“Living my best life” is a common phrase we hear these days, and now that it’s summer break, you can finally get around to doing just that. Realistically, you most likely won’t be thinking about life after college or creating a plan for personal success. Let’s be real: you’d typically spend this time getting back to your summer job, making plans with friends from back home, traveling as much as possible, or even trying to land that dream internship you’ve had an eye on for months. Summer isn’t always the time where career uncertainty lies at the forefront of our minds, but it is the perfect time to begin re-investing in ourselves.
One of the greatest keys to success in any career path is developing a strong personal brand—and what better time to begin than now? Starting is the hard part, but seeing how people similar to you are making a name for themselves at such a young age might just be the inspiration you need. Personally, I was inspired by fellow College Fashionista community member, Avery Rizzotto, and the brand she created for herself via social and her fashion blog. I reached out to Avery, a University of South Florida junior, and she shared her story and a few key pointers with me. With a little time and dedication, the following tips on how to build a strong personal brand might become the start of your own success story.
Find Your Niche, or at Least Start Thinking About it
With so many personal brands out there, it can feel impossible finding a way to stand out. And while it’s easy to fall into the trap of imitating those who have already found success, authenticity will set you apart from the crowd. But according to Avery, “Finding your niche is a journey. I’m still trying to find mine. I get inspired by others, but you have to start off not really knowing what you’re doing and find out as you go. Just do what you love and be yourself.”
Once you identify your passion, you can then work toward developing and molding your personal brand around it. For Avery, her motivation was that “a lot of people I knew and my Instagram followers would always ask about my outfits. I felt like starting a blog would make it easier for me to share my outfits and fashion tips.” Finding a way to use your platforms to help others in an area that’s right up your alley can also help you choose a direction to take your brand.
Avery says “Getting involved [in the USF Sundolls dance team] helped me develop my brand. Combining passions from different worlds can really pull your brand together.” If you’re having trouble finding that something that sets you apart, consider finding a hobby you love or a new club to join. You could end up finding a new passion, as well as something that will set your personal brand apart from the rest. For Avery, much of her brand appeal stems from the fact that she’s not one-dimensional. She takes pride in saying that she’s “not just a dancer and not just a blogger. I love doing both and more. All of it makes my brand.”
Network, Network, Network
Change can’t occur without being brought out of your comfort zone. Even if face to face networking isn’t really your thing, social media has found its place at the forefront of personal connections. One of Avery’s methods for expanding her network is to reach out to people through Instagram and other bloggers on their platforms. “Build relationships with others when you can, because you never know who someone else knows.” Whether it’s increasing the amount of connections you have on LinkedIn, cold emailing professionals in your dream industry, or just meeting new faces on campus, expanding your network can play a big role in helping you develop your personal brand and extend your reach.
Be Careful With Your Online Image
Your presence online can make or break an opportunity, so it’s crucial to be conscious of how you appear. Between posting our highlight reels to Instagram, sharing our immediate thoughts on Twitter, or getting tagged in that embarrassing party pic on Facebook, it’s easy to get reckless with what you put on display.
Avery says, “Don’t be careless, and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your parents to see. Try to imagine yourself as an employer. What would you want to see from a candidate?” Make sure you’re monitoring both your personal and public profiles at all times and staying conscious of how others will perceive what you share on social. Your online presence should be a representation of yourself that you can be proud of.
Invest in Yourself
Avery’s last bit of advice for college students looking to build a strong personal brand? “Focus on yourself.” Developing your personal brand is all about shaping it into who you are and who you want to be. This is the time in life where you need to do everything your heart desires before being fully immersed in the “real world” post-graduation. So start that blog, build stronger relationships with the people you love, and buy that plane ticket. Become the best version of yourself you can be, and your brand will follow suit.
Want to share your methods for curating a strong personal brand this summer break? Let us know in the comments below!
Opening image by Avery Rizzotto.