Ah, college. The period of all-nighters and existential crises and changed majors as we all face our futures and try to make sense of what we’re all doing with ourselves. Throughout this impossibly messy, tangled journey, we’re all trying to put the pieces in place and look like we have it all together. What are we doing here? Where are we going? How are we growing? It’s a learning process for sure and one that I feel I’ll never fully figure out. Nevertheless, throughout this growth we are all—intentionally or not—employing a marketing strategy in our own lives: personal branding.
I say personal branding can be unintentional because—think about it—we’re always sending messages, sometimes subconsciously, that other people receive and read and use to form opinions about ourselves. What we wear, how long we make eye contact, the firmness of our handshake, if we smell nice or brushed our teeth or not—these are all parts of the nonverbal messages we send out, and they all come together to form other people’s perceptions of ourselves. Whoever said that what we wore didn’t matter since “the inside is what counts” clearly didn’t understand that we dress as a reflection of our tastes and personality. What you don’t say still speaks volumes.
Since we already know we’re trying to brand ourselves in real life, what about in the digital space? How are we branding ourselves online and differentiating ourselves from other people? In some ways, it’s almost the opposite. Instead of a bunch of subliminal messages, we have to be intentional with the image we are creating and the messages we are sending. The easy answer would be to go to social media—platforms that we all use to at least some extent. (And if you don’t, then you are probably sadly on your way to becoming irrelevant. Sorry.)
To narrow down some of the abundant social media outlets floating around, it’s pretty safe to assume that we all have a facebook page. How do we brand ourselves with facebook, even to the outside world? Our posts/cover photos/shared links are increasingly becoming more and more public as the world gradually gets over the what-if-someone-steals-my-identity-and-kidnaps-me scare. While protecting your privacy online is important, it may be helpful to consider making some of your posts public. Anything that helps differentiate yourself and establishes your personality clearly in the minds of others who want to know—future employers, like-minded friends, internet stalkers, the usual—will only help further solidify your online persona and the image you want to project of yourself.
The flipside: only do this if you post worthwhile things. For example, if it’s something that you’d really rather a potential employer (or worse, your mother) not see, then make sure you watch those privacy settings. Besides the ubiquitous don’t-post-evidence-doing-illegal-things-online advice, the same goes for menial, unflattering, unprofessional, or simply bland posts. No one cares if you “had an awesome day today” or “just made some really yummy pasta haha mmmm so good!!” Save it for your diary, which will always love you unconditionally no matter how hopelessly uninteresting you are. If you did something worth sharing about or have something to offer, though, post the heck out of it. Look cool. Be yourself (or at least the marketable parts of yourself.)
Personal branding, yo. It’s science.