What Is a Personal Brand and How Do I Build One?

Personal Branding is a career-related buzzword, but what does it actually mean? Here’s a dive into what you need to do to define and build a personal brand that will help you stand out during your job, internship, or graduate school search. 

What Is a Personal Brand?
Personal branding is a strategy to help you highlight the top traits that give you a competitive advantage in the job search. It is a way you can focus on sharing your relevant traits, skills, and interests to signal to potential employers and graduate programs that you are the right person to choose from their list of applicants.

You can think of your personal brand as your professional reputation. How do other people see you when you apply for a job posting? Does your online presence support the professional image you are trying to portray? 

What Do I Want to Be Known For?
The question is: what do you want to be known for? This is your personal brand. The traits and skills you highlight can sometimes be hard to choose, and they may change over time. Determining your own personal brand requires some reflection. Here are a few strategies you can use to define your personal brand:

  1. Describe yourself in three words. What three words do you want people to associate with you? These may be certain skills you offer like proficiency in a coding language or experience writing press releases. Or, these words may include certain traits you bring to a workplace such as reliability, creativity, or strategic thinking. Brainstorm a list and decide which traits describe you and help you stand out.
  2. Review Job Descriptions. As part of this exercise, refer to job descriptions for the next job or internship you are interested in pursuing. What traits and skills are necessary for your dream job? How do you demonstrate these skills and experiences? This will help you keep your personal brand relevant to the opportunities you are seeking. Check out listings on Handshake for inspiration.
  3. Ask how others describe you. In addition to your own self-reflection, consider how other people describe you. You can ask family, friends, or coworkers. You could also refer to feedback from a professor on a recent assignment you are proud of, or recall positive feedback from a supervisor at a job or internship. 

What Is Your Online Reputation?
After you have determined what you want to be known for, you should determine what information about you is already available online. In other words, what is your online reputation? Go to Google Search and look for your name. Search for your name and “UGA” or your name and your hometown. This will help narrow the results. 

For the best results, make sure you are not logged in to Google. Google will customize results to try and find what is most relevant to you. If you are logged in and searching for your name, you are more likely to see information about yourself appear in the search results. It is best to use a browser that you have not used before, or one that you rarely use, to obtain a more accurate look at what a recruiter might see when they search for your name for the first time.  

How Can I Mange My Brand Online?
So, you have searched for your name. What do you see? Does it reinforce the personal brand you want to share online? There will likely be some information you would like to highlight and other information that you would like to remove or deemphasize. 

1. Manage unwanted information. If there is something you do not want to appear in searches related to your name, do what you can to remove them when you have the power to do so. Take the time to untag unflattering photos on social media, and adjust your privacy settings. This will help you keep your personal profiles private. However, remember that even if you have strict privacy settings on sites like Facebook, if you comment on any public posts your comments are public rather than private, regardless of your personal profile settings.

2. Proactively promote the positive. In addition to removing unwanted information, you should also promote all of the great work you are doing. Did you perform well on a recent class project? Post it on your personal website or your social media channels. Learn a new skill via LinkedIn Learning? Share it on LinkedIn. Are you thinking about industry-related topics in class? Write a blog post about it or write an opinion piece for the Red & Black

There are several avenues to share what you are already doing in a way that promotes your personal brand online. You are already doing great work, share it! 

Where Can I Find Help? 
At the UGA Career Center, we can help you leverage online and offline tools to promote your personal brand to employers and graduate programs. We offer several resources to help you improve your online presence on LinkedIn, through digital portfolios, and via other digital channels. Check out our Arch Ready Professionalism Certificate for a list of upcoming workshops. You can also come to Drop-In Hours or schedule an appointment with a Career Consultant for assistance.

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