As a college student, you have a lot of things to worry about. You’ve got classes, clubs, a job, and a social life to take care of. Planning ahead for your career is one of the last things you’re thinking about as an underclassman.
College is the place where you start building a professional network, participating in a variety of activities, and developing new skills. It’s important to incorporate all these experiences into the foundation of your personal brand.
As you make your way through college, you’re going to meet tons and tons of new people. In every new class you take, club you join, and event you attend, you’ll be introduced to people who have the potential to be part of your professional network. At first, you won’t even realize you’re networking.
The more people you add to your professional network, the more important your personal brand will become. They can be students, teachers, alumni, or anyone else you meet. You never know what role your network will play in your career down the line, so it’s important to maintain a positive, professional image at all times. This means you need to shape your brand both on and offline.
You can also help your professional network grow by connecting people with each other. Introduce your friends to other friends who have the same major or interests. Being a connector is a great way to make your own professional network stronger. A strong network leads to a stronger personal brand.
What you do outside of class is what you’ll become known for on your college campus. Whether you participate in professional organizations, volunteer opportunities, sports teams, or some other activity, your fellow students will get to know you based on these activities.
It doesn’t matter which activities you decide to dedicate your time to. If it’s about your passions or your future career, everything factors into your personal brand.
Your main priority in college (aside from making friends and doing fun activities) is to learn as many new skills as you can before you leave. Learn everything you can to benefit your career and your future.
The skills you pick up don’t necessarily have to come from the classroom. They are all equally important and play into your personal brand.
As you learn new skills, start adding them to your resume and LinkedIn profile. The more skills you become an expert on, the more credible you will become. One of the most important qualities of a personal brand is credibility.
Between your network, activities, and skills, there are plenty of ways you can begin shaping your brand in college. Graduation will arrive faster than you think, so don’t put off the parts of your career you can start today.
What else can college students do to start shaping their personal 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.