Discover Your Personal Brand

By Francine Fabricant

McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and White Castle are brands, and, even though they all serve burgers and fries, most people would not mistake one for another.  As consumers, we understand how they differ.  We’ve learned about them from their advertisements, from our personal experiences, and from their marketing choices.  Somehow, we get a different feeling from each of them or we like one over another.

Personal branding is a lot like branding in the business world. The big difference is that personal branding often happens to you, rather than by you. Why do people like you?  What skills and talents do you offer?  Why do people rely on you? For instance, are you a good listener, are you good with technology, or do you know how to take photographs?  These are the types of talents that may attract others.  Whatever you’re known for – that’s your personal brand.  Personal branding is the process of becoming more aware of your reputation, then shaping and promoting it intentionally.

Here are a few tips for building your assets into a recognizable personal brand.

How do others see you?

The first step to building your brand is identifying some of the assets you could most easily brand, because they are already part of your reputation.  To find out the best qualities you offer, ask the people you know why they would go to you for help, support, or advice.  Ask them what special personal qualities, talents, or skills they think you can offer, and why they think you would be the right person to offer that assistance.  Ask your friends, family members, a former boss, or your roommate. If they can’t think of something, ask them what they think is your reputation.  Using different words or phrases, such as “go-to person” or “reputation,” can lead to new insights.

Are these the qualities you want to brand for yourself?

Now that you’ve learned how others view you, decide if these qualities are important to you and if you’d like to be known for them.  With this self-exploration, you’re deciding how you want to shape your personal brand.

Are these assets being honed, utilized, and enhanced through experiences?

After you decide which qualities are the ones you value, examine your activities, courses, and experiences to see where you use or build these strengths.  If you aren’t developing them, consider adding new activities that make them part of your current experience. For instance, if you’re the one your friends go to for advice on their dating relationships, consider becoming a peer educator, taking a psychology class, or writing a column about dating in the school paper.

Now, share your brand!

Look at your social media, and see if the message about your greatest assets comes through.  Examine your resume.  Look at your course list.  As you go through all of the information and documents you have for yourself, look to see if these qualities you value come through. If not, consider if you need more experiences that back up these strengths, or if you just need to highlight them more.

As you better understand your personal brand, and choose activities that support it, you will find that your message starts to shine through, and soon you’ll have even more people seeking you out for the assets you want to use most!

Tell us how you are building your personal brand.


The ABC’s of Interning

by Jennifer Miller and Francine Fabricant

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts about interning.  We’ll also cover such topics as finding an internship, starting your internship off on the right foot, making the most of your internship, and how to end your internship.

First, let’s explore what interning is and why it is so important.  You’ve probably been told numerous times that you need to intern.  In the Explore chapter of Creating Career Success we discuss real-world career exploration, learning by doing, and the benefits of experiential learning.  An internship is the most common way to “learn by doing,” and similar programs may be referred to as externships or cooperative programs.  There are also many other ways to learn on the job and from people in the workforce, such as job shadowing, site visits, employer visits to campus, part-time work, volunteer work, temporary work, and informational interviewing. For now, let’s talk about internships.

An internship is an experience at a company that has a learning component where you—the intern—get hands-on experience.  Ideally, internships are for those who lack professional experience, but are eager to explore that field while building skills, experience, and references.

So why is it important to intern?  Perhaps most importantly, it will help test your beliefs about your career choice.  You may think you want to be an accountant because you are good at math, and your internship is a chance to get to know the work environment, people, and culture.  Interning also helps you to develop critical skills, including specific job-related skills as well as how to manage yourself in the workplace.  Finally, you may meet people at an internship who can serve as mentors, advisors, and advocates. Developing workplace contacts is essential for building your network and obtaining meaningful professional references.

Before we finish, let’s go ahead and address some of the many myths floating around about internships:

  • My internship will be interesting and challenging all the time.  No internship— or job for that matter—is going to be both interesting and challenging 100% of the time.  Employers sometimes give interns tedious projects that may seem like grunt work but that allow you to become familiar with procedures, accounts and other important aspects of the work.  Proving yourself with seemingly unimportant projects may lead to your supervisor trusting you with bigger and more important work.  But on the other hand if all you are doing is making coffee, picking up your supervisor’s dry cleaning and making her doctor appointments, you may need to speak to your supervisor or human resources about the purpose and goals of your internship.
  • If I don’t intern, I can’t get a job.  For the most part you don’t have to intern to get a job, but in today’s super competitive job market you need to make sure you are as marketable as possible—and interning is a great way to do that.  In some fields, such as publishing, it is very difficult to get a job without doing an internship first.
  • I will get hired after completing my internship.  Some students mistakenly expect that they will be hired after completing an internship.  Maybe you know someone who received an offer this way, or you’ve seen a company advertise that a position can lead to an offer.  While many companies do look to former interns when hiring, there are no guarantees of future employment.  The main purpose of the internship is to explore a field and develop skills.

Be on the lookout for our next blog about internships where we will cover how to find a summer internship. The skills, experience, and connections you can build through internships are invaluable in your career development. Are you interning now or planning to look for an internship?  What do you hope to gain through your internship experience?

Students – Do You Feel Like Your Job is Hurting Your Career?

By Francine Fabricant

Do you have a part-time or full-time job that bears little resemblance to the career you really want?  If you feel like your work-study balancing act is making it hard to build skills, experience, and references that will help you build your career after you graduate, there is a lot you can do on the job and in the classroom to prepare for your future.

Here are some tips that can help you turn your job into a career-building experience.

Identify skills you want to develop.  Decide which skills you are motivated to build and then  look for ways you could build them in your current experiences. For instance, if you work in a retail store and have an interest in a helping career, like social work or education, explore opportunities to become more involved in customer service, handling complaints, or training others.  These person-to-person interactions will show evidence of helping skills such as listening, understanding, teaching, and communicating.

Build mentor relationships at work.  Mentors in any field can offer guidance, advice, advocacy, and help you increase your network.  Consider the skills of potential mentors and what you can learn.  Then, seek out ways to add value to your mentors, offering your assistance and expressing interest in what they do.  For example, if you work in food service, a supervisor who serves in management will likely have recognized skills in such areas as leadership, motivation, business, data collection, and organization.  These are highly transferable skills, and a mentor can help you look for ways to build skills that may be outside your typical responsibilities and transferable to a range of career fields.

Take your job seriously.  All work environments want self-starters who work hard and care.  To your employer, this is a business, and your contribution matters!   Taking the initiative to ask for new projects, working harder than your job requires, showing up on time, and being courteous to colleagues, are just some of the ways you can demonstrate your professionalism.  This will impact your references, and help you gain more responsibilities on the job.

Are you balancing work and school as you build your career? Take a look at what other students are doing by checking out this infographic on The Work-Study Balancing Act and tell us more about the challenges you are facing or how you are making your balancing act work for you!