I’m assuming you’ve heard and probably use the phrase “brand name.” For example, Tylenol is the brand name of acetaminophen. We think of Cheerios as the brand name of sugary round cereal. Those are corporate brands. But you have a brand, too, and so do I. That’s where the personal branding comes in.
Personal branding expert Dan Schawbel defines personal branding as “how you market yourself to others.” It’s very perception-based. You may be a studious, responsible, hard-working young professional with a 4.0 GPA, but if you’re out on Franklin St. every night with Facebook pictures to prove it, your personal brand is probably just the opposite of what you’d like it to be. Other people think you’re a drunken riot act. And their perception is your brand.
Branding (corporate and personal) is about how other people see you. For you visual learners, take a look at this picture — it really underscores how branding is different from every other form of marketing.
Then the question becomes: how do you want to be seen? What makes you buy Tylenol over the CVS brand? Why do you buy Cheerios instead of Walmart’s Honey Oooos? Why should an employer hire you over one of the other 4,000 Carolina grads?
The answer is differentiation — that’s the key to branding. Position yourself as different, and hopefully in some way better, than the competition. To do that, you have to do some self-analysis. Look at your strengths, experiences and goals, and discern how those make you unique and desirable.
For a college student, personal branding can be especially hard. If you’re like me, you haven’t picked an industry (or even a direction), so you’re not sure which experiences and skills to highlight or how to position yourself. I think the key is to discern your transferable skills, your passion(s) and your most exciting, unique experiences. Then figure out why they’re a potent combination that makes you superior to your peers (in a professional way, of course).
From there, you begin to form your personal brand with words, actions and appearance — you launch a personal branding campaign. It’s not something that can be done overnight, but to get started, I suggest you read some or all of the following articles. And if you’re really loving the concept, just Google “personal branding.”
- Me Incorporated: Your Own Magnetic Brand
- 12 Things You Must Know About Communicating Your Brand
- An Introduction into the World of Personal Branding
- Top 5 Personal Branding Tips for Recent Graduates