What is one piece of advice you’d give recent college grads about building a strong personal brand, even with limited work experience?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Be Genuine
There is no magic bullet to building a personal brand. I met with an entrepreneur recently who told me of his strategy for making sure people knew who he was and I found it off-putting. The right way to build your brand is to do great work, consistently, over a long period of time. Over deliver every time and people will know who you are.
– Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
2. Build a Website
Google yourself. Can you be found easily? A great way to start building your brand is by getting a professionally built personal website with a domain as close to your full name as possible. This way, you have more control over what people see when they Google you. Make all of your social sites point back to your personal site where you have full control over your image.
– Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com
3. Cultivate a Network
It’s important for recent grads to learn that networking is the foundation on which you’ll build a career and a booming personal life. It’s important to cultivate the relationships you already have, make valuable connections for them, and be specific about how others whom you trust (and vice versa) can help connect you. Then be sure to stay in touch with those with whom you really connect!
– Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids
4. Pay it Forward
What I have found most beneficial in building a personal brand is paying it forward in terms of helping others whenever you can, organizing events and gatherings of like-minded people, and contributing to the ecosystem. People tend to recognize that you are the kind of person who helps others, and the kind of person that has done great work, and become more willing to help you in return.
– Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me
5. Work on Personal Projects
Sometimes recent grads had two majors and a minor with a really high GPA, but didn’t have any internships or personal projects. They’re clearly smart and academically inclined, but didn’t show any propensity to apply their knowledge. I’m very excited when I see someone who has taken initiative and built something as a personal project or had a lot of internships.
– Luke Skurman, Niche.com
6. Demonstrate Consistency
When you begin to build your personal brand, keep it strong, professional and consistent. Your colleagues will find you on many different platforms. It’s important to be consistent. Also it’s okay to let loose a bit, but remember, there are people who could judge. Be sure to think about what you put out there.
– Parker Powers, Millionaire Network
7. Audit Your Search Results
Check Google and Bing to see what comes up for your name. That’s where people will start when they look for you. What do those links look like? If they do not look good, or do not lead to you, create a presence. You can use Facebook, Linkedin, About.me, Wix, your own website, blogs, Tumblr, etc, to start creating a presence. Also, check your Google images!
– Alec Bowers, Abraxas Dynamics
8. Be Active
Do a lot of outreach and calls yourself. Be as active as you possibly can and make sure when people think of your brand, they also think of you. How you carry yourself as a person will make or break you as an entrepreneur. People want to work with people that they not only like, but also who they trust. People who are organized and present themselves and their product well.
– Amanda Barbara, Pubslush
9. Write a Lot
Start a blog and just start writing at least 100 words everyday. The future of the web, commerce and general business will be driven by digital marketing and communications. If you are able to display your beliefs and skills in the form of a well-written blog, you’ll have a leg up on everyone who isn’t improving their content creation skills like you are.
– Logan Lenz, Endagon
10. Join a Community
Become a part of your startup community. Get involved, reach out on social media and attend events. Getting your face seen, getting your name heard and shaking hands is more memorable than your LinkedIn profile. People want to work with people they know.
– Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media
11. Share Your Experiences
When I was in college, I started setting up informational interviews and recording the audio. I posted the interviews as a podcast that I called “The Creative Career.” Before I knew it, I had 100,000 listeners and the podcast led me into my first job. You can start simple by setting up interviews and sharing your favorite quotes on LinkedIn or Twitter. Just get out there and start meeting people.
– Allie Siarto, Fare Oak
12. Focus on One Skill
Focus on building up your experience in one area — don’t spread yourself too thin. Do one thing, and do it exceptionally well. Be confident that you can do this well. Know how your skill set can contribute to the larger goal.
– Phil Dumontet, DASHED
13. Use Your Network
A strong recommendation from someone in your network is worth 10 times more than a list of experiences. If someone is willing to stick their neck out and vouch for you to a colleague, that says a lot more than just a paper resume. Show rather than tell!
– Stephen Ufford, Trulioo
14. Become a Thought Leader
Find ways to contribute content: Write articles for publications, offer to contribute expert content to blogs, start your own professional blog and share lots of content there. Follow and comment on LinkedIn groups, specifically on articles or subjects that help to position you as a thought leader. Consistency and frequency are key. Building a personal brand isn’t just about a logo and website.
– Steven Le Vine, grapevine pr + consulting
15. Show Off Your Work
I recommend a portfolio website that shows off your unique talents and skill sets. Are you a developer? Show off personal projects you’ve done that demonstrate what you’re capable of. Are you a writer? Post pieces of your best work. Don’t be afraid that it’s not good enough. We all start somewhere.
– Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World