via podcasts, Medium articles, or curated Instagram feeds. Focus in on your long-term goals and then reverse-engineer a plan for the kind of content you want to create. For example, I am building a career in digital marketing, so my plan is to write about the latest social media trends.

Young people often feel like they don’t have enough life experience to build an audience, but that’s a misconception. Youth are excellent communicators – just think of all the teenage YouTubers and Instagrammers who are followed by millions. Whether you want to write on Medium or podcast via Spotify, there are already students leveraging that platform. With enough planning, you can use your youth to your advantage and develop your own niche perspective. Youth are creating valuable content every single day, and you too can build an audience online.

I believe that putting yourself out on the Internet will most likely make you a better version of yourself. The reason I have to use the caveat of “most likely” is because there are people like Logan Paul who use their platform to bully others and post culturally insensitive rubbish. However, I’m going to assume that most students reading an article about personal branding are mindful of their own reputation! That’s why I will argue that creating content makes you reflect on who you are and how you can become a better person.

Building your personal brand forces you to think about what you want out of life — and that’s incredibly valuable. Crystallizing a plan to build your personal brand will benefit your future. Your plan might be to write every day on Medium, cold email 15 professionals, or add 100 connections on LinkedIn. Your personal brand will say “thank you” – and in the long run, your wallet will also be happy. Students who have strong personal brands are more likely to launch themselves into a successful career. Improving your personal branding is akin to preparing for a job interview months in advance.

Relationship Building

Another important aspect of personal branding is building key relationships. When you take on a new internship, it’s your responsbility to shake hands and talk to coworkers around the water cooler. University isn’t just for learning about calculus; it’s also about making contacts that will one day land you a job.

Many students are complacent about their network. They think that they don’t know anyone and therefore they don’t feel comfortable attending networking events. However, I just published my tips on how students can build a networkfrom scratch. Wherever you live and whoever you know, it’s not too late to build your network and find a mentor.

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