Most students go to university with the sole purpose of getting a degree and be out. There is nothing wrong with this mentality, however those students end up missing out on some of the great opportunities universities provide for their growth. Universities provide an excellent platform for students to grow and build their personal brands. Many great entrepreneurs, politicians, artists etc built their brands whilst enrolled at some university irrespective of whether they finished or not. For example the late great Nelson Mandela’s political career started when he was enrolled at Fort Hare University and there are many other great examples.
There are many benefits of building a personal brand as a student, you become known for something and it allows you distinguish yourself from rest. Having a personal will help you standout. You can easily notice the person dressed in yellow in a sea of black clothing. Personal branding builds credibility and increases your chances of getting employment or clients or investor should you decide to start a business if you are into entrepreneurship.
There are various ways in which students can build their personal brands, below are some of the practical ways in which students can build their personal brands:
- Be involved
There are various student bodies or societies that students can be a part of that will give them hands-on experience about working in a team, networking and mobilising resources. Also some of the big industry bodies also have student chapters that students can be involved in e.g the Black Management Forum (BMF) or the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers. Furthermore these student chapters provide unique opportunities for networking, mentoring and bonding over common interests.
If the student wants to be in the media industry they can join campus radio or newspaper by volunteering their services. For those that want to be in politics can join the Student Representative Council (SRC).
More often than these student bodies/societies receive a very small budget from the universities that the students can work with. The budget is often not enough for the students execute all their plans as a result the students are forced to raise funds and negotiate for discounts with suppliers – giving exposure to the “real world”.
- Be active on social media
As the adage goes if it’s not on social media it didn’t happen. I say if you if you are not online you don’t exist but also you must exist for the right reasons. Don’t post drunken pictures or be involved in racial spats. These types of posts have the potential to damage your reputation. Optimise your social media accounts and connect with like-minded people. Your LinkedIn profile needs to have a professional headshot, your employment history, have killer summary and make more than 500 connections. If you are an engineering student you can follow people that are leading in that space.
- Create content
You need to feed your social media accounts with content that will appeal to your connections and followers. There are various types of content that you can produce e.g written text, audio and video. You just need to produce content that you are most comfortable with. If you are good at writing then produce blog posts. The most important part of content creation is that it must relevant to the intended audience.
- Build key relationships
It’s not what you know it’s who you know, they say. You need to establish good relationships with the right people. The right people would be those ones who are where you want you want to be or who may potentially be interested in your skills or offering. If you are looking for employment at a particular company make connections with their recruitment officers. Don’t be afraid to slide into their DMs and ask them about opportunities that may exist at their company.
- Be kind to people
Don’t underestimate your fellow students as you may never know where they will be after you graduate. Treat everyone with respect. During his rousing speech at Havard’s 366th commencement ceremony, Mark Zuckerberg told the audience why it is important to be nice to people. The 33-year-old who had dropped out of the prestigious school to found Facebook, recalled how he met his friend, and now partner, KX Jin.
Mark recalled his first day of lecture, how disheveled he looked because he was late, and how no one was willing to associate with him.
He said his first lecture ‘was Computer Science 121 with the incredible Harry Lewis. I was late so I threw on a t-shirt and didn’t realize until afterwards it was inside out and backwards with my tag sticking out the front.
‘I couldn’t figure out why no one would talk to me — except one guy, KX Jin, he just went with it.
‘We ended up doing our problem sets together, and now he runs a big part of Facebook. And that, Class of 2017, is why you should be nice to people.’
In conclusion, building a personal brand is not a once off event but an ongoing process. It takes time, you may need to exercise patience.
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