College is all about planning for your future, but it is easy to get caught up in the “campus life” while at college and forget to start planning your career well before graduation. Excelling in class is not the only thing you can do while you are in college that will help ensure you land your dream job upon graduation. In fact, building your personal brand while in college will make you stand out to your future perspective employers. This can be done easily over time and without too much of a time commitment either. In fact, you are probably building your brand, but didn’t even know it and just need to make an effort to focus on the future.
If you are on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, then you are building an image on those sights. Others’ image of you on social media is part of your personal brand and who you are. So, what does that mean? Be careful about what you post and what you share especially pictures and comments on sensitive topics.
What is that you say? You have your privacy setting in place? Privacy settings have no bearing on your personal brand, because it is, by nature, personal. Your friends now are your future co-workers, recruiters, and possibly even bosses or superiors. Perhaps your friend has a job in the future and they are hiring when you are looking for a job. Put yourself in their shoes, if people you recommend for a position reflects your job, then you want to make sure that you recommend the best person for the job. Would you recommend the friend that remains professional across social networks or “that” crazy one, who shares unsavory pictures, uses foul language and shares questionable information? Make sure that you maintain your reputation as clean and upstanding as possible. You never know who sees your friend’s social feeds, and for that matter, there is no guarantee that social channels will always keep their same privacy settings that are in place now. So the rule of thumb is that throughout your time in college, do not post anything across your social media profiles that you would not want your potential boss to see.
Another way to start building your professional brand is to start a blog. It can be a personal blog and you can use it to journal your college experiences, but just like your social channels, keep it clean and professional. In addition to information about you and your college adventures (painted in a tame light), include interesting facts or ideas from your classes, talk about your favorite topics in school, and highlight articles from the industry you want to work in when it is time to look for a career. Highlighting an article you find interesting about your future career industry can be as simple as linking to it, quoting one or two sentences from it, and saying a few sentences about what it means to you or what you think about this article. A blog may seem like a big time commitment but it does not have to be and can be built up over time.
Beyond setting up your social networks and blogging, the next step is making professional connections in your chosen field, and with recruiters, and business leaders. This can be achieved by signing up with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is known as a professional social network. It is a place for professionals and businesses to connect and share information. On LinkedIn your profile is set up like your resume. Start building on this early so that upon graduation, you have a professional profile online with lists of your extracurricular activities, charity events, community service, internships, and recommendations from associates, fellow classmates, professors and education professionals.
One of the things that college doesn’t often teach is how to best position yourself for your future career. Just a few minutes a week over four years in college can go a long way to making yourself look like a rock star with knowledge and connections in your industry. All throughout your time in college, you set goals and achieve milestones, following these simple steps can ensure that you achieve the main goal after college, which is a rewarding career in your chosen field.
Laura Wilson is author and Brand Manager for OCM.com, leading online supplier of dorm bedding and décor.