Internships Advice

5 Easy Tips: Personal Branding for Students

What is personal branding?

Personal branding refers to how you promote yourself. 

For students, personal branding is a great way to set yourself up for success as you look for a career. By positioning yourself as knowledgeable about and experienced in a certain topic, you stand out to employers and are more likely to get hired or to get clients of your own, depending on your goals. 

What social media platform should you start with on your personal branding journey?

Personal branding can be applied to any social media platform, but LinkedIn is the best place to start. One of the top reasons for this is because it’s a b2b (business to business) platform, which means that those who are active are using the platform in a business sense, such as: 

  • Find a new hire
  • Advertise an internship
  • Build a network

Students looking to develop a personal brand should focus on building their network via LinkedIn, by providing authoritative content on a topic they have knowledge about and are passionate about. 

Why Students Need to Build a Personal Brand 

Having a personal brand is not only a great way to show potential employers or clients that you know what you’re talking about but it can also help push an employer’s business forward. If you can provide social proof through your personal brand, it makes the business as a whole look good. 

Having your own personal brand also helps to build relationships by showing authenticity. No one has it completely together as much as we might try to put on that appearance. If you can prove your authenticity by building your brand not just around your successes, but also your failures or struggles and how you grew from them, you can make yourself a sought-after asset no matter the field or position that you want to go into. 

How To Be Authentic When Your Passion Doesn’t Line Up With Your Field of Study

Your passion might be scuba diving, but it’s pretty hard to make a living and build a personal brand just around that, so instead, you may end up getting a finance degree. 

How can you be authentic, when you merely put up with finance but spend all your spare time thinking about scuba diving? 

Focus your brand around content pillars.

Content pillars are the main areas that your content will cover. Start with 3 or 4 and go from there. To develop your content pillars, ask yourself what you’ll discuss with clients. 

Content pillar examples include:

  • Your background
  • Your interests
  • Your values

These are general topics that you can niche down later once you find what you enjoy writing about. Above all, remember that different people will connect with different topics, so don’t just talk about your educational experience.

Remember that what you say online should truly align with your values, especially if it’s disruptive! You might have to defend your position later on. 

Personal Branding for Students: How to Get Started

Be Relatable

For CEOs of companies, it’s hard to be relatable. Most people don’t earn six figures or run their own company with 20+ employees, so people will struggle to relate to what CEOs post. 

This is where students can shine. 

As a student, you can write about things that a large percentage of people on LinkedIn will be able to relate to. This could be:

  • Difficulties of getting an internship
  • How your degree has helped or hurt your career journey so far
  • Struggles of starting a new position

Make a Headline That Works for You

Your LinkedIn headline is a short phrase that shows up when you comment on posts around LinkedIn. It means that people don’t need to click on your profile to see what exactly you do or what you’re looking for. 

Download our free worksheet to build the ultimate LinkedIn header by filling out the form below. 

Connect With Brands and Businesses That You Want to Work With

Actively engage with the brands that you want to work with by following them, commenting on their posts and providing insightful comments. Try and comment something that requires a response rather than just agreeing with the statement. 

By doing this, you catch the brand’s attention and when they go to look at your profile, they’ll see all of the fantastic content you’ve produced. 

“Cold Calling” Brands and Businesses – Should You Do It?

Cold calling on LinkedIn refers to sending a message without any context in order to build connections. 

Does it work? 

Think of cold calling like being on a dating app. If someone messaged you “do you want to go on a date” without getting to know you or having a conversation on the app first, you probably wouldn’t want to go. Instead, follow up on a post via a private message and say something like

  • “I really appreciated what you said in X post. I didn’t want to say this publicly but. . . “
  • “I found your post about X very insightful. I’d love to exchange thoughts on this more in-depth. Would you be interested in a virtual coffee chat sometime?”

People need to like you, trust you, and get to know you. If they don’t ask what you’re looking for (internship, job, etc) it means they don’t like you, trust you, or know you enough and you need to work harder to build that connection.

