Here’s a sample of a college grad’s internal monologue:
OMG, I’ve finally graduated! What am I supposed to do now? Parteeee!
Yes, and find a job of course. Great, let’s look at the ads.
(A few minutes later, scrolling down the page.)
Nope… nope… Next… Okay, this sounds interesting. Let’s look at the job requirements. Education – check! Skills – check! Working experience – ermmm, I don’t have 3 years of working experience in a senior position. Oh, well, moving on.
(A dozen of dozens of job ads later and becoming clearly annoyed…)
How am I supposed to find a job without any working experience?!
Relax, take a deep breath, and think Personal Branding.
Personal brand? That sounds corporate.
Well, yes. A corporate brand describes an organization in its entirety and communicates what it stands for internally – to its employees, and externally – to its customers, the media, business partners, stakeholders, and others.
By the same token, a personal brand explains who you are as an individual, what your values are, and how you support what you preach to the external world, or in this case, prospective employers.
Why personal branding matters to college graduates?
It seems that getting one’s little toe in the door (let alone foot) is pretty hard today.
First off, the number of new graduates and other people looking to (re-)enter the workforce is huge. Then, we have the ease of accessing information and people via the internet, which is ultimately a good thing because it has leveled the field. Consequently, the internet has become one of the main recruiters’ tools for navigating through the talent market, with 66% of employers leveraging search engines to do their research on potential job candidates and 84% of companies currently using social media to find all-star employees.
For all of the above, learning the art of promoting your talents, skills, and who you are as a human being is more than a smart move to make. You need to differentiate your unique personality, values, passions, skills, and strengths – your brand, to stand out and catch the eye of potential employers.
How do you build a personal brand?
Fresh grads can learn quite a lot from marketing professionals.
Lesson number one, and probably the most important lesson of all, is that YOU are the only one responsible for the image you present to the world about yourself. And how do you make sure your messages resonate across the digital and real-world landscapes? By carefully listening and engaging.
Learning how to best promote yourself isn’t hard – it takes time, consistency, patience, and doing the following:
The foundations of your career and personal life, in general, are interpersonal relationships and networking. It’s important to cultivate relationships, both old and new, to open up new doors.
Effective networking means going to career fairs, industry networking events, handing out resumes, but also saying ‘yes’ to alumni gatherings and volunteering at the events where you have the chance to create meaningful relationships without any agenda. When you bring value to your interactions and people get to know who you are, your personal brand gets recognized. And further down the road, positive brand recognition can lead to your friend-of-a-friend passing along a job opportunity.
This means being proactive in pursuing your interests, learning opportunities and connecting with people you could learn from and with in the future.
Focusing on one skill at a time
It’s easy to fall prey to thinking that you need to know and do everything at once. Don’t spread yourself too thin – do one thing at a time, build up your experience and skills in one area, and do it well. Competence creates confidence – a positive and self-assured one, and those two traits are something all HR people and recruiters are looking to find in a candidate.
Then, think of the ways to showcase what you learned and what your skill sets in this area are.
Blogging and presenting your work on a personal website
Becoming competent and confident in an area allows you to establish yourself as a thought leader. Considering the fact that a business world is becoming more and more driven by digital marketing and communications, expressing your beliefs, industry-specific insights, and skills in the form of a blog is a great way of making a reputation.
Having a website with your personal domain name – think NameSurname.ME – can work in favor of your brand and, according to our survey, give you a competitive advantage in the job market. Your personal website can be a place where you feature all your educational credentials, but also information about volunteering activities, passion projects you worked on and your opinions on topics related to your chosen profession.
With this, you want to showcase what you can contribute, even though you still don’t have formal working experience. Starting with being tech-savvy, understanding marketing and having a knack for writing.
People from all walks of life use .ME to present their work, offer their services, and get their message across. From urban monk and viral content creator Jay Shetty, writer and content strategist for major brands Michelle Nickolaisen, international speaker and bestselling author Dan Norris, artist Marina Marinski who makes custom handmade pottery, to designer and illustrator Mackenzie Child who has over 3 million views on YouTube, we see that online presence is important for both seasoned professionals and people at the beginning of their career.
The most important thing is not to be afraid that your current experience and/or work is not good enough because – we all start have to start somewhere, don’t we?
Social media networking
This goes hand in hand with having a personal portfolio website and a blog. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other networks to join industry-related and other discussions that can help you engage with your peers, get your ideas out there, and increase your personal brand’s awareness.
The chances that potential employers will check you out across all channels are high and evident, so always act professionally and politely.
Bonus tip: Add a link to your website and other channels in all your social media About sections.
Learning from the more experienced ones
Claiming your piece of the digital world through social platforms is only a part of the social media networking equation. Follow the experts and leaders from your target industry, look at what they do, the type of content they produce, and learn from their example. Then, use their experience and your knowledge to create something authentic and genuine because those are the top characteristics of any successful personal brand.
Your age, professional level, and work experience don’t define your brand because you already have one – being who you are.
As a college graduate you have to be resourceful, let people know about your personal brand and market your unique traits and experiences to target employers. Whatever career path you go down on and the choices you make – learn from them, evolve, and remember that you’re in control of your personal brand.