What College Students Should Know Now Before They Graduate


Are you a college student wondering if you will be able to find a job once you graduate? 

Do you know what the important elements to successful job hunting are in today’s economy? 

Are you kind of thinking about it but are admittedly clueless on what to do exactly? 

Are you choosing to not worry about it until you finish your degree?

You have probably heard that being able to network is the key to knowing a job is available and getting in the door for an interview.  

The good news is you probably already know how to network socially, considering like most college students; you probably have hundreds, if not thousands, of Facebook friends.

The bad news is you may not know how to transfer your social networking skills to professional networking skills.  You may also need to develop your interpersonal skills now for the job you want later.

Do you know what personal branding is and why it will be vital in your job search?  If using social media at the level the majority of college students are, do you realise you may already be developing your personal brand that will follow you into the workplace?  That can be good news or bad news for the average college student.  

Andrea Nierenberg, bestselling author and world-renowned business authority, is the Founder and President of The Nierenberg Consulting Group.  Andrea has taught her business development courses to undergraduate and MBA students at the nation’s top educational institutions, including the University of Chicago, Washington University, and New York University.

Nierenberg notes, “The interpersonal skills college students build now will be their job search skills in reality.  Many work places now have employees from four generations.  The recent college graduates are so smart, especially with technology, but their interpersonal skills can be far less than employees of other generations.  They must know how to network successfully in a professional sense and must comprehend how they conduct themselves establishes their brand.”

Public Relations industry leader Rebecca Crowley, CEO of innovative RTC Publicity, has a decade of experience in PR and has had an eclectic client base which allows her to pull from many different areas of her vast history in the industry.   

She is currently conducting student workshops which provide hands on experience, tools, resources, and solid advice to help students stand apart from others as they embark on their post graduate job hunt.  Her classes offer real-world instruction on how to use social marketing to your advantage, how to properly leverage your strengths, and how to get quality self-promotion copy in the hands of decision makers.   

Rebecca Crowley shares her insights:

BKH:  In simple terms, what is “branding?”

RC:  Branding, essentially, is taking a name and translating its tangibles and intangibles into a message, online conversation, and image to its target audience.  In job searches, the target market is potential employers.

BKH:  How does corporate or product branding differ from personal branding? 

RC:  For companies, branding is taking a corporate name, product, or service and representing them in a message identity they want their consumer market to see them and with what emotions they want them to associate with them.  They translate the desired image with a logo, written material, and advertising mediums, so consumers associate the brand name with their message. 

A unified brand uses different treatments of its logo and translates that “feel” into every mode of communication that is put in front of the public – website, all social marketing sites, any written copy, press releases, email newsletters, direct mail pieces, presentation materials, and correspondence.

A successful brand grows organically over time and resonates with the consumer.  It is important companies also do “re-brands” to change with the times. Do you remember when Boston Chicken re-branded to Boston Market? It was seamless and it worked.

However, sometimes change can be too much. Last year GAP tried to change their logo and invested a lot of money into it. Turns out the marketers did not have their pulse on what consumers wanted.  It is a tried and true brand, and the traditional logo we associate with the GAP is here to stay.  It is important for marketers to do their due diligence and know their audience to properly build, maintain and grow a brand.

The difference between company branding and personal branding is that with the personal brand there are not as many ways to “promote” that brand.   People are not issuing press releases or newsletters. It is important cover letters, resumes, and all possible forms of communication (various social marketing sites and correspondence) are evoking the right emotions for the target audience – the potential employers.

With personal branding, mistakes will be more easily noticed.  The audience is smaller, and there are fewer chances to get one’s “personal brand to resonate.” The personal brand must be tailored for each person, unlike a company that is generally marketing to a group of individuals.

BKH:  How are they similar?

RC:  The bottom line is both company branding and personal branding aim to get a person to remember you—to make you stand apart from the crowd.  Both company branding and personal branding must highlight both tangible and intangible benefits.

BKH:  Why is personal branding important?

RC:  Personal branding is important in 2011 and beyond for many reasons.   Foremost, we are in the middle of what seems to be an unending Great Recession.  There are fewer jobs and more candidates than ever before.  Standing apart from the crowd becomes of the utmost importance.

