Dear College Students,
Welcome to college. You’re going to have a ton of fun, meet a bunch of new people, join some great groups and clubs and experience some amazing lectures.
Who cares, right? Your parents are hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of miles away and maybe you’ve got them blocked anyway. And, your grandparents can’t figure out how to use social media without your intervention. Plus, you’re 18 years old – or older – and can go to any movie you want – without a parent.
But, what does that picture of you drinking from a beer-bong do for job prospects?
Or, how about that SnapChat video of you downing three tequila shots in 10-seconds?
Don’t think it matters?
I teach a class called The Branding of Me at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#GoHeels) and we spend an entire semester studying, building, cultivating and promoting a personal brand – something that most college students never think about. But, is more important now – to graduates – than ever before.
In fact, college graduates have more competition than ever before. You aren’t special – you are competing with over 4.4 million other college graduates each year (in the USA alone). This doesn’t count the super-smart European, Asian and Canadians, too. Oh, did I forget about South American, Central Americans and Australians? Oops, make that 18 million people – just like you (all graduating from, colleges each and every year).
So, how do you make yourself stand out – how do you make your resume or CV look any different than everyone else? Sure, you’re unique, but so are the millions of kids graduating this Spring.
Here are five simple things you can do it create, maintain and increase your brand value during college:
1. Think Twice: Before posting that photo of your in a swim suit standing in a baby pool drinking while being held upside-down, think twice. Is it really crucial to your brand image? Does it help it or hurt it. Sure, your friends back at the frat-house will LIKE the post over and over, but how will that recruiter for grad school or for that job you really want “like” it?
At a minimum, start working on separating your Facebook profile into two sections – public and private. Things that are public should be things that will help your brand and things that are private (like the aforementioned pic) should be hidden from your public profile. Aren’t sure if something you are posting should be public or private? That means it should be private 100% of the time. If you have to think about it, it’s not something for public consumption.
And, while we’re at it, consider what you’re posting on Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat, too. SnapChat supposedly disappears – yea, right. Don’t be so naive.
2. Establish a Brand: What are your passions, interests, likes, beliefs and what do you stand for – these are all things that you should consider as you start to establish and maintain a “brand.” Yes, it is possible to establish a personal brand while you’re in college. We do it every single semester at the School of Media and Journalism at UNC. But, it takes planning, persistency and passion. You have to be consistent in what you want to be known for and then make sure it is clearly stated and promoted via all your public social media feeds.
Truth is, most college students have never seriously considered (or done any sort of personal reflection, for that matter) what they truly believe and have a passion for. So, you’re a political science major – why? You’re chemistry – why? You’re in english – well, why? What is it you want to do the rest of your life and be known for? Seriously, think about these things – there is no better time to do this than in college – so that you interview for the right jobs rather than just interviewing for a job. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a perfect match – your passion and profession will align. For example, have a passion for politics? Then, why interview with Pepsi or Proctor and Gamble? Head on up to Washington, DC and intern for a year and see who you meet, leverage the relationships and show your passion and, see where it takes you. There is no better time in your life to pursue those passions than right after graduating from college – before you’re married, before you have kids and before you have the responsibility of a car and house payment.
Blog: I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from former students who tell me they got a job or an internship BECAUSE of the blog I forced them to start in class. You see, in addition to cleaning up and maintaining a healthy, brand-centric social media presence, I require each and every student to start their own personal blog. The blog can be about anything they want – as long as they blog consistently and about something they are passionate about.
And, passion matters. No matter what you might here about passion being overrated, they’re wrong. Blogging about something you care about makes blogging easier (and faster). You don’t have to think of topics – they just come to you, automatically. And, if you’re lucky, you’re even experience stream-of-consciousness writing.
At least 30% of my former students attribute their blog to helping them land their first job. Yes, it’s that high. When all things are equal between two equally qualified candidates, the one with some semblance of a personal brand and a blog will land the job every time.
4. Be consistent: Focus, focus, focus. Don’t stray from the brand you are building and don’t doubt the impact of words. Little things matter. Be consistent and identifiable and people will notice you – you will stand out. Blog at least weekly, tweet whenever you see, hear or read something related to you, your image or your brand and post pics that help establish your brand identity. Don’t be afraid to over-share. If you’re being consistent and true to your message, people will appreciate the plethora of information.
5. Establish a LinkedIn Account NOW: LinkedIn is the MOST IMPORTANT social media tool in the world right now. Sure, Facebook has more users, and Twitter is super popular, but LinkedIn is like a living resume. Although your real resume should NEVER, EVER be more than one page (yes, NEVER, EVER more than one page – anyone who tells you otherwise is WRONG), LinkedIn is where you can store your professional and personal branding portfolio. You can list all your experience, post your projects, PowerPoint’s and Prezi’s and connect with anyone and everyone you want to – and leverage them in your job hunt. Heck, LinkedIn has even separated and automatically formed an alumni group for your college – so everyone on LinkedIn who graduated from the same school as you’re attending is listed under their LinkedIn Alumni Directory. Yes, can I get a “wow”?
So, when you re interviewing for jobs you can post your resume and connect to fellow alumni via LinkedIn – for free. And, don’t underestimate power of your own school’s fan base! It matters. People like to hire people with something in common. And, barely anyone leaves college without fond memories of their school. #GoHeels!
written by Gary Kayye