A Little About You Goes a Long Way
A personal brand is essential for recent graduates to stand out in the job search. Learn the key to success in your cover letters, resumes, and interviews.
It’s a sunny summer weekend afternoon. You’re sitting at a shaded table at your boyfriend, Bobby’s, house for a family barbeque. This is the first time you’ve met his extended family. One of Bobby’s aunts starts talking to you and says, “So tell me a little bit about yourself.”
It’s a common icebreaker, one that you generally reply with “I’m Stephanie, and I grew up in Cincinnati before attending Penn State, where I studied Math and Education,” even though this answer seems stale. But how do you condense 22 years of developing passions into a few memorable sentences?
An interviewer is likely to start your conversation with a similar broad statement asking who you are and what you’re all about, and you definitely don’t want to give a generic answer then. You want to stand out above the other applicants. That’s why it’s good to have a personal brand that you’ve crafted beforehand, one that you’ve practiced and refined in casual conversations (it’s a great networking opportunity!).
A personal brand is a short statement about you: what interests you, what type of opportunities you’re looking for, what skills you bring to the table. Telling who you are in a pithy yet truthful way differentiates you from other people pursuing the same career.
For instance, you and Bobby both want to be math teachers, right? You both went to the same college and have a degree in secondary education. But you want to teach moody middle schoolers while Bobby wants to teach snarky high schoolers. A personal brand makes the differences between the two of you clear and catchy. Your personal brand could go something like, “Teaching math through new mnemonics,” or, “Helping middle schoolers solve for more than X.”
Okay, so you didn’t have your personal brand ready when you were at Bobby’s, but that’s alright because they’ve accepted you into their family. Now, it’s two weeks later, you’re attending a new book club where you don’t know anyone. One of the other members approaches you, and after exchanging greetings and names, the conversation proceeds…
Melissa: So what are you into—what do you do for a living?
You: Oh, I’m an aspiring math teacher. I think it’s really important for middle schoolers to know how to solve for more than just X.
Melissa: That’s awesome! I wish I’d had a math teacher who made me understand why algebra would be important to me. I listened to this great podcast episode about all the ways being better at math improves your life, it made me regret not paying attention.
You: Was it the podcast called The Math Factor? I listen to that, and a few others, to get some inspiration.
Melissa: I don’t remember the name of the podcast, but I did just remember someone you should talk to! I have a friend who teaches at a local middle school, I can put you in contact with him, he probably knows of some openings or others you should talk to in the area.
You: Oh, thank you so much, that would be really helpful!
Having a personal brand makes networking easier and helps interviewers differentiate you from other candidates. All it takes is one simple statement about you. Create a personal brand today, and keep crafting it to different situations. It’s just the beginning of your story, the hook that will make others invested in what happens next.
Written by Ashley McDonnell