Uniqueness: 7 Ways to Build a Personal Brand in College

By Megan (Weyrauch) Johnson on September 12, 2013

“I’ve never heard of personal branding.”

“I have no idea what that is.”

“Uhh …”

This was the general sentiment of students I talked to around The Ohio State University about personal branding. Starting your personal brand in college is important, but it appears the idea proves a mystery to many college students.

Personal branding is “the process of developing a ‘mark’ that is created around your personal name or career” that you use to communicate your skills, values and personality. In other words, your personal brand shows employers how you are unique from other job candidates.

Though many of the students I talked to had little knowledge about personal branding, a couple of students gave me their definitions of the practice. Fourth year Ohio State student Brian Doak described personal branding in his own words.

“It’s basically trying to sell yourself like a brand, especially for jobs,” said Doak, a communication and analysis practice major and professional writing minor. “Appearances and the way you talk go along with that brand.”

Fourth year Ohio State student Maggie O’Shea shared a similar view on personal branding.

“What pops out in my head is the people that make themselves known and make themselves and their name mean something,” said O’Shea, an English major and professional writing and political science minor. “So taking their voice and having it make an impact.”

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Personal branding is increasing in importance. In her article, “Personal Branding Tips for College Students,” Susan Chritton said that in the past students who went to college found jobs very easily after graduation, but college students today face competition from other college graduates with experience, non-college graduates with experience and older people in the workforce; this makes entering the workforce more difficult, increasing the immediate need for personal branding.

Start building your personal brand now by adhering to the following tips.

1. Understand your career goals and aspirations.

Think about what you want to do with your future. Where do you see yourself down the road? At least have an idea of what you are hoping to do in your career. Think about your aspirations. How can you attain these? Take some time to think through what sort of mark you want to make on the world; this will help orient you to the way you want your personal brand to look.

2. See yourself through a different set of eyes.

How do people perceive you? Try to look at the way you act, speak and dress through the eyes of those around you. Who are you hanging out with on the weekends? What are you posting on social media sites? Did you dress like you wanted to go to class this morning? Part of building your personal brand lies in the way others will accept that brand. Remember, professionals and employers will judge you based on how you live your daily life, what you put on the internet and how you conduct yourself in society.

“Branding yourself is just putting yourself out there and people responding well to it,” said O’Shea, “so make yourself a kind of product that you want to be around.”

Start living a little more professionally and strengthen your personal brand.

3. Find what makes you unique.

Though employers are judging the decisions you make, they also look for candidates who are unique. One of the first things to do when building your brand is to understand what makes you unique; why are you different from the other students in your major or from other people in general? Think about your internships, travel abroad experiences, the languages you speak and any special projects you’ve done. You can think about volunteer work or special skills you have and any awards you may have received as well. What makes you, you? When you figure out how you are unique and use it to your advantage, you will develop a useful personal brand that will help make you known in the world.

4. Build a strong skill set.

While you are in college to learn within a specific major, you should also try to learn about anything else you can before you graduate.

“I think [students] should be well-rounded,” said Doak, “and as experienced in the field they’re looking at as they can.”

Whether these skills are academic, professional, social or otherwise, the more skills you can become an expert on, the more credible you become. Credibility is very important in building your personal brand; the more credible you are, the more likely an employer will feel they can trust you and the more skills you can offer to a job.

5. Become an internet guru.

Social media is largely becoming a part of the work world, and it is thus important to know how to use it professionally. Social media is also a great outlet to show off your personality.

“Have a personality that people respond well to, whether it’s a class or going out somewhere or just hanging out with friends, and have different avenues for it like Twitter or blogging,” said O’Shea.

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Learn how to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to follow and like companies you’re interested in—they may post job offerings or other useful career information. Using social media professionally will strengthen your personal brand by getting your name and information on the internet for potential employers to see.

The caveat is that you have to be mindful of what you post; what would you want an employer to see? What would be terrible for them to see? Remove inappropriate material from your social media sites to ensure your online presence is professional.

In addition, blogging is a great way to build your personal brand. Blogging about a topic that interests you is a great way to showcase your personality and writing skills. Share your blog via social media to get your name spread. Your personal brand is about putting yourself out there and getting an edge on those who are not doing so.

6. Keep networking.

You may not realize that you are probably already networking. Any time you talk to someone in class, join a new organization or sit next to someone on the bus, there is potential for networking.

Networking with professionals is a fantastic way to get your name into the professional world. Make sure to network with any and everyone you can, however; you never know who will be the connection to your dream career. This includes networking with your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, past employers, coaches, and other people who know you well. The more you network, the more connections you will have that know about and can talk about you. Also check out LinkedIn, a site built for networking.

7. Create documents to display your personal brand.

Highlight your uniqueness through different documents. After you have a grip on your personal brand, create documents that will help other people to understand who you are. Use your resume and cover letter to stand out by highlighting what makes you unique compared to other candidates. Craft business cards with your name and specialty to pass out to friends and employers.

Follow these tips to get started on creating and strengthening your personal brand. Stand out among other job applicants and show your personality, uniqueness, skills and online presence through personal branding. If you have your own tips for building a personal brand in college, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Hello! I served as the Director of News/Managing Editor for Uloop News from 2013 until 2017. I recruited writers, edited many articles, managed interns, and led our National Team. When I'm not writing or editing, I love to take part in community theater, read, and enjoy the outdoors with my husband Kevin. I have a Bachelor's degree in English and Professional Writing from Ohio State University and an M.Ed. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Wright State University.

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