What Every College Graduate Needs To Know About Their Personal Brand

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Back in the dark ages, when I graduated from college, in order to get a job one went armed with a resume, a good GPA and a copy of the help wanted ads. If you were lucky you had a connection somewhere that might help to pull your resume out of the pile and if you were smart enough you used it.

There was no Internet, no LinkedIn, no personal websites and no Google available to do a quick search to see what skeletons you might already have lined up in your closet. There wasn't even anything referred to as your "personal brand."

Today it's all different. Soon to be college graduates need to be thinking about building their personal brand and how they're showing up online and offline. If you're one of them here's what you need to know.

The clock on your personal brand started yesterday.

You've already been contributing to it with your work or intern experience, your sense of style and humor, the places you've lived and traveled to, where you went to school and what people are saying about you after you leave the room.

Your personal brand is not a destination you arrive at.

It's a living, breathing organism and it will evolve as you do. You'll take right and left turns. You'll pivot. More than once you might make a complete career shift. That doesn't change the essence of your personal brand. It contributes to it and its evolution.

It will require care and feeding.

If you want a career and you want success you're going to have to spend time and pay attention to it. It does not happen by itself.


Block out time every day to give your personal brand the attention it needs. The amount of time will vary depending on where you on in your career. It can be as little as twenty minutes a day for maintenance and as much as a few hours when you're in job search mode. Don't wait until you need a job to think about your brand.

Your Digital You is home base for your personal brand.

When people want to find out more about you they're going to search online and see what they find. Recruiters will search your social network activity. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is just about LinkedIn. It's not. LinkedIn is the most important social network when it comes to business, but don't limit yourself. Personal websites are the future. Plus they allow you more creativity through which to present yourself than LinkedIn does.

It's up to you to tell your story the way you want it told.

You don't need to leave this up to Google. You have control over that story. This is the hardest part of personal branding. Especially at those moments in your career when you pivot. And you will pivot. There are no straight paths.

Share stuff online that's worth sharing.

Part of the telling your story is in what you share, whether you're creating content in the form of a blog, vlog, snapchat or podcast or curating it. What you share says something about your personal brand.

Be yourself - but do it with skill and thought.

In other words, think before you share. It's perfectly acceptable to share personal stuff. In fact, in today's world, we want to know the human side of you. But think before you post a picture of yourself in compromising situations. Once it's online it's never going away. The best you can hope for is something unsavory eventually makes it way so far down in a search no one sees it.

Your network is your net worth. Online and Offline.

Never underestimate the power of networking. If you do nothing else to build your brand, network. Go to conferences, networking events. Stay in touch with your classmates and professors online and offline.

Your resume alone will never get you a job.

You need one. It needs to be accurate and easy to read. But gone are the days when you worried about the quality of the paper stock on which it was printed to make an impression. You're most likely going to be uploading that resume to an online portal who will then rearrange how the data is inputed. You need to help it along to get it read. That might mean searching LinkedIn for a mutual connection who works there or being inventive with ways to interact with prospective employers online.

Do your homework.

Just because it's not being assigned anymore, keep doing your homework. Before interviews. When you're trying to make connections. When you're meeting with potential clients. Your knowledge will make you stand out and contribute to your personal brand.

Go old school.

Back in those dark ages I grew up in, my mother ingrained in me what are now considered old school methods that are still the hallmarks of my own personal brand. News flash: They have not gone out of style and now more than ever will help you stand out from the noise. Simple things like being on time, sending thank-you notes, being helpful, always looking your best and smiling.

Don't forget to hustle.

With all the talk of inbound marketing and build it and they will come philosophies, never underestimate the importance of including hustling in that equation. You can have a stellar online profile but it's not enough if no one knows it's there.

You still have to sell you.

People hate that word. But it's a reality of life in the real world. Your Digital You may be all bright and shiny. Your in-person you may be the same. But just having all the right credentials is not enough. You still have to show how you're the answer to someone else's problem. That's the part called selling.

Joanne Tombrakos is a Storyteller, Business Development and Marketing Consultant and NYU Prof who helps build brands for the digital age. For more information on how to hire her or to register for her online course on personal branding, visit joannetombrakos.com.

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