You are either a recent college graduate or your graduation date is fast approaching. You’ve probably started looking for either an internship or a job to launch your professional career. It’s time to start thinking about your personal branding.
To land your dream job or internship fast and set yourself up for long-term career success, it’s advisable to start building your personal brand. Your personal brand is how others perceive you—and this has a significant impact on how they treat you.
In other words, your personal brand is your reputation and it includes your personality, values, and capabilities. Everybody, regardless of whether they consciously build it, have a personal brand. That’s because people are constantly forming impressions about who you are.
Studies have shown that it takes less than a second for people to evaluate you on trustworthiness, status, and even attractiveness. This first impression can be formed when people meet you in person and at other times, it happens online without your knowledge.
Having a unique, strong, and positive personal brand is one of the most powerful ways to make yourself stand out from the competition.
Understandably, you don’t have much work experience at this stage in your life. Building a strong personal brand that highlights your personality and skills and talents to impress potential employers can seem daunting.
Let’s explore some tips to help you build your personal brand as a college student or recent graduate.
1- Craft A Mission Statement
Right from the beginning, you should have clarity on what your overall professional mission is. While it may evolve over time, a career mission statement (combined with a career development plan) will guide you in creating a great personal brand.
A mission statement is a short paragraph or sentence that summarizes your core values and goals to potential employers. The aim of a mission statement is to answer the questions “Who are you?” and “What do you believe in?”
You can include it as one of the first items on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile to quickly tell interested parties who you are and aspire to be.
To write a strong, authentic mission statement think about the things that matter the most to you. What are you passionate about? Which personal values and beliefs guide you? What are your career goals? Draft a 2-5 sentence paragraph outlining this information.
2- Develop an Elevator Pitch
A mission statement is great for including in your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other online platforms. For in-person meetings, you need to have an elevator pitch.
The first question asked in most interviews is “Who is X?” This gives you a chance to briefly introduce yourself to the interview panel and highlight what they need to know about you. Think of developing an elevator pitch as answering this question.
An elevator pitch enables you to introduce yourself quickly and effectively to recruiters and potential employers. You can use it during college career fairs, interviews, and other networking events.
Your elevator pitch should be about 30-60 seconds long. Make it interesting, engaging, and authentic. It should tell interested parties who you are, your relevant experience, skills, and goals.
3- Clean Up Your Social Media Platforms
It’s no secret that employers and recruiters look up candidates’ social media presence. What they find on your social media can hurt or complement the personal brand you want to project.
In today’s world, social media is a powerful tool that can help you connect with people you’d have otherwise never interacted with. If you do a good job with your social media personal branding, you’ll even get approached for opportunities in your area of interest.
Check what your personal branding message is across all your social media platforms. Delete anything that’s not consistent with how you want to be perceived or change the privacy settings. Pay special attention to your LinkedIn profile because it acts as an easily accessible resume. Make sure it strongly projects your desired professional personal brand.
4- Customize Your Resume
Your resume is usually the first point of interaction you have with recruiters and prospective employers in your field. It’s, therefore, one of the most powerful tools for personal branding.
Many fresh college graduates present a harmful personal brand by writing resumes that are boring or full of grammatical, spelling errors, and punctuation errors.
To stand out, you have to be different. Ditch the old, boring resume templates and go with a unique style. For instance, traditional resumes discourage the use of color. But you can break the rule and use color creatively if it aligns with your personal brand.
You can also opt to rearrange the items in your resume to highlight elements that make you stand out. You can even include non-traditional elements such as a personal logo or testimonials.
However, if you decide to be bold with your resume, remember to do so tastefully. If you opt to include personal branding elements, make sure all text fits into the standard margins of a Microsoft Word document. Most applicant tracking systems (ATS) don’t read the information that’s placed in the header or footer sections. Many applicants make the mistake of putting their contact information in the header area.
While at it, make sure to edit and customize your resume for each job application. Recruiters and hiring managers can tell when candidates didn’t make an effort to customize their resumes for their job postings. Candidates who don’t customize their resumes are perceived as lazy—which isn’t something you want to be associated with your personal brand.
5- Make a Video Resume
Video is one of the most powerful formats of content for online consumption. Having a good video resume can make you stand out to potential employers.
A video resume allows you to speak directly to recruiters and potential employers about what makes you unique. Record a short video introducing yourself to prospective employers. You can add the video to your LinkedIn profile.
Video resumes are particularly important in showing performance-based skills. Videos are also a great way to show off your personality—especially if you’re applying for client-facing roles.
Bear in mind that a video resume is supposed to supplement and complement your traditional resume, not replace it. Additionally, video resumes might not be very helpful for roles that aren’t highly visual.
If you choose to record a video resume, make it brief—30 to 90 seconds. Make sure to dress professionally and choose a professional-looking background. Share your video with selected family members, friends, or mentors for feedback before uploading online.