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Whether you are considering college, are currently a student, or have recently graduated, one fact remains. You want to be successful in your career. Even with all the hard skills that you need to do your job well, lacking a personal brand can still prevent you from reaching your full potential. So, what exactly is a personal brand and why is it so important to develop one early in your career?

What is a Personal Brand?

Specifically, a personal brand refers to the perceptions and images that define you as a working professional. It can be helpful to think of personal branding similarly to the way that you think about corporate branding. When you think about one of your favorite brands (or simply a brand that is very well known), what comes to mind? It may be the company’s logo—but if you think even more, you may start to realize that the company itself is known for certain things. This could include the brand’s values/mission, its reputation within the community, or even a strong social media presence.

Having a personal brand is similar. By branding yourself, you can find ways to stand out from others in your field. This can help you propel your career to the next level, making it easier to land more clients or even get that promotion you have been dreaming of.

What Makes Up a Personal Brand?

There are a few elements that should make up your personal brand. According to Forbes, these should include your story, your niche, and your authenticity.

Your personal story refers to what connects you as a professional to your target audience (whether this be a potential client or employer). In many cases, a person’s brand story will explain how they got into the field or what drives them to succeed. This should be something relatable, personal, and inspiring.

Meanwhile, your niche refers to who you are serving in your work. Do you have a specific target audience? If you are working to sell a product, for example, you will need to understand exactly who would benefit from your product. This may require some audience research.

Finally, do not overlook authenticity when it comes to building a personal brand. People will be able to tell when you are being genuine and authentic regardless of what industry you are in.

Why Develop a Personal Branding Strategy?

Building a personal branding strategy early in your career can benefit you in a number of ways. Most importantly, a strong personal brand can make you more marketable to potential employers and clients. In fact, according to a CareerBuilder study, about 70% of today’s employers will look at an applicant’s social media page when making a hiring decision. If an employer is looking at two applicants with identical skills and experience on paper, the applicants’ personal branding (or lack thereof) can be a major factor in the final hiring decision.

With strong personal branding, you can stand out from others applying for the same job. From there, a successful personal brand can help you grow your career and make new connections.

How Can You Use Your Personal Brand?

Having a personal brand can help make you more visible online, which can put you in front of more potential employers and/or clients. You can also use your personal brand to leverage your own professional network and find growth opportunities that you may not have otherwise. Likewise, a personal brand can be used to build your own confidence and defeat that dreaded imposter syndrome in your work.

Personal Brand Examples

If the concept of a personal brand is still not entirely clear, it can be helpful to consider some personal branding examples for students.

Perhaps one of the best and most accessible examples of strong personal branding is that of Oprah Winfrey, an American television personality and entrepreneur who was born into poverty and overcame a number of life challenges to reach the success she has found today. Over the years, she has developed her own personal brand to be known as an authentic, transparent, and compassionate person who has been part of many charitable projects and organizations.

How to Build a Personal Brand

Now that you understand what a personal brand is, what it entails, and why it is important to have one—where can you start when it comes to building your own brand? The first thing to remember is that it is never too early to establish and grow your personal brand. Even if you are still in school (or thinking about school), there are some steps you can take now that can pay off big time down the road.

Determine Your Audience

Start by considering your professional audience. If you are still in school or preparing to graduate, you are probably targeting an audience of potential employers as you get ready to send out job applications. On the other hand, if you are already working in your field, your audience may be entirely different depending on the type of work you do and what your aspirations are. In that instance, you will have to tailor your personal brand to the pulse of those who align with your vision.

Create Your Vision for the Future

Speaking of aspirations, this is also a good time to sit down and really think about what you want your professional future to look like. Where do you envision yourself a few years down the road compared to where you would like to be 10 years from now? Once you have a better idea of what your vision looks like, you can begin crafting a personal brand that reflects your hopes and dreams.

Prioritize Your Values and Passions

The people with the most successful branding are those who have followed their passions and stuck to their values throughout their careers. Think back to the example of Oprah Winfrey and her personal branding. Despite working her way up the career ladder and becoming one of the wealthiest people in the world, her charitable spirit and compassion for others never wavered. As you grow your own personal brand, remember to stay true to what is most important to you as well.

Define Your Skills and Strengths

Ultimately, your personal brand is what should set you apart from others in your field or in the current job market. It can be helpful, then, to sit down and think about your own strengths and skills that you bring to the table so that you can highlight these in your personal branding. These can include hard skills (such as knowing a certain programming language) or soft skills (such as being an excellent communicator)—as long as they differentiate you, they are fair game.

Interview Experts in Your Desired Field

You can draw a lot of inspiration for your own personal branding from others who are in your desired field. Try reaching out to professionals who are already in your chosen career path and ask to set up an interview or chat over coffee. You might be surprised at how much you can learn and how you can apply some of their own personal branding tips to your own career.

Connect With Mentors

Even better than interviewing experts in your desired field is having a mentor. If you are currently in school, check with your career and/or professional development center to see if they offer a program that will match you up with a mentor (or mentors) in your field of choice. This can be a great way to learn more about what it takes to build a successful brand in your field while gaining a valuable resource as you continue your schooling.

Develop a Narrative

One of the most important components of your personal brand is your story. While you may only just be starting out in your career, you should start to develop a compelling narrative that explains why you are getting into your line of work and what it means to you. This story can change and evolve as you work your way through your career, but it is important to start with some kind of narrative when developing a personal brand.

Build Your Network

Another vital part of personal branding is building connections with others in your industry. You do not need to wait until you finish your schooling to do this. In fact, it is never too early to start building a professional network by attending industry conferences/events and connecting to others in your field. The people with whom you surround yourself with can have a major impact on your reputation and branding, after all.

Ask for Recommendations

Collecting recommendations and endorsements from classmates, professors, and other trusted leaders in your field can be a great way to build your personal brand and reputation. If you do not already have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create one. From there, you can easily request written endorsements from others with whom you have connected—which is one of the easiest ways to grow your brand and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Assess and Update Your Online Presence and Personal Website

Speaking of LinkedIn, having an online presence is an absolute must when it comes to creating your personal brand. Take some time to review your social media pages (including Facebook and Twitter) and take steps to ensure that your profiles reflect what you want your followers to perceive as your personal brand. If you do not already have a personal website, this is also a good time to create one. Not sure where to begin? Building a website is easier than ever with templates and other helpful tools.

Focus on Quality

Remember that any time you share or post something online, quality counts. Even something as seemingly trivial as uploading a headshot to your website can be extremely important. A low-quality and pixelated image may be a turnoff to potential clients or employers, whereas a crisp and high-quality image reflects that you care about the finest details. Remember that your personal brand should always showcase the best of who you are both as a person and a professional—so consistency is key here.

Know Your Value

Last but not least, understand your unique value proposition and use it consistently to your advantage. This goes back to knowing your strengths and weaknesses, but the most important thing is to highlight your strengths and build a personal brand that makes it clear exactly what you bring to the table.

Post University Can Help

Building a personal brand is not something you can expect to do overnight—but with these strategies in mind, you can work your way towards creating a recognizable and solid personal brand in the months and years to come. From there, you can more effectively grow as a professional and take your career to new heights.

Looking for more help in preparing for a successful career? Post University has you covered with a wide range of degree programs from which to choose, as well as professional career guidance for all students. Post University students can also take advantage of the Center for Career & Professional Development (CCPD), which provides skills and resources needed to help students succeed in the workforce. From help with interview skills and networking to job search training and career workshops, the CCPD is an excellent resource for Post University students. Learn more or reach out today!

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and its outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.