Start Now: Build Your Brand

This generation is obsessed with social media. If we’re not sharing our thoughts in 140 characters or less, then we’re trying to take the perfect selfie for Instagram or updating our statuses on Facebook. We spend so much time documenting our everyday lives through social networking that we often don’t think about the other benefits of social media.

And there are other benefits.

While it’s possible to find a job or an internship through Facebook or Twitter, you don’t want either of those social outlets to represent who you are professionally. Those accounts are personal, so they’re less likely to feature any projects you’ve worked on or document the clubs and organizations you’ve participated in. Employers are not going to be on the lookout for your accomplishments on any of the social media sites that you frequent. I’m not saying that you should stop using them because we all know the likelihood of that happening is very low (I couldn’t give up Twitter). However, what I am suggesting is that you use social media to network to your advantage.

Take all of those extracurricular activities and your many accomplishments and start building your brand. When I first heard the term ‘build your brand,’ I didn’t quite understand what it meant. Then someone explained it to me like this: imagine two companies coming out with similar products. Both companies are known for distributing quality products and they both get great customer reviews. Knowing all of that, you have to ask yourself, what makes either one of them stand out? Which company will attract the most people and sell the most products?

Well, it’s the company that knows how to market themselves the best.

The same applies for us. There are always going to be people with the same GPA as us, people who participate in the same clubs, and people who produce the same quality of work. Just because you’re always going to have people who are similar to you, though, doesn’t mean that you are not unique. Like those companies that I mentioned before, we all have qualities or strengths that make us unique. You just have to play up those strengths and SELL YOURSELF.

You can’t do that on Facebook or Twitter, so travel to a different part of the social networking world and make yourself a LinkedIn profile. It doesn’t matter if you’re in college or still in high school. Make an account and start documenting the activities and jobs and/or internships that you have done thus far that help highlight your strengths and the qualities that make you stand out from the crowd. Make a personal website or online portfolio (both of which you can share on LinkedIn) and document the dual enrollment program you participated in, that summer abroad, or any project that you were a part of.

Building your brand is all about marketing yourself and marketing something is all about getting someone to buy what you are selling. Doing this now may be what gets you into the college of your dreams, land you the internship you’ve always wanted, or if you’ve already graduated from college, it may be what gets you into grad school. You are never too young to start thinking about your future because, before you know it, high school will be over and done with and so will college. It all goes by in a blur so use your time wisely and start using social media, not just  as a way to connect with family and friends, but to connect with professionals that your parents or people in your family may know as well. If you want to work for a particular company one day, there’s a chance that they’re on LinkedIn. Also, if you are in college, you can see what alumni from your school went on to do after graduation and see what career paths people who had the same major chose.

There are so many opportunities out there and a lot of them are online,  a place where we all love to frequent anyways, so put those fingers to work and instead of using them to type out your next status update, think about what you want to do with your future. It’s fine if you don’t figure it all out in a day, no one does, but it’s good to have an idea of what you want to do. It’s also good to start getting your name out there because you never know how far your accomplishments can take you. Not every high school or college student has a LinkedIn account or an online portfolio, so once you make that decision to start building your brand, keep in mind that you’re already ahead of the game.

Image: morguefile