It’s no secret why we’re drawn to designer goods like Louis Vuitton handbags, Jimmy Choo heels and Tiffany & Co. diamonds: it’s all about the brand. When it comes to shopping, it’s natural to lean towards the brand that’s the most well known, the most timeless and the most reliable. Well, job hunting is like shopping (really, you have to love a good shopping metaphor). Picture it: potential employers are the buyers and you are the Louis Vuitton tote bag. Obviously, companies, too, want to hire college grads who know how to market their personal brands. So how are you supposed to trademark yourself before landing your first job? Here are the best ways to turn yourself into the Jimmy Choo shoe of the job market.
1. Polish your social media presence.
This is one of those tips that tends to go in one ear and out the other. As much as you know that you should delete those Facebook pictures of your New Year’s bar tour around NYC, you also know how adorable you looked in your BCBG dress and cannot bear to part with the pictures. I know… it takes a lot of willpower to untag.
But there comes a time when you need to decide what to keep and what to trash. One way you can do this is by envisioning what would happen if your future employer pulled up your social media profiles in front of you in an interview. If there’s anything you’d be absolutely mortified to explain to them (e.g., drunken status updates, half-naked — or worse, fully naked — pictures) …the offending items should probably be deleted. One student advised, “After I really started looking for a job, I asked my friends to just not tag me in any pictures that were taken at a bar, party or less-than-professional place. That way, I’m not even tempted to keep the pictures on my profile.”
2. Position yourself as an expert.
Sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it…this might just be one of those times. While we’re not suggesting that you pretend to be a world-renowned neurosurgeon when you’re really only a pre-med student, you should be working on getting your name out there. Part of creating your own personal brand involves positioning yourself as an expert in your area, which (I know) can prove to be tricky as a college student (after all, expertise in quoting “Elf” and applying eyeliner in the car aren’t ne).
Chris Perry, Brand & Marketing Generator for CareerRocketeer.com (Career Search & Personal Branding Blog) says that one easy way to be perceived as an expert is actually pretty simple: get quoted. He says, “Getting quoted online in blogs and other online magazines or offline in books or other periodicals on a topic relevant and valuable to your industry… really boosts your personal brand for your long-term career.” He mentions websites like HelpaReporter.com (HARO), which offer free services to link reporters, journalists, and bloggers with experts, and more importantly, experts-to-be like you. Perry notes that being quoted for such endeavors “will increase your credibility across your network and beyond.”
Blogging is another unique way for students to gain expert status in their industries. For industrious types, starting personal blogs and websites can be an exciting and fulfilling way to be heard. In order to get the most out of your blogging experience, Perry says, “Focusing your blog’s theme and content to better serve your industry can be an outstanding way to show off your personal brand and demonstrate your unique value to potential employers and career stakeholders.” Not sure where to start? WordPress, Blogger and Weebly are great free websites to start building your blog (and your brand!). Also, if you’re unsure about starting your own blog, consider contributing your writing to an already established blog or website relevant to your field of interest
If blogging really isn’t your thing, all hope is not lost — try showing off what you know on Smarterer, a website that provides a series of tests and questions to determine your skill level and abilities. Designed to “score individuals on any and every digital, social, and technical skill under the sun” according to its website, Smarterer ranks you in levels (Smart, Smarter and Smarterer) which you can then share with peers, colleagues, employers and hiring managers.
3. Design your resume to reflect your brand.
Remember when Elle Woods of “Legally Blonde” gave her professor a resume on pink paper… and scented? Now that was a memorable resume. In many cases, your resume is the only thing that future employers have as a representation of you, so it may be your first (and perhaps only) opportunity to represent your brand to companies.
And while we don’t quite recommend handing out pink, scented resumes, I’d say that Elle’s resume accurately summed up her personal brand. In a more subdued manner, you can update your resume to reflect your shtick by only including activities that are important, relevant and recent. Be sure to list your most applicable activities and leadership positions first. For instance, if you were secretary of the PRSSA you should list this first, and if you were only in the Future Journalists Club for two days or the only thing you did at the Student Alumni Club meetings was eat free pizza, you might want to consider leaving them off of your resume.
4. Customize your email signature.
What better way to spread the word about yourself and your accomplishments than through email? Chances are, you probably send more emails per day than you care to admit… which serves as the perfect opportunity to boast your brand. Using a consistent signature on emails automatically makes you look more streamlined and professional, as well as makes it easier for potential employers and contacts to get in touch with you. A solid email signature should definitely include your full name, email address, major, school, year of graduation, and phone number. For the more creative collegiettes™, you can also use websites like WiseStamp to personalize your signature with colors and graphics (for free!).
To see four more ways to build your personal brand, read the rest of this article at HerCampus.com.
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