Personal Branding Tips for High School Students
Maybe I’m aging myself, but when I was applying for college the big hot topic for essays was always something related to diversity. How have you encountered diversity? How have you encouraged diversity? Etc, etc. While diversity is still important, it seems to have been replaced as a college essay forerunner by something else: personal branding.
I work with a decent amount of high school upperclassmen on a daily basis and the issue of personal branding seems to keep rearing its ugly head no matter what college or university is involved. Why the ugly head? Personal branding is a tricky subject. It’s really tricky if you are a teenager and don’t have a clue what you plan on doing tomorrow, let alone how you plan on marketing yourself for some indefinite span of time. So, how do you find, let alone try to describe, what your personal brand is when you are still in the process of figuring out who you are? Read on for 3 things to consider.
- It’s not about what you do. Ever wonder why people have midlife crises? This is why. They often discover that they have worked a job for their entire life that has grown to define who they are. The job has become them and there suddenly their identity is their job description. When the job disappears, so does their identity and that’s when it gets bad. When I ask teens what their personal brand is, they often tell me their aspirations. While having aspirations is great, your personal brand is more about the core behind what drives those aspirations. For example, wanting to be a nurse is not part of your personal brand. However, a desire to help others, a passion for the healthcare system, and a strong work ethic are all characteristics that describe your personal brand. When you get older, your career will be a part of your personal brand, but it won’t be all of it. In fact, it won’t even be most of it. Why? Because ANYONE can do any certain job. No where on the job description for COO of Facebook does it say “Must be Sheryl Sandberg”. It’s what Ms. Sandberg brings to her job and gets out of it that defines her personal brand…not the title itself. So, if you don’t think that you’re capable of figuring out your personal brand because you don’t have a set career path, think again.
- Keep it general. Oprah Winfrey has a very strong personal brand. So do Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, and Jay Z. What else do all those people have in common? You got it, they’re all old. Okay, they are older than you (provided you are a college student or younger). The point is that they’ve had lots of time to develop strong personal brands. These people didn’t graduate middle school knowing exactly what would define them as adults. Chances are though, that they did understand what makes them different, even if in the most generic sense. Personal branding is all about what makes you, you. What are you good at? What keeps you up at night? What gets you excited? How do you function? These questions bring out answers that only you can answer (unlike questions such as, ‘what sport do you like to play?’) You don’t have to know what to do with all that information. You just need to have some basic self-awareness. You realize you are good at problem solving. You notice that you get excited and can’t sleep when thinking about creative things. You feel better when you’re in a group of people. Even if you don’t understand how these pieces fit together or what their value is, they are still the important base layer of your personal brand. No matter how old you get, these core traits will always be a part of who you are. The sooner you realize what they are, the easier it will be to build upon them.
- Think outside of your own shoes. One of the easiest ways to figure out your personal brand is to ask the people who know you best. These are the family members and friends that you are completely yourself around. What character traits do they view in you? Humor? Organization? Attention to detail? Often times other people are able to see more than you are.
Think of yourself at the beginning of a marketing stage. When Nabisco first thought up the concept of Oreos, they didn’t have all the fine details of the brand hammered out. They simply wanted to make a cookie that was yummy, chocolatey, and creme filled. They started with the absolute basics of the product. Likewise, you have to start with the absolute basics of what makes you uniquely you. Maybe it’s your positive attitude, your intelligence, or your competitive nature. Instead of trying to pull together a whole brand for an incomplete product (we are all in the process of discovering ourselves), work on understanding the fundamental attributes that make you, you.
Still confused? Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn more about personal branding? Check out my best-selling ebook: Dressing Your Personal Brand. Go ahead and check out the (totally free!) first chapter below –>