Branding yourself can lead to a job
It has long been a dream of mine to have a personal website. Recently, I found the patience and motivation to make this dream a reality by building and launching www.johnbuysse.com. On the night I decided to launch it, I shared the link on my various social media accounts. Being the millennial that I am, I not so secretly hoped for and expected a rush of likes, comments and re-tweets. And, like the millennial that I am, receiving these digital pats on the back were definitely an ego boost.
The most shocking part, though, came in the slightly more traditional form of an email. It wasn’t just any congratulatory email, though. It was an email from an Illinois alum working in the advertising industry. After congratulating me on launching the website, this generous alum also began a conversation about potential job and internship opportunities for the future.
This email was from someone I have admired and respected for a long time. I thought, “This isn’t how this works. How was he reaching out to me?” I was floored and already felt the investment of time and money had been worth it.
As most employment-seeking students would agree, the hunt for the perfect internship (or any internship) can be long and grueling and filled with rejection. For many, it involves attending countless recruiting presentations and career fairs while completing dozens of online applications that eventually blend together in monotony.
When discussing the process with other ambitious Illinois students, people often complain that there is no chance that their resume will garner enough attention to go from the “no” to the “yes” pile, or even the “maybe” pile.
Sadly, many of them are right.
I am not saying that because they are unqualified and incompetent. In fact, many of them are ideal interns for companies in their profession. The issue for many is that they just are not selling themselves properly.
As you might guess from that last sentence, I study advertising. Selling products, brands and services is my passion and career ambition. With that, I, as an advertising major, must uniquely market myself to potential employers in ways that are probably unacceptable for most engineers, accountants or aspiring academics. My website includes work from classes and extra-curricular activities but also includes my Tumblr posts and tweets.
The combination of these features and a strong presence on the professional networking site LinkedIn have combined for a clear, concise personal brand image that leaves a strong impression on anyone that views it.
As I said, this is definitely not the right method of branding for everyone, but it is an example of how I have chosen to sell myself. Anyone outside of the unique field of advertising must find a discipline-appropriate way to do this as well.
If you’re a graphic design major, this might mean a portfolio website of your work and a Twitter account dedicated to discussing good design.
If you’re studying accountancy, this might mean a strong presence on LinkedIn, a lack of inappropriate photos on your Facebook account and some attractive business cards.
If you’re a lost soul who has no clue what you want to be doing when you’re 45, this could mean anything. Be funny on Twitter. Write and share smart academic papers. Blog about your experiences with Habitat for Humanity. Put yourself out there.
I do not claim to be a personal branding expert, but I have put enough time and energy into “the John Buysse brand” to tell you the days of strictly applying to internships online using plain résumés that understate your experiences and convey no personality are over.
To put it in perspective, Apple makes innovative gadgets with awe-inspiring features, but if they did not effectively market these products to people in a smart way, we would all be running out to buy the Microsoft Surface. However, because they have turned their iconic products into an even more iconic brand, millions of us will be buying iPad Minis during the holiday season with the Surface likely to be ignored by the masses.
Unless you like the thought of being that sad, pathetic gadget without an identity, you must sell yourself. Have your résumé critiqued. Practice your interview skills. Amp up your LinkedIn profile. Turn your social media activity into a useful, informative quilt of knowledge and personality.
Leveraging your personal attributes and experiences to create a brand for yourself can mean the difference between a company snatching you off the shelf at full price or a less desirable employer begrudgingly grabbing you from the clearance bin.
John is a junior in Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.