While more companies are willing to hire these days thanks to an improving economy, it’s still slim pickings for those recent college grads with little real world experience.
Indeed, according to a recent survey out from Accenture, 41 percent of U.S. workers who graduated from college within the last two years are underemployed taking on jobs as baristas and bartenders (if they are lucky).
However, thanks to barrier-breaking social media platforms and other personal brand-building techniques and tools, recent grads do have access to a few advantages that their counterparts didn’t have just a few years ago.
But before diving into to what some of these tactics are, it’s worth asking: What is personal branding? According to Erica Strauss, a UChic.com and Diploma Diaries contributor, personal branding is:
The concept that everything a person does, says, wears, or thinks is a representation of their own brand. Essentially, it’s the way you sell yourself to others—and it’s something you’re building every day whether you realize it or not. Put another way, defining your personal brand is about first figuring out who you are and then showing that self to the world in the best light possible.
If done consistently well, your personal brand and efforts to communicate it to the world might just be the ticket or extra push needed to land that coveted position.
In order to effectively build your personal brand, you’ll need to first spend time getting to know yourself. List your strengths and weaknesses. Define on paper who you are and where you thrive.
Next, seek out opportunities that are in alignment with your personality. If you like to work in teams, for example, look for chances to do so at work or in the community. But don’t force it. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t like to spend half your days in meetings, or if you can’t sit at a computer alone for more than twenty minutes without getting antsy. Simply acknowledge what works and what doesn’t, and find ways to do more of what you’re good at and less of what you’re not.
Once you’ve got a good handle on what makes you tick and have a few real experiences to back it up, it’s time to start putting into action some personal branding tactics, including:
LinkedIn. Use this social networking site for professionals to showcase your skills and collect recommendations from former bosses and colleagues. But do spend a little time spiffing up your profile. Find an appropriate (read: professional) photo, tell your whole professional story (yes, even that summer job at Gap taught you some important lessons) and be active. Share links to favorites articles, join professional groups of interest and connect with old professors, mentors and colleauges. You never know which of these activities will attract the attention of that busy recruiter looking for that perfect candidate.
A Web presence. A you a creative type with proof that you can share with the world? Register your own domain or start a portfolio with a free site like Wix.com, Squarespace.com, or Weebly.com and start building your presence.
Branded business cards, thank-you notes, and address labels. Include all your pertinent contact information, including email address and website when appropriate. And then use them!
Social media and blogs. In addition to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and your own blog are great ways to network with like-minded people and show off your expertise. Just be sure to keep it professional.
Consistency. People like to work with people they can trust. So whether that means attending that networking event every month or returning all work-related phone calls on time, just remember that everything counts.
Be present! Don’t just show up online. Chat up your peers at local networking events (search Meet.com if you’re unsure) and really listen to them. People love to feel important!
By following just a few of these personal brand-building tactics on a consistent basis, you, too, will quickly be on the path to career success!