“Geeks,” “jocks,” “nerds,” “preps.” At some point in most people’s lives, whether they like it or not, they’ve ended up categorized by their acquaintances or schoolmates. Along with these categories come expectations and stereotypes, both negative and positive, that do not necessarily apply. College is the perfect time to take a step back and consider the ways in which others perceive you, and to think about your “personal brand.”
It may seem strange or unnecessary to actively brand yourself, but many argue that it can assist in obtaining a job, as it can help one appear more professional or as more of an expert in their field. And plus, it can help you if you’re still stuck with the same identity someone gave you in the seventh grade.
Karen Post, International branding expert and author of Brain Tattoos and Brand Turnaround, defines personal branding as: “Managing your actions, packaging and communications to produce a reputation and mental image that the public believes, that aids in achieving what's important to you.”
Though Post isn’t talking about packaging in terms of the red wax that protects Baby Bell cheese from the elements, her definition doesn't stray too far from the concept. Just as so many recognize Baby Bell by its packaging, a person can be recognized as a professional on the basis of the clothes that he or she wears. When presented with an array of potential employees, an employer will often select the person who appears most neatly packaged as a familiar entity: with the clothes, past experience, and personality typical of the company, similar to the manner in which the grocery shopper will select
“Strong personal brands fuel success because they can add credibility, reflect values and personality, and can be a means for visibility,” Post said.
However, branding yourself takes commitment. According to Post, “Personal brands often take time to build as they are the sum of one's achievements and actions.” While keeping in mind ultimate goals in order to shape your personal brand can prove to be helpful, pursuing your interests and later observing the general trend or direction of the “brand” can also work.
“You control about 95% of your brand by choices you make,” Post said. “[Such choices include] who you hang out with, how you behave, how you dress, your attitude and even your ambition.”
Creating your own brand does not necessarily mean limiting yourself to certain constraints, rather, it means taking the time to appreciate your priorities and the type of person you are.