In general, we say your personal brand always exists, whether you know about it or not. That said, when you’re new to the professional world, you get to start out with a relatively clean slate. This gives you the opportunity to build your brand from scratch.
In the beginning, it is essential to shape your personal brand so it will portray you as the mature professional you are. A strong brand can really help you down the road, when it’s time to start the hunt for internships or jobs.
If you’re new to the personal branding game, discover these five steps to building your personal brand out of nothing:
1. Determine your goals.
The overall point of having a strong personal brand is to build your career. So naturally, the first step is to determine where you want to go. No matter where you are in your career when building your brand, it is essential to figure out your goals. Both short-term and long-term goals are important.
What do you want to study? What are your passions? Where in the world would you like to live? For which company would you love to work? All of these questions are important to consider now, so you can decide how to shape your brand.
2. Compile your history.
The next part of your brand involves your past. Make a list of all of the experiences you’ve had relating to your goals. This might include education, internships, jobs, volunteering, or anything else relevant. All of these experiences will culminate into your resume, which is a big part of your brand.
In addition to simply listing experiences in your resume, you can use these to tell the story of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. Stories are the meat of your brand, so figure out the best stories from your professional history you can share.
3. Create a consistent web presence.
Once you’ve established your past and your future, it’s time to look at what you can do in the present. A big part of this is establishing an online presence. If you haven’t already, create accounts on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social media is a great way to make yourself prominent on search engines, which boosts the signal of your brand.
Additionally, your email address and all of your accounts on these sites should have consistent and professional usernames (preferably a derivative of your own name). You should also have the same professional photo on all of your profiles. Again, consistency makes you easier to find and more credible.
4. Learn how to stand out.
Once you’ve established a presence, it’s time to learn how to stand out from your fellow job seekers. Do research on other professionals on similar career paths. Look for the sites they use, the articles they share, and the content they produce. Use your peers for ideas, but find a way to be unique. Channel their methods into your own mission.
You get additional bonus points for going above and beyond the standard social media profiles. Having a personal website is a fantastic way to stand out; only seven percent of other job seekers have one. Plus, maintaining a blog and/or writing guest blog posts on websites in your industry really amp up your brand’s signal.
5. Expand your network.
The final step is to get out there and let people know who you are. Connect with people on social media. Reach out with useful information they might appreciate. Attend networking events with the same mentality. Make people want to talk to you because you have something interesting to say.
Your network will benefit your brand down the line. When people know you as the strong professional that you are, they’ll be more likely to help you out when you’re looking into your next career move.
Once you’ve done each of these steps, your personal brand is never truly finished. In order to have a successful brand, you must continue to shape and add to it. Your brand will expand as you gain new experiences and meet new people, so keep an eye on it.
What are some other important steps to take when first building your brand?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.