Personal Branding Tips for Graduates
Congratulations on recently graduating! Whether it was with honors or you just barely squeaked by, this is a major milestone in your life and you should take a moment to feel the pride.
Okay, moment’s over. Time to get to work!
Social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are just as vital to your job search success as your resume and cover letter. Many employers like me look at your social media accounts even before reading through your resume or scheduling an interview. This new-ish hiring tactic puts you the applicant in a wonderful position to craft your personal brand in a way that’s not only authentic but also effective.
Below are some #realtalk tips to ensure that that you own your personal brand and it resonates with your new employer and colleagues.
Own your narrative. You’ve likely been on social media since middle school, but have you ever stopped and thought about what personas you are projecting and if they truly tell the story of who you are? Probably not, but that’s okay. Let’s address it now. Powerful brands know what they are trying to do – where they’ve been and where they are going. When you draft your narrative draft with purpose. Tell an engaging story that articulates your personas and differentiates you from your peers. Don’t just list-off facts. Draw in the reader and educate them not just about where you’ve been but where you intend to go.
If writing is not your forte don’t hesitate to ask a friend, parent, teacher, or professional to assist you. This piece of the personal brand puzzle is far too important to make a half-hearted attempt.
Own your name. If you have not already created a LinkedIn account, now is the time. It should reflect the narrative you’ve created and effectively show your abilities and accomplishments.
If you’re comfortable doing so, I would recommend establishing your own webpage with your name as the URL. Doing so allows you to creatively present yourself to stand out. Creating your own webpage also allows for better search engine optimization (SEO) and provides you with a home for any content, i.e. videos, blog posts, images, you develop down the road. Click here for an article to help you get started.
Update your email address. Please don’t make a potential employer email you at “bigboiballer32.” Take a moment to establish an email address that’s easy to type, relatively close to your name, and looks appropriate on a resume.
Update your voicemail message. Keep the message simple. For example, “Hi you’ve reached (name), I am unable to come to the phone. Please leave your name and number. I will call you back as soon as possible.”
Understand the power of an image. Bright, shiny, professional-looking faces get hired. Whether your profile is public or private, update all headshots to an appropriate image that makes you look polished, authentic, and ready for any professional opportunity. No more group shots with friends or images of you at parties or tailgates. You’ll likely get only one opportunity to show a potential employer that you’re a quality hire, so use an image that clearly shows your face, and you smiling and appropriately dressed.
Control your content. Not all social media posts disappear, so before applying for jobs run an audit of your personal brand and untag or remove any images or posts that you feel a future employer might deem inappropriate. Click here for a great article about online reputation repair.
Be matchy-matchy. Remember my advice regarding your narrative from above? All that info must match what is on your cover letter and resume. Consistently and effectively telling the same story will help establish and grow your brand. Also, contacting all your info help drive home the point that you are detail-orientated.
Network like crazy. Trust me, career success is truly about who you know. Anyone you meet has the potential to help you down the road, so don’t just focus on what a new contact can do for you today. That said, being too aggressive in your networking has some drawbacks to your personal brand. Click here for a great read about how to network without becoming obnoxious.
One additional piece of advice I would like to add: Never assume someone is going to assist you, connect with you, and/or provide you with their contacts, especially if you’ve just met or have never met this person. As you will learn, professional contacts are a sort of currency and most successful people do not use them liberally. Always start a relationship with the understanding that you must build trust and earn the right to use this person’s network.
Have a :30 pitch. Know how to effectively and (most importantly) efficiently tell your brand story. This skill will become invaluable when you’re networking and interviewing. Practice your pitch with a parent, teacher, or mentor and have them provide you with feedback about your verbal and non-verbal skills. Delivering your brand pitch with confidence will open more doors for you than you can imagine.
Once you land the job…
Update and be thinking ahead. Once you land your first job, make sure to update your LinkedIn and/or personal webpage with your professional info. Connect with others in your industry and begin thinking how you might be a thought leader in this space.
Understand everyone is watching. As you become more successful and visible, understand that your peers and competitors will be looking at your social media. This requires you to be ever vigilant about maintaining your personal narrative and ensuring that your social media pages are relevant and appropriate.
Listen to feedback. Everyone you meet in the professional world will have an opinion about who you are and what you ought to be. Listen to this feedback and process what is told to you as your in-person behavior is part of your personal brand as well. If you’re found to be difficult to work with in the real world, then all your online branding efforts will be for nothing.
My best wishes for your continued growth and success. If you ever need advice, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.