Personal branding: what is it and why do you need it?

Personal branding

Everyone has a personal brand, whether you like it or not. Your personal brand is how you are perceived by others. It is your life story, how you carry yourself, your skills and knowledge. Your personal brand is expressed with every touchpoint with the outside world.

You can either choose your surroundings to control the story that they tell about you – which isn’t ideal as it’s out of your direct control – or you can proactively work on your presentation to the world.

Why should you care as a SOAS student? Your personal brand is crucial to your career, whether that’s in academia or corporate world. It is how you present yourself to current and potential employers, clients and whoever can give you the opportunities you desire.

Being aware and actionable on your personal brand gives you the opportunity to mould the way people see you. Judging just from elections, people naturally trust those who they know, even if it’s only from social media.

Personal branding identifies who you are and how you differentiate from others. Especially as a student with little experience, you can’t solely rely on hiding behind your university’s name. There are thousands of students just like you at your university. What makes you different from them so you can be considered for the PhD or the job of your dreams?

Here are some practical steps to take control of your personal branding.

Understand your digital footprint

What does a digital footprint mean? It’s all the content created by you, content you are tagged in, and your internet activity. You should seriously consider reviewing it by typing your name into Google search, go on your social media like Linkedin and Facebook. Delete or hide from the public what you do not want to share with potential employers. 

You can use Deseat.me to see where you have created accounts over your internet life and delete them. Another useful tool is Google Alerts, where you can search and monitor on what websites your name appears.

Every brand needs a goal – including yours

Decide on your goal! Whether that’s finding a new job, finding new opportunities, or expanding your network – without a goal, there won’t be any accomplishments. 

The next step should be building your own target audience or analysing current one (age, gender, location, what they like and care about). 

Choose a platform where your target audience lives. A must-have is LinkedIn – however, there are other platforms depending on your choice of a profession.

Get a professional headshot, create a handle and biography for your LinkedIn. Make sure you fill in as much relevant information as possible. Ask for LinkedIn recommendations.

Increase your online visibility

Create content about your work and your interests that portrays your image – whether that’s writing blogs, creating infographics, or sharing articles. Consistency is key in personal branding – keep your messages and tone of voice consistent so you don’t confuse people.

It is useful to optimise your posts by tracking what people engage with, so keep analysing your social media analytics regularly. People tend to like and engage with content that sparks good/bad emotions, passions, and aspirations.

Tools that can help you with increasing your online visibility:

  • Buffer helps you be consistent with all your posts across your social media platforms in a single place. You can schedule posts ahead so you don’t have to spend your entire life on social media figuring out what to post;
  • Feedly compiles news feeds from a variety of online sources for the user to customise and share with others;
  • Followerwonk helps you analyse your Twitter followers.

Despite anything, keep your personal branding authentic, as it’s a lifelong project that you and your grandchildren will reflect on. It is easy to spot a fake person that is portraying unrealistic life. It’s all about gaining credibility, so make sure you are always authentic. Additionally, one’s personal branding is always evolving as we gain more experience and years to our lives.

It’s a constant mode of working progress, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t perform all the above steps. You will find what works for you and what doesn’t, but that does not come without experimentation.

  • Khulan Davaajav is a SOAS Digital Ambassador and third-year student on the BA International Relations and Hebrew. Khulan is due to join Google as an Associate Account Strategist upon graduating in 2020.

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