Personal branding helps with career search

(Photo from Stacey MacNaught)

When applying to jobs, students often showcase their education, experience and skills—but these are only a few of the factors that make a candidate stand out from the crowd. By highlighting one’s own personal brand, or all of the aspects that make an individual unique, candidates can separate themselves from the pack and gain employer’s attention.

WHAT IS PERSONAL BRANDING?

Personal branding can be defined as a practice of people marketing themselves and careers as brands, according to Forbes.com. In simpler words as Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

WHY IS BRANDING IMPORTANT?

Workshops on developing an online brand, such as this one offered by professors Chip Rouse and Stephanie Verni of the department of business communication, help students build a cohesive personal brand. (Villager file photo)

Personal branding gives candidates the power to differentiate themselves and make an impression that might be even more memorable than a standout cover letter. When building a personal brand, students should spend time self-reflecting and considering how others view them, especially online.

Recruiters use social media during the interview process to weed out potential candidates. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43 percent of employers use social media to check on current employees. Experts suggest that candidates can impress potential future employers by creating a LinkedIn account, cleaning up personal social media profiles, and making business cards.

HOW IS BRANDING BENEFICIAL?

There are a few reasons why creating a personal brand can be beneficial for students:

  1. Personal branding shows passion “What are you passionate about?” That is actually one of the questions that is often asked in any interview, according to Indeed.com. Having a personal brand that is searchable online can immediately allow potential employers and recruiters to answer that question. It’s no secret that many employers are thrilled to find job seekers who are excited about their industry and niche.
  2. Personal branding establishes expertise All that students learn throughout their undergraduate education, whether it be university courses, internships, job placements, and extracurricular activities, can be shared through personal branding. Upon entrance to the job market, there is no doubt that there might be other applicants with much more experience. However, personal branding will come in handy in this situation as it may compensate for the lack of experience because it showcases the totality what one has learned through school and extra-curricular activities.
  3.  Personal branding grows a network Strong interpersonal relationships are enriching, whether they occur in business or in personal life. Building a network of people can open up doors to opportunities that would have never existed otherwise. Effective networking doesn’t mean mindlessly going to career fairs and conferences, handing out resumes, and having boring, business-only discussions. That won’t necessarily get you anywhere. Instead, the solution is to create authentic relationships with no transaction in mind: talk to potential mentors, invite them out for coffee, listen to them talk about their successes and failures. Let the business help come naturally. Your brand should continuously be developing as you develop as a career professional.  Staying up-to-date will provide you with an ongoing audience for your brand.
  4. Personal branding leverages and grows online presence One of the most important aspects of personal branding is making sure an online presence is engaging to hiring managers, co-workers, and others—even if job hunting isn’t on the agenda.

Social media can be used as an advantage through which students can distinguish themselves from other potential employees. (Photo from Stacey MacNaught)

PLATFORM-SPECIFIC TIPS

LinkedIn

LinkedIn serves as a professional social media tool and is the ultimate site for defining one’s brand. The best way to use this network is to participate in groups, make introductions with people, and ask for (and give) recommendations. Some other tips for effectively telling a story through LinkedIn include the following:

  • Focus on key industry skills: Recruiters will often search for keywords that relate to the role they’re trying to fill, so it’s important to feature industry terms in you’re the profile—whether it’s in the headline, summary, or job description—and explicitly state qualified skills. For example, if pursuing a communications role, zero in on an area of interest and key qualifications, such as public relations, social media, or crisis communication.
  • Quantify accomplishments: Quantify accomplishments when possible, whether it’s the number of articles written, dollars raised, or sales closed.
  • Complete the profile: While this might sound obvious, it’s not uncommon for users to leave sections of their LinkedIn profile blank. Recruiters want to see what work experience, educational background, and a detailed list of accomplishments, so make sure to show the full picture.
  • Use a professional photo: LinkedIn users with a professional head shot receive 14 times more profile views than those without, according to Linkedin.com. Upload a current photo that’s closely cropped to the face. Remember, to be the focal point, avoid any busy backgrounds, and smile.

Podcasts, Blogs, and Websites

Students who are published on blogs like “Her Campus” can set themselves apart for potential employers.

Students can benefit from sharing their thoughts via podcasts, blogs, or curated Instagram feeds. Focus in on long-term goals and then reverse-engineer a plan for the kind of content you want to create.

For example, a student who wants to build a career in digital marketing can have a plan curating content by writing blogs on the latest social media trends. Or a student that wants to pursue a career as a sports broadcaster should consider creating a podcast that focuses on sports news. Even a student that aspires to be a graphic designer could truly benefit from creating a website to visually highlight their work.  With so many different social media tools available today, a student’s online presence will likely look different depending on the medium one chooses.

Young people often feel like they don’t have enough 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 a student wants to write for Her Campus or podcast via Spotify, there are already students leveraging those platform. With enough planning, job seekers can use their youth to their advantage and develop their own niche perspective. College students are creating valuable content every single day, and you too can build an audience online.

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