Also, we have more ways to communicate than ever before.  The resume is just a formality, but it must show creativity and highlight skills.  The cover letter is key.  It shows you know your “audience” and have done your research.  

Lastly, social media now allows more modes of communication – Linked-in, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr among countless others.  It is important to utilise social marketing even on the individual level, and show a unified brand.

An “online presence” is important and should not be taken for granted.  Untag those photos of drinking in college and have an email address that reflects professionalism.   Social media must be used to one’s benefit and not be a liability.

Everyone should know by now employers often look up a candidate online.  And likewise, candidates should look up who is interviewing them.  Everyone should know their audience, and there is a professional respect in approaching a company or coming to and interview prepared.

BKH:  How has the need for personal branding changed in the last 5-10 years?

RC:  Quite simply put, there are more modes of communication.  We are in the Web 2.0 era and conceiving what Web 3.0 might be.  It is important to use them for one’s benefit.  Knowing the technology is important, and knowing how to use it to market yourself effectively is even more important.

I know many people looking for jobs that even have business cards made.  It is necessary to make life easier for potential employers.  Having well-presented information at their fingertips makes decisions easier and makes individuals stand out from the crowd.  Be creative. Don’t think YouTube is for you? What if there is an employer who may be visually oriented?  This is not a time to limit one’s options.

BKH:  What are the top benefits of having a personal brand?

RC:  Most importantly is standing out from the crowd and knowing your strengths and weaknesses.

BKH:  Share a couple of real-world examples you have personally seen of good and bad personal branding?

RC:  I do not want to publicly humiliate anyone who has applied for a job with me, but cover letters that read “to whom it may concern,” lack any emotion, or look like form letters are forms of bad personal branding.  I hit “delete.”

Why should I give my time to someone who has not invested any time in me? Those who show they have done their research on me and my company will receive a response one way or the other with feedback from me.

BKH:  Thinking specifically of those in college or recent college graduates, what are the simplest and minimal cost things one can do to get started on personal branding?

RC:  First and foremost, take at least one, if not a few. personality or strength tests.  Myers Briggs can be done online for free.  Tom Rath wrote a great book and created a great strength finders test in the book Strength Finders 2.0.   I require all my interns to do this.

Create a killer LinkedIn profile and start connecting.  Be an original. Show enthusiasm and eagerness.  Hone your writing skills.  Jump off the screen or paper with energy, and properly represent your personality.  This is a chance for someone to know you before they meet you. If you do a good job, hopefully the interview is simply a deal closer.

Creatively use other social marketing sites to your benefit.  Send the proper message through the proper channels.  Creativity is the name of the game in 2011 and beyond.

Do an internship with a small business.  At big companies you tend to stuff envelopes and are treated like someone in the background.  At a small company you may have access to the owner.  A successful owner is a marketer his/herself.  They may be willing to show you the ropes on personal branding which is the most priceless gift you can get from an internship.

BKH:  What are the three things anyone can do to achieve the most effective personal branding to support their job search best? 

RC:  Create a strong online presence, hone writing skills, and show eagerness to work hard and to learn in the best way possible.

BKH:  What are employers looking for most in one’s personal branding? 

RC:  To get to know the job candidate.  There are so many people interviewing that the more information one can get in front of the potential employer the better.  

Every employer chooses to use a different medium of communication or connecting, so make it a priority to use free services to your benefit.  Neatly present them on your resume.  The most valuable intangible assets in today’s job market are eagerness and willingness to learn.

Turnover is expensive.  Business owners are investing in you.  They hope when they hire you, you help their productivity and ultimately their bottom line.  So be honest, know yourself, and hone a killer presentation online and in written materials.

BKH:  Contact Rebecca Crowley at RTC Publicity to sign up for her student workshop or for her company’s PR services.

In addition, Andrea Nierenberg summarizes, “College students must understand that with all the technology, people are watching 24/7 now.  What they post may affect how seriously they are taken by others as they move forward in their professional lives.”

She concludes, “Perception is reality.  It takes forever to develop your brand.  It may take only one post or photo to destroy it.  And on the Internet, everything can remain forever.”

Nierenberg is the author of three bestselling books—all of which have become essential reading for businesses worldwide.  Networking for College Students (and Recent Graduates) is essential reading for anyone beginning their careers, and makes a great gift for any college student.

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