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How to brand yourself

How to brand yourself

A career counselor shares tips for maintaining a brand that will help you land career opportunities

June 15, 2021 at 11:09am

If you’re trying to find an internship or a job, you know what it’s like to present yourself and your qualifications through resumes or interviews.

It’s hard. How do you boil down your education, experience and why you’ll be a valuable team member, all in one document or in a half-hour conversation?  

Branding is key.

To help students understand what exactly it means to have a “brand” and how to manage their brand to succeed in the workforce, John Sotham, one of the career counselors for the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA), shared some of his top tips in a recent workshop hosted by the Division of Academic and Career Success.

Here are five key takeaways.

1. Everyone has a brand.

Even if we don’t think about it, Sotham explained, everything we do says something about ourselves, what we value, what we enjoy and how we interact with others.

“Your brand is an ongoing process of creating, establishing and communicating a clear statement or image of who you are to others,” Sotham said.

We may often think we communicate our brand through resumes or LinkedIn profiles. But there’s a lot more to it. It includes interactions, posture, demeanor. Are you friendly? Are you courteous? Are you professionally dressed?

“You are building your brand every day,” he said. “Your brand is already there.”

2. You need to assess and manage your brand.

Before you can manage your brand, you need to figure out what your brand is. Sotham recommends doing several simple exercises to help uncover your brand.

First, describe yourself using three words. Are you creative? Shy? Outgoing? Techy? Loyal? The adjectives are endless. Come up with three that fit you.

Next, ask yourself, “What are three words others would use to describe me?”

Sotham says it’s crucial for you to be honest with yourself. Do people perceive you as kind? Thoughtful? Lazy? Diligent?

Then, asses your skills, values and interests. What are you passionate about? What motivates you? Who do you look up to? What do you enjoy? What are your long-term professional or personal goals?

This is important because it will help you define your objective.

3. Develop a professional goal.

“Picture that perfect job or that perfect environment,” Sotham says. Then, research.

He recommends finding job search sites and playing with the search tool. Search different job titles or different combinations of titles and fields you are interested in. He says you might discover a job you’ve never heard of – but that sounds perfect for you.

You don’t need to have your entire career figured out, but if you have an idea of what you’d like to be working toward, you’ll be better prepared to develop a brand that speaks to your goal.

If you want to be a movie director, your brand will look different from someone who wants to become a physician.

4. Learn to communicate your brand in a few seconds.

“It should ‘read’ very quickly,” Sotham says. That doesn’t mean a resume or LinkedIn profile needs to be extremely short. “It means someone can scan it and get the brand.”

This could be accomplished through a combination of photos showing who you are (ranging from business-style professional to arts-like creative), a catchy description of yourself or your story and clear messaging about you or your goals.

While many times, computers scan resumes for keywords, Sotham mentioned that there are still humans reviewing resumes.

“If it is a human reviewing, they usually know whether they have a potential candidate in about 10 to 15 seconds.”

If your reviewer finds a strong, cohesive brand in just a few seconds, that’s a good sign.

5. Managing your brand means being true to yourself.

Your brand has to be authentic. It has to be you. You can’t live someone else’s brand or try to make yourself fit into a brand that’s not genuine.   

Make sure your vision for your brand really comes from you and your motivations.

Before posting on social media or saying something thoughtless to someone, Sotham said it’s a good idea to ask yourself, “Is this going to help my brand?”

In the end, branding can point to a question that affects us not only as professionals – but as humans.

“Who do I want to be?” Then, try to become that person.

That’s your brand.

The Panther Academic Success Series is an opportunity for experts to provide information that will help first-semester students better transition to FIU and current students be more successful. To learn more about upcoming events, visit the team's Panther Connect page or connect with the team on Instagram at @fiucse.