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 tend 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 is a collegiette supposed to trademark herself before landing her first job?
Here are the best ways to brand yourself for success that are guaranteed to turn you 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 hit untag.
But there comes a time when every collegiette needs to decide what to keep and what to trash on her profile. 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 yet, fully naked — pictures, etc.) …the offending items should probably be deleted. One collegiette shares, “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 I’m 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, my areas of expertise fall under quoting “Elf” and applying eyeliner in the car).
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 collegiettes to gain expert status in their industries. For industrious collegiettes, 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 Speidi’s our tips of getting you in the papers aren’t working out and 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 I 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!).
5. Follow the right people on Twitter
I know what your next question is: Who are these “right” people I’m talking about? David Beckham? Nicki Minaj? Anthony Wie–(wait…he’d definitely be a wrong person)? Twitter is tons of fun for following celebs and friends alike, but make sure to use it to your fullest advantage, too. Following the right people on Twitter means that you should be following (and interacting with) relevant people and companies in the industry you hope to break into. For instance, if you’re a journalism major, follow, tweet at and retweet publications you might be interested in writing for, local magazines that you can intern at, or other journalists that you admire. If you’re an accounting major, consider interacting with Big 4 accounting firms and major players in the business world.
Of course, you should also use some restraint when tweeting at other Twitter users in your industry of choice. Just like you wouldn’t pummel Cristiano Ronaldo with 17 tweets an hour, you probably should avoid doing the same to companies.
And what happens if you’re following the wrong people? Especially if you’re planning on interacting with potential employers, you should definitely consider cleaning up who you follow on Twitter. While employers won’t care if you’re following absolutely everything that has to do with Selena Gomez, they will care if you tend to follow (or have a cult following of) anything that has to do with partying, drinking, and any sort of questionable behavior.
6. Be seen, not just read
While it’s important to establish your media presence, I think Generation Y is more often than not lacking in the public speaking department. We’d rather text than talk on the phone. We’d rather send an email than have to deal with somebody in person. But, especially when on the hunt for a new job, never underestimate the power of personal contact. Perry says, “Presenting to an audience sets you apart as a confident thoughtful leader who has true value to share with others, whether it be an audience or an employer.” He advises collegiettes to seek out organizations and associations on campus that allow students to speak on relevant topics. Check out your college’s events calendar for any opportunities to give a short speech to classes, clubs, or even incoming students. Also, consider reaching out to alumni chapters from your college. A lot of times, alumni love inviting students to speak at their meetings or social events. For them, it’s a great way to get updated on current happenings at their alma mater, and for you it’s a fabulous way to network and garner those valuable public speaking skills.
7. Get recommended
Nowadays, LinkedIn makes it easier than ever for students to acquire recommendations from past employers, professors and even other students in a fast and organized way. While some may say that recommendations are an optional part of your resume, Perry notes, “having recommendations visible online (or at least readily available) will really improve your credibility both in your first job search and throughout your career.” When determining who to ask for recommendations, consider which professors you may have really connected with this semester, any current or past employers who know you well, and even leaders of organizations you are actively involved with on campus. Whether you chose to ask for recommendations via LinkedIn or the more traditional route, they are a crucial aspect of every collegiette’s brand.
8. Carry business cards
They may seem a little outdated, but the truth is this: having a business card will set you apart from the crowd, as well as solidify your own personal brand. Websites like Design Your Own Card allow you to create and order personalized business cards online. Make sure to keep your card professional and simple — but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. While you do want to avoid adding too much text and clipart, add a touch of personality by picking a unique (but readable) font or adding in a pop of color. That way, the next time you’re at a networking event, you can end a great conversation by passing on your card to potential employers. Then, when they come across it again, they will instantly be reminded of your brand (and hopefully also of how much they loved you!).
Now go ahead, get out there — and be the Louboutin of the career world!
Chris Perry, Brand & Marketing Generator for [CareerRocketeer.com]