Personal branding is currently the latest craze for Careers Advisors to press graduates and students on. However, it is easy to think that this could be another pseudo-intelligible concept that Careers Advisors are attempting to panic you into believing in you need, but it is in fact an important abstraction that will improve your job prospects no end if it is done right. While it might take a few moments to get your head around the idea, but to sum up personal branding it one sentence I'd tell you: "Your personal brand is the way you present and sell yourself as a rounded package to employers and superiors when looking for work or a promotion." This is not just essential for getting a job but is something that you will continue to build upon throughout your career. I will not try and persuade you further about the importance of having a personal brand but now proceed to recommend how you set one up and how you develop one over time.
1. What's your story
The first thing you need to do to create your own personal brand is create your story. This is important for deciding who you are and what you can offer. Creating a personal brand is finding something about yourself that you can sell to employers or superiors so it is vitally important that you have a story to build upon. While for many graduates nowadays it will follow a simple path of school, sixth form, university to graduate and this is absolutely fine. But using this traditional path you need to make it clear that you are not the normal run of the mill graduate, but you are something extraordinary. Thinking about your journey to where you are now and where you want to be will help formulate what it is you can offer. Try asking yourself the following questions:
- Who am I?
- How have I got here?
- What has helped me get to this stage?
- Where do I want to be eventually?
- What do I have to do to get there?
2. Charlie Big Potatoes you ain't
This is a word of warning. Many slurs are thrown at graduates and this is because the impression many employers get from some graduates is that they think they're the dog's bollocks. This is mostly, if not always, not the case. They are usually some jumped-up morons with super-sized egos. So be careful, when you're considering your story so far and what you can offer employers you need to remember you are literally at the foot of the mountain of what your career will be, so thinking of yourself as the complete package will only put an employer's nose out of joint. It would be wise to remember that you should be more concerned with what you can offer employers in terms of potential, rather than full scale experience. No matter how many internships you've done, it'll be no comparison to a few solid years' experience in a position.
3. Going Up: Your lift pitch
Traditionally called an Elevator pitch, but we should refrain from indulging in such Americanisms. This is where you can tell someone all about yourself in around 30 seconds. This will be after you've boiled down your story and realised what you've actually got to offer in a workplace environment. A lift pitch can become absolutely crucial when you start to come into contact with real employers and the people who can decide whether to give you a graduate job or not. I would advise you to try this out on employers when you do meet them in informal settings, whether this be at a Careers Fair or an Open day. Another good thing to come from forming your own personal branding lift pitch is that it will help you focus on what you want from your career. It will help you form your ideas about what you want, what you can offer and where you might need to improve.
4. Consistency is key
The whole idea of a personal brand is that this is the well rounded image and package you put forward to employers, so it is important to put forward a consistent set of ideals and offerings. Whether it is your clean-cut demeanour and exquisite professional attitude, you need to make sure this is apparent in any way you interact with employers or anywhere they can learn more about you. For example, if it is a career in
that you are extremely keen on pursuing, then you need to make sure things like your LinkedIn profile shows this, by following the right groups or having sufficient indicators to this end.
5. Social Media malady
I am not one to often criticise the negative impact that social media is having on our lives as so many are keen to do nowadays. But Social Media can be a trap for job hunting graduates. While it can be a little bit of a tin-foil-hat to think that employers may be stalking you online and peering at your Facebook and Twitter profiles, but it is certainly better to be safe than sorry, or rather private and employed. Many people, me included before doing research for this post, thought that personal brandings was making sure you had squeaky clean and un-inebriated social media profiles, but it is so much more than just that - although it is a part. There are simple steps you can take to making sure you're profile is not going to be detrimental to your chances. There are privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter to ensure that employers don't see what you had for tea that night.
6. Keeping cool in social situations
Not necessarily a prominent British trait, but the concept of "letting your hair down" is something that graduates should fear. While it is nice to let go every once in a while, but you should be very careful when and where you do so. This is more relevant for those graduates who are established in companies already or interns looking to secure themselves on the graduate scheme or bag a permanent position. While employers don't always tend to judge you too heavily at social events it is important that you keep your personal brand together at all times. While it could be a client function and you'r e fully taking advantage of the free bar, or even if you're dicking about at lunch time, these things will be noticed and unfortunately that's just the way the working world works.
7. Corresponding cordially
Being in correspondence with employers is another opportunity where you can make or break your personal brand. While it is not a case of just obeying email etiquette in exchanges with employers, but it is the way in which you engage and show that you are conscious of how you come across. For example if you chat to an employer at a careers event or open day, do not leave it there, follow them up and see if you can engage with them further. I suggest LinkedIn as a good way to interact with employers and a good way to see how you came across. It is also personally acceptable to ask them for tips on how you came across and how your personal brand appears to an expert and the kind of person you're out to impress.
8. Make your personal brand personal
All these dos and don'ts might seem a bit much at the moment, but it is important to remember that your personal brand is just a reflection of a probably smarter, cleaner and more professional you. So it is important to remember that you should keep it relevant to you. There is no point trying to create a personal brand that does not reflect your ambitions and your hopes, because it will not hold water if you're trying to be something that your heart is not it.