EACE Blog contribution by Beth Settje, Associate Director for the Center for Career Development at The University of Connecticut
A few years ago, I heard a young man speak about his father’s influence on him, as he was growing up. Like many parents, the father had imparted expectations on his children, to behave and act a certain way when they left the house. He specifically emphasized that the way his son dressed, talked, held himself (posture), etc., reflected the son directly, but just as importantly, explained that his actions and words were a reflection of the family name. The father instilled values that led to his son’s reputation among friends, teachers, parents, coaches, bosses and other influential people in his life. In today’s world, we can take the father’s philosophy to a new level, as social media and other forms of technology are allowing all of us to not only create our own personal brand, but showcase it in ways otherwise never before considered.
The concept of a brand is not new. There are products and services that are well known throughout the world due to their logos, slogans or packaging. What I find noteworthy is the outside image can at times be more alluring than the goods themselves. Think of the latest cell phone or tablet recently introduced and the hype that surrounded its launch. Select consumers will wait in line for days, just to have the first ones available. At this point, the product and its features become less significant than the idea of just owning the newest version by a specific company. Quality became irrelevant in this example; the company name and prestige factor drove the action. Implicit trust in the brand allowed the consumer to bypass the features on the phone as the most significant purchasing reason. Do we, as individuals, have that same ability? Can we establish a personal brand that will precede us which will catapult us to the elite status? My answer: Perhaps. The methods: Résumés and Social Media/Internet Presence.
Résumés are often undervalued by our students-yes it is a tool to secure an interview. But more importantly, it is a personal branding product completely in our control. It is the one time we completely design how we want information about ourselves to be presented. By remembering that the résumé is intended for someone else, and not the author, we are able to have some influence on the reader. We may even manipulate the outcome, by showcasing specific accomplishments that are tailored to each audience. Our brand then, is fluid, demonstrating an aptitude to meet or exceed expectations.
When we put information online, we generate a digital footprint and establish a virtual presence. It is smart to be intentional with what information we generate, taking the lead on what is portrayed to others. Taking the right steps to control our image is critical in developing a personal brand. Examples of good branding are using Twitter to craft witty commentary that is insightful and relevant. Another is having a savvy LinkedIn public profile, drawing attention to a well written summary. How about creating a YouTube video that goes viral? The internet can enhance our reputation or destroy it, if we are not careful. Helping our students grasp ways to use it strategically, so the reputation that precedes them is accurate, is critical.
Personal branding does not have to be difficult. It does need to be well tended and managed, to ensure that the student’s reputation matches the personal branding goal.
Beth Settje has been working in higher education for more than 20 years, and in career development four about 14 years, with a focus on internship and co-op development since 2005. Beth earned her BS in Business Administration from Arcadia University and her M.Ed. in College Student Personnel from the University of Maryland. Currently, Beth is the Associate Director for the Center for Career Development at The University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. One of Beth’s favorite pastimes is speaking to, and writing about, career related topics, and she regularly presents at state, regional and national conferences on these subjects.