When you go to the supermarket and pick out your weekly groceries, you probably have a few favorite brands. Why do you prefer one brand over the generic version? Not necessarily because one is measurably different than the other, but because you know the brand and the fact that it is more than just a product. Much like Skippy peanut butter and Hood milk, individuals have their own type of brand to stand out from the crowd. Your brand is everything about you; how you dress, what your social media presence looks like, your attitude, and your grades. What do you want the world to think about you?
As a college student you may think, "Why do I have to worry about my brand now? I'm just working on my degree." But the truth is, your brand already exists whether you know it or not. It's a huge part of who you are in your everyday life. People will make snap judgments about you, but how you live up to your outer image will alter their impression. It's much easier to adjust your reputation now, than it will be to do it later in the professional world.
What an Employer Sees
When you present your resume to a potential employer, they see your qualifications on a piece of paper. They may get a sense of what others think of you through your recommendations. But when they interview you, they'll get that vital first impression that lets them know exactly what kind of person you are. Will you work hard for the company and represent it well, or will you do as little as possible to get by? Employers will see right through insincerity or misrepresentation. What you present will greatly determine your success in life, because as a professional, you are constantly selling yourself and your qualifications to obtain future opportunities.
Creating Your Brand
My advice is to sit down and really give some thought as to what your brand is, and how you intend to sell it. Consider every detail from how you dress, to what your goals are, and what skills you hope to offer a potential employers. Evaluate your work ethic, daily interactions, and punctuality. Are all of these things in line with what you think of yourself and how you want others to think of you? If so, you're heading in the right direction. If not, it's time to make a comprehensive plan to align your actions with the building of your brand.
Something else to keep in mind: these evaluations are not a one-time deal. You need to consistently review your strategy and update where needed. Remember to play to your strengths and ask for constructive feedback from those around you.
Focus on the Big Picture
As a college student, there are a lot of temptations that may keep you from reaching your ambitions. Keep your eye on the big picture by evaluating what will provide short-term happiness versus fulfilling your long-term goals. It may be fun to hit up that Tuesday night party, but when you fail your accounting test the next morning, you've set back your GPA and everything that goes along with it for just one night of fun. Will that be something you regret in the long run?
Sensor Your Social Media
If you are partaking in festivities, the first thing you're likely to do is tweet about it, check in on Facebook, or Instagram photos with your friends. While you think you're simply documenting the memories or showing your friends how much fun you're having, you're actually giving off a negative impression of you. Most employers check potential hires on their social media accounts at some point during the interview process. Even if you think your account is private, companies almost always find a way to see what you're up to. And if they don't like what they see, you won't be getting that job. This means scrutinizing and cleaning up your social media is a must in your branding process. Things like college parties, alcohol, scandalous outfits and poses, and anything questionable should be wiped from your pages. I do not recommend just making those photos private, because there are always ways around the settings. Instead, take them down completely.
Additionally, take good look at your statuses. Posts with misspellings and bad grammar will make it seem like you don't pay attention to details. Heated rants and complaining also don't portray you in a positive light. Whatever you say or post online is permanent, even if you delete the initial post. You never know who took a screenshot of your page before you deleted controversial content; it can always come back to haunt you.
Moral of the Story
We all know about product branding, and how much damage one wrong move can cause. It's a great lesson for us all to give some thought to our personal branding. Investing in yourself will be some of the most important work you do.