How to build a personal brand: Personal branding strategy & action plan 💪
What is personal branding?
Entering the job market as a recent graduate can be hard. The likelihood is your dream graduate job has dozens of candidates that, on paper, look just like you.
They may have the same degree, similar grades, and have may have worked just as hard as you have to network via work experience opportunities.
Luckily, there are things you can do to break out of the herd and leave a lasting impression on hiring managers – this is where building a personal brand comes in.
Personal branding is about curating the verbal and non-verbal cues you send out to others into your own unique reputation or ‘brand’.
Although this might seem like an intimidating prospect, you have probably been unconsciously doing this in some capacity your whole life.
Building a personal brand is all about consciously creating an outward image of yourself via the culmination of your life and work experiences, qualifications and expertise into a narrative persona that appeals to employers and differentiates you from your peers.
How do you start to build a personal brand?
When starting to build a personal brand, it is important to remember these three key steps:
1. Keep it streamlined:
There’s a lot that makes you unique and it can be hard to narrow down your focus, but too many elements up front can become distracting.
Ideally, someone should be able to get a snapshot of who you are and how you will fit into their project or workplace right away – fill them in on the details over coffee once you have your foot in the door.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask a friend to tell you about what they thought when they first met you. Is it what you expected?
Why did you come across that way? By writing down what you’re doing right and wrong, it will be easier to put together a thoughtful and genuine plan.
Your personal brand should come through clearly and consistently in your permanent publications: Your LinkedIn profile, business cards, cover letter and resume should work together to support the qualities that you want people to see most strongly in you.
2. Focus on actions over words
Instead of jumping on every opportunity you come across and risking overloading yourself with work, focus on one or two projects that support your personal brand strategy.
For example, if your brand is ‘budding conservation ecologist’, you might swap out your high-demand volunteer work at the local dog shelter for an internship under your local park ranger.
If your employment history supports what you say your goals are, you will be a more trustworthy candidate. The added bonus? You are likely to feel more motivated to stick with your goals.
Taking charge of your extracurriculars is about working smarter not harder. Remember that your time is the most valuable asset you have in terms of investing in your image.
3. Clean up your socials
Even if you don’t work in a field that requires a social media presence or any digital training, it is common for employers, coworkers and clients looking to contract your services to do some snooping before they meet you face-to-face.
How do you clean up your social media? Start by:
- Checking your privacy settings
The easiest way to avoid your wild past from damaging your professional reputation is by checking in on your security settings online so that you can control who gets to ‘follow’ you.
That said, keeping a low profile is easier said than done for most graduates. Take charge of your future by being picky about the things you keep on your page.
- Producing a professional profile picture
Gone are the days where your profile picture is expected to keep to the white-background-black-suit-and-awkward-close-up tradition. Put your photography skills on display and show your creativity by cramming more of your brand into the pictures you post.
For creative types, you may like to use some simple light editing. Someone who values hard work might want to organise a nice office space to use as a background picture. If you want to show off your playful personality, consider wearing bright colours.
- Posting relevant content to your feed
Be brave! If you find an article or emerging story interesting, it may have a part to play in building your personal brand. Subject matter related to your work or passions can help break the ice for people on the outskirts of your network looking to connect.
Built your brand? Now build your network!
Even if you don’t currently have a vast professional network at hand, being disciplined in building your brand solidifies your current connections and creates the opportunity to slowly expand your reach.
How do expand your professional network?
- Create a LinkedIn Profile
As mentioned earlier, one of the quickest ways to make a measurable difference to the size of your network fast is through your LinkedIn profile, because your page and posts will be advertised to people that might only be loosely connected to you, or that you haven’t met but work in compatible fields of work.
- Connect with peers and coworkers
Your first steps should be to make sure you’ve added your coworkers, seniors from your company for as high up the chain as you can, and the people you studied with and learned from at university.
Once you’ve covered those basics, it’ll be time to join some groups. Be sure to contribute with thoughtful comments and posts as much as you can to increase your reach.
- Research and reach out
Another approach would be to look into some companies you would love to work at or someone with a job you would like to have and reach out to a hiring manager or employee.
Your introduction doesn’t need to be perfect to be effective, simply focus on some commonality you have with this person, set a broad expectation of what you’d like from a relationship with them, and politely leave the ball in their court.
How do you introduce yourself professionally online? You could start with something like:
Hi there! I’m a student at ANU studying marine biology and I was super excited to hear your article on the radio about your research project in Hawaii yesterday. I’d love to get to a point in my career where I could run something like that. Are you open to chatting about how you got to where you are?
Not everyone will have the time to invest in mentoring you, but networking is a muscle and setting aside time to work it out will put you strides ahead.
Keep in mind that for every successful connection you make to your network you’ll be made more prominent on all their coworkers and managers’ feeds too – maybe even some that are looking for fresh eyes on a project.
Student Blog Writer