Do not try and automate your outreach! It’s easy to tell when a message has been sent to 50 other people, and it’s really offputting. You may burn a bridge while trying to build one. 

Don’t Be a Lurker

One of the best ways to get a business interested in you is by engaging with their content. Turn on notifications for the brands and individuals that you want to build a relationship with. If you’re asking open questions, have your profile set up correctly, and are consistently creating content that reflects what you do and what you’re looking for, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Building Your Personal Brand with Social Media

Using social media to build your personal brand, when done successfully, means that you’ll have an inbound pipeline of work coming to you. 

For example, if you have a TikTok account where you review skincare products and you build up a community interested in skincare, you’ll eventually get brands reaching out to you asking for you to review their products and share them with your audience. This process can truly take years, so you really have to work at it but that inbound pipeline will become incredibly valuable and will eventually pay for itself!

Inbound pipelines vary by social media platform 

  • Linkedin B2B- if you want clients
  • Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube – if you want a consumer-based audience 

Personal Branding on Social Media for Students

For students who are looking to gain employment, efforts should be focused on LinkedIn. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok are a slow burn and take years and years of high-quality content to build up. 

However, on LinkedIn, you could post about something one day and the very next day a hiring manager could contact you and ask if you’re interested in applying for a position. LinkedIn is also a great place to get more insights into the type of company that you’re applying for. Companies will build their own brands by posting on LinkedIn so by spending time exploring and following brands here, as opposed to strictly applying for jobs on Indeed, for example, you’ll have a better idea about if you actually want to work for this company. 

Although you may submit a CV to an employer, 90% of the time whoever is looking at your CV will go straight to LinkedIn. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your skills. Own your own narrative.

Niching Your Personal Brand

A niche is defined as “a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service”.

When you niche your personal brand, it means that you’re focusing on a specific area, instead of talking about a little bit of everything. Your niche could be about marketing or finance, or it could go even more specific and focus on paid ad campaigns or UK-US taxes. If you’re early into your career journey, you won’t want to be too specific or you may limit your options. 

Resources for Students Starting Their Personal Branding Journey

Personal Branding for Students FAQ

How can you go from intern to employee within a company that you’re already working for? How can you get noticed for this position?

  • Make the business aware that you’re going to start being more active on LinkedIn so you don’t get pulled in by HR one day. Be sure to ask what you’re allowed to talk about and what level of specifics you can go into
  • Build awareness as to the work that you’ve done
  • Use the knowledge to get yourself in front of the hiring managers
  • Seek out the people that you need to engage with (hiring manager) 

What advice would you give yourself as you entered the job market?

  • When you’re graduating, it’s the time to take the biggest risk before you get into an established career
  • Work for a startup = you’ll be more well rounded and exposed to lots of areas of the business
  • Go to networking events, produce content, get yourself out there
  • Work on demonstrating your skills, this outweighs experience! 

What info should you display on your LinkedIn profile

  • Academic
  • Experience 
  • Practical abilities – loads of people will have the same qualifications, so set yourself apart by demonstrating your achievements and abilities through
  • Show your intent with your headline because that shows up when you comment on things without people having to click on your profile  (grab our download) 
  • Make sure that you tag and link to the appropriate page so the image shows up and so people can find you through that 

What about personal branding for mature students or those not doing a marketing degree

  • Mature students actually have more life experience to pull from. Use it to your benefit!

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Meet the Speaker – Scott Millward from Voir Agency

scott millward personal branding expertScott signed up for LinkedIn during his second year of university but only really started using it within the last couple of years due to his job. He was a recuriter and he began using LinkedIn to generate interest. By talking about controversial topics related to employment, he was able to generate 12 million views within his first year of positing. Eventually, he got more well known for the content that he  produced rather than the company he worked for.

SHortly after, he started Voir Agency and working with clients to generate the same kind of content and recognition for their businesses. On the first day of his business launch, he generated 15 to 20 inquiries for his services and has seen massive success ever since.