Think of a soft drink. Did you think of Coca-Cola? Chances are high you did. Coca-Cola may not even be your soft-drink of choice, but you still thought of it first. When you think of Coca-Cola, what other thoughts come to mind? Young, playful, energised, the colour red? Those thoughts are the power of branding.
Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos is credited with saying, "Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room".
This is true both at work and in your personal life. It could be perceptions held by your friends, colleagues, or classmates. However, based on your existing digital brand, people who have never met you will also form an opinion.
The art of personal branding, is to identify your circle of influence and take steps to shape others’ perceptions of you. You need to own your personal brand and be its master marketer.
As a student, you may be asking yourself this. Simply put, it’ll help you stand out. Here’s an example of why you need to start thinking about this now.
You’re attending university. You’re getting great results, volunteering at university events, undertaking internships on the side and have a part-time job. You’re set to graduate and are thinking about full-time jobs you can apply for.
The problem is, your fellow students you’re graduating with have the same list of achievements. So how do you get your hard work noticed?
We encourage you to think about the meaning of these achievements to a potential employer, rather than simply creating a list.
To effectively present and communicate your brand to others, you need to be clear about the meaning of your achievements and who you are. Answering the following questions will help you do this:
Once you’ve gone through these and listed a few things down, try out the ‘elevator pitch’. In Hollywood, budding filmmakers learn to prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ to sell their movie ideas to busy studio executives in 60 seconds.
Similarly, if you wanted to introduce yourself to a senior leader, what would you say? What would be your key messages? How would you sell yourself? Your message should reflect the values you embody and the results you achieve (listed above).
If you find the elevator pitch difficult, start to think about what people most value about you. Take note of the exact phrases people use when talking about you, as you can use these when describing yourself. Remember, it’s 60 seconds, so the idea is to keep it simple and memorable. You can use this pitch later in cover letters, during interviews or when you attend networking events.
Your best elevator pitch or brand will come unstuck if you don’t carefully manage and monitor your online presence on social media and the internet. It’s likely potential employers may see your digital brand before they meet you, and if they see something they don’t like, they may make up their mind before you can even introduce yourself.
Our first recommendation is to ‘Google’ yourself and see what information others can easily find. Start by searching your name, or add your location if there are many people with the same name. Remember to check Google Images, too.
Next, search for any existing social media account usernames. Go through and remove any information that you don’t want public or simply delete accounts that might be old or unsavoury (your teenage years may haunt you!)
While using social media is second nature, keep in mind that you are leaving a digital footprint that can be traced in the public domain. Make sure it’s one you are happy for people to see, and one that won’t give you a bad reputation. As a rule, check your privacy settings, and make sure you’re aware of what is public.
When it comes to presenting your brand to the public, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking site. If you think as a student you don’t need a presence on LinkedIn, think again.
Like keeping your resume up to date every time you have a new experience, keep your brand up to date too. Make sure your online public photos are current and represent you well. Being a regular user online and on social media can be great for networking, which in turn, also builds your brand!
If you only do one thing in relation to your personal brand, we recommend you communicate authentically. Learn from experiences, as these are what shape you personally and professionally. Own your brand and commit to it; be bold, be different, be unique, be you!