As you study and consider your future career, and wherever that may take you, take a few moments to consider your personal brand.
Branding is hugely important. Companies spend an enormous amount of money on this on an annual basis. If they value it so much that they pay a fortune for it… could it have value for you?
What do brands actually do?
Think of labels that you gravitate towards in your life (clothing, technology, food, companies you do or don’t want to deal with, etc). Do you realise that they send you implicit messages that are symbolized by those ‘labels’? You can differentiate their products mentally, just at the mention of the label or brand.
Let’s take a simple example of coffee:
When I think of Ricoffy, I think of an affordable, commonly used coffee. Generally used in most offices and organisations because of its affordability. I can get it anywhere, but if I go out for coffee… I’d rather have something ‘fancier’!
However, when I think of Nespresso, I think of a stylish, classy, good-looking brand (George Clooney as the ‘face’ of their brand may have something to do with that!) If a company I visit offers me a Nespresso, I’m impressed. It’s exclusive, only sold in limited outlets, in the more ‘well-to-do’ areas. But they’re both coffee!!! The one trades on its affordability and the other trades on your desire to improve your image, be seen as well-to-do, a coffee connoisseur perhaps. Just take a look at the advertising images here… can you ‘feel’ the difference in the brands?!
Companies spend a fortune on creating the image, idea, quality that they want you to associate with their products. They know that they can influence your decision about them if you feel that their product is synonymous with quality, or a certain image, lifestyle, ‘cool’ factor… whatever their target is. They understand their product, and relate this to their target market, then figure out how to attract that market, what message they need to hear. They have to understand their product well to understand who would find it appealing and what might need changing or what will or won’t work.
How does ‘branding’ relate to you?
Just as companies send an implicit message through their branding, so do you. The impression you leave with people, the impact you leave them with, how you interact with people sends them messages about who you are, and indirectly, what you’d be like to work with or for!
What you want to do is understand yourself, your passions, your values and strengths, so that you know who you are and can represent yourself well wherever you go. The more you have a clear idea of who you are, the easier it is to decide whether something will suit you and your future.
The more self-aware you are, the more you’ll be aware of the impression you leave people with, how your personality impacts others. This is vital to adding to your strength as a professional.
Do you have a brand yet?
Students often feel like they’ll somehow magically change once they get a job, or once they get THE perfect job. They feel that they will suddenly become conscientious, diligent, patient, hard-working. This is mostly untrue. Who you are now, is who you are. There’s no magic pill that will make you better or more high-performing once you start working. After the novelty of earning a salary disappears (which happens quite quickly!), you fall back into your normal habits.
Whether you’re already working, or still a student, this is something you can work on. Think about what you leave people with. What do people get from your presence? What impression do you leave with them?
Your relationships: How do the people who deal with you daily see you? Are you passionate? Do you complain about other people all the time? Do you encourage others, and engage with people in a positive, uplifting way? Do you gossip a lot? Betray little confidences? Do you have a volatile personality? Eager to let people know exactly how you feel about everything, good or bad? These types of behaviours will crop up in your work life just as much as they do at home or at school.
Your career strengths and weaknesses: What parts of your studies do you enjoy, not enjoy? What excites you about your studies? What drives you nuts about the students / lecturers around you, the people you come into contact with? Do you see yourself as the hard-worker who’ll be working late every night to keep the boss happy? Or are you keen to get home to your family, your life and hobbies? Do you see your career as the most important thing? Or merely a way of collecting as much money as possible so you can buy an island one day?!
Your image: Do you push the boundaries in terms of your image and fashion? Or are you a conservative, quiet dresser? Does the car you drive (or want to drive) mean more to you than where you live? Does it matter to you who you’re seen with?
Your personal brand is about building a label for yourself. Being aware of who you are or aren’t presents a stronger impression, and you’re more likely to make decisions that are right for you, and find the right place for you.
Think of yourself like a business for a while. You’re investing in it by studying… now where do you want that to take you? And are you positioned properly to take yourself there?