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Personal Branding: Tips for Creating a Personal Brand During College

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A lot of college students let their choice of major define them as a person. It happens for a few different reasons, but mainly because it’s the easiest way to quickly explain to others what they’re studying at college. If you’re home visiting family during Christmas break, your parents’ friends might ask you what you’re studying. When you meet someone new and find out that they also attend your college, more than likely you’ll ask each other, “So, what’s your major?”

College students decide to concentrate on a particular academic field while they’re in school for one important reason or another, but you shouldn’t let your major define you. Why? Your major doesn’t honestly define you as a person! Some communications graduates wind up becoming copywriters or radio DJs, while others have their hearts set on working as news anchors. Those communications grads all had the same major during college but wound up with different careers that require different skill sets.

That’s why it’s more important to let you define yourself. Quit “branding” yourself with your major, and become your own brand!

Brands are Everywhere

Brands are everywhere, and they stand for a lot. I’ve noticed that some people – most people, actually – tend to talk about the brand of a product more than they talk about the actual product itself.

People assume that “I just bought a new Mercedes!” sounds a lot better than “I just bought a new car!” which could imply a basic old Ford or Chevy. People want to sound sophisticated or wealthy, so they mention the fact that their new set of wheels is luxurious.

“Check out my Christian Louboutins!” informs your friends that you just spent six or eight hundred dollars on a pair of heels while saying “I bought some new shoes!” could imply that you went to Payless.

Want another example? There’s a reason that people like showing up at the office holding a coffee cup that says Starbucks instead of Burger King.

With that in mind, giving yourself a unique brand can do a lot for you in your life and your career.

What is Personal Branding?

Personal branding is a relatively new term, but it’s gaining popularity quickly. Personal branding is basically the concept of marketing yourself and your talents as a brand. It can involve your career, your knowledge, your appearance, even your clothing style … there are few limits to creating a personal brand.

Many people who are self-employed have turned to self-branding to promote themselves and their business. Websites and social media avenues have made this easier than ever before.

Just think of celebrities: plenty of famous people have “branded” themselves with their celebrity image, even though you may not have thought it that way before.

Here’s a good example. I absolutely love Jimmy Buffett. I’ve been to over a dozen of his concerts, own all his albums and books, and even went to Key West on my honeymoon to visit his restaurant. When I first discovered Jimmy Buffett’s music during the ninth grade, he was relatively famous but nowhere near as popular as he is today.

Jimmy Buffett was once an unknown country singer, but once he took on the laid-back, tropical Margaritaville persona which made him famous, there was no turning back. In addition to having flocks of fans and sold-out concerts, he has restaurants, his own brands of tequila and beer, clothing lines, chicken and seafood which bear his name, a line of flip-flops, margarita machines, and more. He’s also one of only seven authors to have a number one book on both the New York Times Fiction and Non-Fiction bestseller lists.

You may be working your way through college and wondering how to promote yourself during internships or to prospective employers on job interviews. You can use your appearance to distinguish yourself from others – when I was in college I had my hair cut very short, and I suddenly became “the one with short hair” when people tried to describe me to others – but having a niche or a specialty in your chosen field is a great way to create a personal brand, too.

Tips for Personal Branding during College

  • Decide what your brand will be. If you want to use a personal brand to promote yourself, you need to figure out what your brand is going to be. Figure out something that you love to do, something that you’re good at, ask others for their opinion of you, and see what you come up with. Think this through thoroughly, because once you start branding yourself, it’s going to be difficult to go back to square one and start fresh.
  • Promote yourself in as many places as possible, and be consistent. Make sure you have a professional-sounding email account. FirstNameLastName@email.com sounds a whole lot better than LuvsVodka69@email.com, right? Get a Facebook page and a Twitter account with matching names (FirstNameLastName, just like your email address, if possible) and be sure to use the same photograph for your profile picture on both platforms so people can recognize you. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you may want to start your own website where you can host a blog, an online portfolio of your work, or both! Get business cards and start handing them out while you network. You’re trying to promote yourself after all!
  • Network as much as possible. Join meetup groups or join groups on campus. Go to job fairs, and do volunteer work. Network as much as possible and meet as many people as you can. Someone you meet casually at a networking event may wind up giving your name to someone in need of a employee with your expertise. As strange as it sounds, I’ve met a lot of people at fundraisers and had a lot of opportunities offered to me because I have epilepsy.
  • Teach others that you’re irreplaceable. Beyonce might tell her cheating boyfriend that he’s easy to replace in the song, but you’re not irreplaceable … at least, that’s what you want people to think! Be confident and stand up for yourself, even if you’re nervous inside. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone is a little bit scary but if you push yourself a little harder every day and people really will start to think you’re The One They Need.

College is a time of self-discovery for many people, and using that self-discovery to create a unique brand for yourself may be one of the best things you’ve ever done. Even if you aren’t planning to go into business for yourself, being known as the “Technical Computer Girl Genius” may help you get a job at your dream company.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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