A row of Mac computers lines the wall, the ethereal glow of LED displays brightening the faces of those beside you, each set of eyes staring intently at their work, clicking and dragging the cursor across the screen as the clock ticks on.
You think about how much you’ve completed and how much left to do, hours of work and hours to go. You tell yourself it’s time for a break and stand up to stretch your legs. Your eyes glance up at the clock on the wall: it’s four in the morning.
Nights like these are all-too-regular occurrences for Jon Marzette, a graphic design student at the University of Kansas. In his fourth year at KU, Marzette spends anywhere from one to three nights in the design studio working on coursework for his classes. Not just evenings, entire nights.
“There are some weeks where I only sleep half of the nights,” Marzette said. “I’ll be in studio from eight or nine at night until seven the next morning. Even then, I only go home because the parking department comes around and I have to take my car home.”
Putting in the Time
Marzette works hard at his assignments because he knows once he graduates it will be his foot in the door at a new job. With the continued emphasis by businesses and corporations on personal branding, that is, the exemplification of yourself in a positive and engaging way that demonstrates your qualities and abilities, it’s become necessary for students and young professionals to spend more time on every aspect of their work.
A study conducted by CareerBuilder.com showed that 45 percent of employers use social networks to check in on and screen potential employees. And that was in 2009. Given the growth of social networks over the last three years, it’s not hard to believe that this number has, and will continue to go up.
Even CNN has done articles over the importance of online presence and personal branding, explaining “the vast majority of recruiters and companies will Google potential candidates or look them up on LinkedIn before initiating contact.”
“Pick a specific topic in your studies and write about it,” Martell said. “Talk about it, share information on it. Companies are looking for someone who didn’t wait until they graduated to get experience in that field.”
Making it Count
Recent KU graduate Alex Berryman can attest to the importance of what Martell talks about, and understands the benefits of maintaining a positive online presence.
“It’s so much more than just posting stuff online for your friends to see,” said Berryman, who graduated last December from KU’s school of journalism. “I waited too long to get involved online, and assumed that my paper resume would get me the job.”
This is a realization that many students are having, not just Berryman. The importance of personal branding is only increasing, and without the use of social networks and digital marketing, many graduates are likely to get left behind.
“I just wish there were some way to go back and get it right,” Berryman said. “If I could, I would have tweeted and posted about all the things I found interesting and all the work I did while I was in school. Now it’s just hard to compete.”
The Atlantic published an article this week based on a study performed by the Associated Press, who worked in conjunction with various universities, that showed that “about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years,” which seems to stress the importance of getting the “personal brand” ball rolling early, much like Martell and Berryman suggest.
Things to Consider
Dylan Conklin, Interactive Coordinator at Chesapeake Energy, said that having a polished and concise image of yourself and your “brand” is an extremely important aspect of young professionals and college graduates looking for work. Conklin also said that it’s important to keep your head while creating your brand, and not to get over-zealous.
“Graduating students have a reputation in the workplace as being ‘entitled,’” Conklin said. “Yes, they are educated, but they need not act as if they know as much or more as their potential employers. Employers are looking to be impressed by a candidate and a clear, concise and honest summary of that person, when presented beautifully, will find its way to the top of the stack of resumes.”
So what keeps a young graduate from seeming too confident? Conklin offered up a few golden pieces of advice to keep in mind while creating a brand:
“Be concise, clear and appear hungry; professionalism above all else. Keep in mind that many hiring managers have a nephew your age who knows everything you do, and the reason he or se doesn’t hire their nephew is because they need someone with a professional attitude, not a punk kid.”
Ten years ago companies like LinkedIn didn’t even exist. Facebook, Twitter and other social networks hadn’t been created yet, and most individuals relied upon in-person interviews to land their jobs, but now everything is different. Don’t get left behind in a world that is rapidly becoming more and more integrated. The importance of creating a personal brand is something that everyone can benefit from; the key is setting your self apart.
One Recent Graduate’s Perspective
Narrator: Alex Berryman, who graduated in December from the University of Kansas’ school of journalism, understands the importance of creating and maintaining an online presence, or personal brand, and offers a unique perspective to current students and other recent graduates.
Berryman: So much emphasis is put on the now, and what you’re doing. I mean, educational wise; pay attention to your classes. People want to see that you’re doing something now, before you get done with college. My fallback, or setback, has been that I didn’t do much.
Berryman: I didn’t really see how that would benefit me when I was, um, when I was in college. But now, looking back on it, I wish I’d been able to put on my resume, “member of the ad club,” or, “member of ‘whatever’ club.” And, yeah, get involved. Do anything, even if you don’t like it too much. You can talk about it, you learn from everything.
Berryman: I don’t know how to tell someone, you know, to look ahead and prepare for what’s going to come, like, in terms of what you don’t need to pay attention to right now that’s so popular that’s going to be gone here pretty soon. It’s pretty scary.
Berryman: So it’s kind of hard for me to keep my head up by now, not having a job four months later, but you just gotta find little things about yourself that are good for everything, and if you stay positive about it people will catch up on it.
Looking for more help?
Looking for ways to get started with your personal brand? Below is a link to a photo album consisting of a few key sites that you can use to help get the ball rolling.
View the full set here.