By Robert Smith, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent
(As originally published in the Ticker: http://ticker.baruchconnect.com/article/defining-your-personal-brand-for-the-future/)
As you evolve in your career development and job search, you often hear that you need to “brand yourself.” This term might sound bizarre, as we normally associate branding with the products and services we use.
But just like our favorite candy bar or cellphone, we can differentiate ourselves from the competition as a strong, unique brand of our own.
A brand is a set of key characteristics that represents, identifies, and differentiates you from others.
For example, Pepsi and Coke are similar looking and tasting sodas, yet they embody different qualities.
Coke is associated with its iconic red can and the idea of happiness and tradition, while Pepsi is linked with its blue can and celebrity endorsements. Likewise, we can brand ourselves to stand out from the pack.
Personal branding is a life-long construction process that will be part of your legacy. Maybe you will be remembered for your poised work ethic or be associated with a unique ability to reason with people.
Take the rapper Drake for example. His infamous motto, “YOLO” (you only live once), has become part of his brand. Whether it’s hash-tagging YOLO in your Twitter status or referencing to YOLO when you are debating a risky decision, Drake has made an impression on your opinion of him.
Beyoncé is another good example of personal branding.
Whether it is her message of “Who run the world? Girls.” or even her choice to lead a private celebrity lifestyle, each individual controls the information sent out to the world about them.
Since we are all Baruch College students and have a lot in common, our resumes and cover letters tend to look strikingly similar. Thus, we need to embrace and exhibit our personal brand to employers, to make a lasting impression.
By developing your own brand, you’ll not only stand out, but you’ll have control over the employer’s initial perception of you. Instead of letting them form their own impressions of you, you ensure that they grasp who you really are and what you can offer.
To develop your personal brand, start by reflecting on your strengths, personality, interests, hobbies and life experiences. Understand who you are, what you stand for, and how you want others to view you.
If you get stumped, ask your good friends. Those that know you well can pinpoint your defining aspects. Once you narrow down your key components, you can even formulate a personal branding statement. Just a few words can truly embrace your essence.
Here’s how I developed my own personal brand. I asked myself where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there. In the beginning, I wanted to be someone who made a difference in other people’s lives on campus.
Thus, I became a “yes” man, the person who said yes to all opportunities to expand myself. I joined T.E.A.M. Baruch and Golden Key in my first year in school. Through that experience, I became more confident.
This newfound confidence pushed me into the second stage of my personal branding experience. I wanted to be the person who consistently grows and expands their knowledge.
Eventually, I was known as the person who asked everyone questions, and no matter how “dumb” they were, I needed and wanted to know.
Those two traits are the foundation of my brand—I’m able to effectively help others because of my experiences, and I’ve been there and am willing and able to connect and communicate.
While developing a brand may sound a bit like pie in the sky, there are many ways to apply this idea to your job and internship search. Outlets such as LinkedIn, cover letters, and personal pitches embody your personal brand.
A cover letter is more than just a writing sample, it is a reflection of who you are in paper form. LinkedIn demonstrates your level of professionalism, which should be heavily weighed when determining how to brand yourself. A personal brand is channeled through virtually any and every experience you have or step that you take.
It is a small world. What you say or do goes a long way. Therefore, to be a successful brand, you must always be conscious of your image and consistent in your message.