Start Thinking About Your Personal Brand Early… Even in College

This weekend I had the pleasure of hanging out with some awesome RIT students and alumni at BarCampRochester3.  I led a discussion on widgets and the social aggregator.  Clearspring was also one of the sponsors.

I had a fantastic time.  Kudos to the organizers.  Word is they’re going to try and do 2 BarCamps next year.  That’s awesome!!!!!!!!

Not to sound like the all knowing college graduate but if I could impart just one piece of wisdom to folks who are currently in college it’d be to start thinking earlier about your personal brand.

There is a “global neighborhood” out there that is discussing the same ideas that you’re into.  Get out there and join the conversation.

When you’re in college, it’s super easy to think that it is your world.  College can feel very insular.  Before too long you have to get out in the world and your voice competes with the rest of the world.

So… some practical tips:

Go to Vista Print or if you’re a hipster MooCards and get some business cards. Everytime you meet someone, it’s the opportunity to start a new relationship and having sometype of way to connect with eachother at a later date is SUPER important.

Start a blog.  I think it’s the best way to join in the on going conversation that’s happening.  Personal Web sites are becoming part of your personal identity.  They represent you just as much as how you dress for an interview.

Seek out people outside of your university who’re in your industry. Go to something like a Meetup.com or go find a business leader that you respect and talk to them.  The more you make the connections and the relationships outside of your university early the better off you’ll be after you graduate.

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13 thoughts on “Start Thinking About Your Personal Brand Early… Even in College”

  1. I think you are absolutely right Justin. Especially in college you have the opportunity to define yourself as you discover who you really are.

    Lots of professionals love connecting with college students and advising them. Especially in alumni networks.

  2. If you like handing out little pieces of cardboard, writing down a few words about the conversation on the back is a nice gesture for the person to whom you’re gifting your card.

    I’m looking into my own cards because I don’t always want to represent my employer. Thanks for the vendor tips.

    Last thought: why wait until college? All young people should be encouraged to use their voices if the intentions of their hearts are pure. And old people. Never too soon or too late to start.

  3. Very true (if only I had started early.) If anything, when you start early, you get a “professional” feel for what’s going on out there, cuz the working realm is far different than any class you’ll encounter. Making new contacts is huge, but so is a snazzy business card. About five years after college I got my own “freelancing-style” biz card and it’s come in handy many-a-times. These guys helped me out with the logo ‘n such – http://pixellogo.com/. Keep it up with the stellar blog!

  4. Students should also be aware of the repercussions of damaging their personal brand while in college. I don’t think some students realize that potential employers will Google them during the interview process. I have seen some less than flattering pictures of candidates at previous employers.

  5. My Tip… When building your personal brand really focus on a niche subject and learn everything you can about all related topics. Write a lot on your blog over and over about the niche. People will start finding you and start asking you questions about this niche. You will become an authority on the subjects, plus be easily findable in the search engines.

  6. Justin, it was great to meet up at the BarCamp! I’ll definitely look into Clearspring when building widgets for my future projects.

    I agree 100% with the advice you share here, and with that of my fellow commenters. Building your personal brand is super key, and starting early is best. Blogging is a great idea as well, as it both helps you build you personal brand and gives you a way to practice your writing, an especially highly sought (and valuable) skill in technical fields.

  7. Hey Justin,

    I concur on your point, ” Everytime you meet someone, it’s the opportunity to start a new relationship.” The book, Never Eat Alone, entire premise is just that. Great tips in general.

  8. Hey Justin,

    Good to meet you at Barcamp, I’ll probably be seeing you around at Refresh DC events and the like once I get down to DC full time.

    -James

  9. I’m relatively new to the idea of personal branding, but there was just a related post on this on Friday, on Dr. Tantillo’s blog.

    He references Steve Job’s commencement speech to Stanford in 2005, and looks like more to come next Friday.

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