Grads from 1974 to 2024 can use these steps to build a strong personal brand

For the last couple of weeks the pages of our newspapers across the state have been filled with photos of 2024 graduates from area high schools as they’ve enjoyed honors nights, lock-ins, commencement ceremonies and a number of other end-of-school traditions.
In one community, our reporters shared about a local “adulting-day,” hosted at the school that taught area students how to change a tire, do their taxes, prevent back injuries, find health insurance and more.
Along with graduation season comes what I call advice season. It seems every person, regardless of his or her own personal success or happiness, has a message to the graduating class. If memory serves me correctly, I’ve withheld from offering advice until now. When I saw the coverage of the “adulting day,” I realized, I do have advice to 2024 graduates: Build your personal brand.
A Harvard Business Review article describes your personal brand like this: “Your reputation is made up of the opinions and beliefs people form about you based on your collective actions and behaviors. Your personal brand, on the other hand, is much more intentional. It is how you want people to see you. Whereas reputation is about credibility, your personal brand is about visibility and the values that you outwardly represent.”
My advice might be better suited for college graduates, but you’re never too young to start thinking about this topic. If you are a recent grad – first of all, good for you for reading your community newspaper. Second, what follows are some tips on how to build your personal brand and why it’s important. If you aren’t a recent grad and you’re reading this — first, good for you for reading your community newspaper. Second, hopefully you’re able to share this info with a recent grad in your life.
When it comes to building your personal brand, I find it easiest to follow the same steps our team takes when building a brand for a business or nonprofit. Here are those steps and how you can tweak them to build your personal brand.
Step 1: Brand Audit — Just as this step in a traditional branding process allows our team to get to know an organization better, this is where you’ll get to know yourself better, or at least in a more organized way. Document your education, your experience, your achievements, your hobbies, your personal connections — to others and to organizations where you’ve worked or volunteered. Write down key words and phrases you believe others currently associate with you. You can even be bold and ask others to do this step for you in the name of market research. Next, write down key words and phrases you’d like people to associate with you. I also like the idea — even if you’re not artistic — of drawing an image you’d like to come to mind when people think of you. It’ll help you visualize your brand.
Step 2: Brand Identity — With your research done, now it’s time to build your personal brand identity. Keeping in mind your desired words and phrases, develop a personal mission statement that focuses on your beliefs and values and what you aim to offer to the world. Next write a vision statement that defines where you’d like to be personally and professionally in five to 10 years. Finally, try your hand at writing a personal tagline — a short, memorable sentence that sums you up.
Step 3: Communication — Once your personal brand is in place it’s time to share it with the world. This can be done through your resume, your social media presence and, most importantly, in person. Networking events, interviews, even casual coffee meet ups or happy hours, are where you should enact your personal brand.
Ultimately you build your personal brand the same way a business builds its brand — through frequency and consistency. You have to put yourself out there in as many channels as possible as often as possible, all while staying consistent. Stay true to the brand you’ve built. This will be easiest when your personal brand truly reflects who you are. A personal brand doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to be honest. I run late, I talk a lot, I’m a perfectionist. I also work hard, I’m an optimist and a problem solver. Good or bad, these qualities all make up my personal brand.
Whether you graduated last week or last decade or the one before that, building your personal brand is always a worthwhile exercise.
Since I’m still working on mine, I’d love to hear your personal tagline. On another note, if you’re organizing an “adulting day” I’d love to be involved and talk to students about their personal brand.

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Emily Caswell is the Brand Manager for VIEW Group, the branding division of View Newspaper Group.

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