Raise your hand if you have nightmares about job hunting and actually landing a job. Me too! Going full force into the workforce after graduating can be a daunting task. Success takes time and a lot of baby steps. One of the most important baby steps is personal branding. To me, personal branding is kind of like your dating profile for potential employers. It is how you present yourself and become recognisable in a sea of people to potential audiences. Personal branding can seem tough because you must make yourself desirable over everyone else wanting the same job. It seems impossible, but that is where I come in. I want to share some of the things I’ve learned with you. So grab the popcorn and pass the laptop, it’s time for a professional makeover.
Think like a Pro, be the Pro
First things first, you need to think of yourself as a professional. The mind is a powerful thing and fear can stop you from reaching your full potential. Once you start seeing yourself as a professional, your thinking pattern should change in professional environments and when making decisions that are a little more complex than whether or not to eat that leftover pizza. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and figure out how to work on them. Something that can help you think of yourself as a professional is getting a professional wardrobe. Yes, it will cost you money, but having a well fitting suit or blazer can help you look professional. You also need nice shoes. This will be the basis of your wardrobe and most likely, your interview wear as well. Make sure it looks conservative and professional. No crazy colors allowed. Pants suits and skirt suits in charcoals and blacks look the best and are easy to personalize with different blouses and shirts.
Social Media Do’s and Don’ts
Now, it’s time to use your professional brain, and clean up your social media. In 2014, Times reported that 93% of hiring managers looked at a candidate’s social media profile before making a hiring decision. This means your future boss will most likely look at your Facebook profile and those photos from that party last weekend could cost you a job. These photos and statuses give employers an idea of who you are, and like your dating profile, it helps them decide if they think you are compatible with their company. So right now, go clean it up and get rid of anything that reflects poorly on your character and might make a potential employer think twice about hiring you. Think of it this way, even if your employer does not look at your profile before you are hired, you will most likely become friends with coworkers who will see…and so will your boss.
Not only do you need to clean up your social media, you need to join some others. As of July 30, 2015, the professional network, LinkedIn has 380 million members. That is a very large network of professionals from around the world that you can connect to and who could help you get a job. This is why I’m recommending you make a profile. This profile is literally like your dating profile. You show your likes, accomplishments, education, what causes you care about, and a summary that makes people want to hire you. It also serves as a mini resume where you list your skills and people can endorse you and recommend you to their friends that might have job openings. LinkedIn will even match you with job openings it thinks you would be a good match for that are listed on the website. You also need to have an account on Twitter. If you already have one, you have two options: you can completely redo your original Twitter that you probably made in high school, or you can just make a separate professional account. One account can be for fun where you follow all of your friends and favorite celebrities, and the other account can be for following business leaders and trailblazers in your industry. Having a professional Twitter helps you keep up with what is going on in your industry, engage with leaders in your industry, and help you understand what new skills employers are looking for.
The most important thing about all of these social media sites is what you say. Make sure on your professional sites that you are intentionally pushing out content that is professional and has something to say. Do not just say something for the purpose of saying something. You do not fill awkward silences with conversations about the weather; so don’t fill your professional social media accounts with random posts. Be intentional.
After cleaning up your social media, you need to continue your professional presence on the Internet with a professional email address. This address needs to be something that is similar to your name and not anything like your middle school email. This way, potential employers will easily be able to match the email address to you personally. Begin using this email for anything job or business related.
Then, you need to set up a personal website or a blog using this email address. This helps get your name out there and you can share experiences you’ve had in the industry. Blogs and personally websites are a great tool to have when applying for a job, because it is an expanded platform where potential employers can see who you are and what skills you have. Even if your website just has a few pages that consists of your resume, portfolio, and contact information, it can always be expanded later. Just make sure the website or blog reflects who you really are. No one wants to think they are hiring a superhero and get a plumber with a cape and a ski mask.
Something else you need for the professional you is a business card. All you need to do is go to a website like Vistaprint and design your card. It doesn’t matter if you are still in college. The card doesn’t have to be extensively detailed. Mine just has my name, major, and preferred contact information. Having a business card makes you look professional and is a handy way for potential employers to have your contact information.
Another major thing you need to have as a professional is a resume and a list of good references. This is the foundation to your future. Do research and talk to a career service center where they can guide you through how to make a professional resume. I used my university’s career services center and they were great in teaching me how to make my resume look professional and complete.
Along with the resume, you need to have a list of good references. Professors that teach in your major field are a good place to start. These people know what good work looks like and have seen you under the pressures of schoolwork and adult life. Just make sure whomever you get to be a reference has a good view of you. You don’t want a hiring manager to call a reference and all the reference talks about is that you are lazy. You want references that will build you up and recommend you for the job.
Last, but not least, when trying to find your personal brand and getting it out there, be yourself. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be yourself throughout the entire process of personal branding. I also want you to know it’s okay to feel like you have been defeated before you even began when it comes to finding a job after college. You are not alone. I hope I have helped you understand that personal branding is about who you are as a professional. It is an evolving work of art, just like you are. As you grow and mature, so will your brand. So keep up the good work and keep going.
Additional Resources and References