Personal branding has traditionally been associated with high-profile business leaders and celebrities, but with the meteoric rise in social media and connected technology, almost everyone has the tools and incentive to build a strong personal brand online before they finish their formal education.
Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. as well as platforms like Wix, tumblr and WordPress are common places to establish an online presence. A college student may wonder, “What is the incentive to focus on building my personal brand at this point in my life?” Here’s five reasons why personal branding online – done the right way – is essential for college students right now.
1. A strong online brand promotes your work & accomplishments.
A resume can only tell someone so much about you, particularly college students with a typically brief one-pager. Having an easily accessible collection of your work online can get you more attention from employers and distinguish you from your peers when applying for jobs. It also increases the potential of your work being seen by employers or recruiters that you don’t know about but can find you online.
2. A strong online brand puts you ahead of the pack.
The ubiquity of your “internet presence” (personal website, social media profiles) is still a relatively recent phenomenon, and the emphasis on personal branding even more recent. According to a 2013 Forbes article, only 7% of candidates have a personal website, but just over half of all employers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than anything else.
In a more recent survey conducted by branded.me, 84 percent of website owners reported that they receive clear benefits from having a personal site. More than half of respondents (who aren’t necessarily business owners) report receiving new customers or clients, 48 percent receive new job opportunities, and 53 percent receive professional recognition.
In short, having a viewable body of work online can make employers more confident in your ability and more likely to hire you over someone they feel they don’t know as much about.
3. A strong online brand lets potential employers know you quickly.
More than just the list of accomplishments provided by a resume, having a website or a volume of tweets for potential employers to view can help them get to know to you as more than a piece of paper. Your interests, skillsets, community involvement. This gives you the opportunity to present yourself as a good cultural fit for a company, instead of just someone with necessary qualifications.
You want them to conclude: “This person seems like a great fit for our work environment” so you can get a big edge over other qualified candidates.
Sir Richard Branson, billionaire and founder of The Virgin Group, doesn’t hire people just on qualifications. He hires them for cultural fit. Branson suggests leaders draw out a candidate’s personality during an interview and look for someone who’s not only a good fit with the company but versatile.
“Find people with transferable skills–you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs,” he writes on LinkedIn. “While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated.”
4. A strong online brand can help you get a job you love.
Showcase what you’re passionate about to potential employers with your online brand. The freedom that comes with creating and publishing the best of you opens a window into your interests and passions.
People want to work with people who have shared passions and interests. If you’re interested in sports & society for example, and you have a body of work online about that subject, it is more likely that HR, recruiters and hiring managers will relate and become interested in seeing more.
“When you are designing and customizing your website, it’s going to fit your personality, and you are going to be able to include some personal interests in there as well,” says Nick Macario, CEO of branded.me. “Ultimately, that will help people decide whether you will be a cultural fit.”
5. A strong online brand includes a clean internet presence.
Most college age people have probably been told at least a hundred times to “watch what they post” on social media because “the internet is forever.” Employers often comb through a candidate’s accounts looking for anything that casts doubt on a person’s judgement or character. Editing your social media channels with future employment in mind is a crucial part of personal brand building and can save you from losing a job opportunity.
Here’s what you should understand about your personal brand and the job market – the better your presence online the more likely you will get found, and be seen as interesting, relevant and memorable to prospective employers when they are selecting candidates for the next level.
Craig Giangiulio is a senior journalism student at The College of New Jersey pursuing a career in writing who’s learned a helluva lot about branding himself during this internship.