How To Grow Your Brand In College
Let's face it; the workforce has changed SO much in the last few decades. The jobs that our parents had are no longer as feasible for us. Some of them have been moved to other countries, and the others don't pay as well as they used to. What if you could work for yourself, or at least have a leg up on the competition for the job of your dreams? You can do all of that by establishing a brand for yourself while you are in college. Today's blog will give you tips on growing that brand.
Why Do You Need To Grow Your Brand In College?
I was taking a course on LinkedIn Learning last year by a LinkedIn Influencer and the founder of Work It Daily, J.T. O’Donnell. In this course she talked about how many jobs in the future will become independent contractor jobs, meaning that you will not necessarily be a full-time employee of the company. Instead, you will bounce around from company to company, and offer your services. She called this being a “business-of-one.”
This idea of so many jobs in the future being an independent contractor resonated with me and made me aware that I needed to be more valuable than I anticipated, primarily because of the field I wanted to go into. Writing is the perfect job to give to an independent contractor after all.
The best piece of advice I can give you about building a brand while you are in college is this: Start Now!
Take networking and growing your brand seriously right now. It doesn’t matter if you are a freshman or a senior. The sooner you start this process, the better.
You need to start building your brand while you are in college because networking and knowing people can help you immensely when you want to start a business or work for one.
Choose Your Own Adventure: Do You Want To Build A Local Brand Or An Online Brand Start Now!
I thought I would give you a few tips to help with both. You might even want a mixture of the two. Either way, I have some tips to share with you today.
5 Tips For Building Your Local Brand In College
Building a local brand takes a ton of time and energy (just like creating a digital brand.) The only difference is, to build a local brand, you will have to go to way more events physically.
The positive part of a local brand, though, is that the market is likely not as saturated as it is when you are creating an online brand. Unless, of course, you live in New York City, Los Angeles, or some other huge city.
1. Network & Join Clubs In College
You need to make yourself known in the local community. This means that you need to pick a few clubs in college to join AND you need to find out about as many in-person networking events as possible. Get in the room where it happens (if you like a good Hamilton reference.) Get some professional clothes and dazzle people with a good business card. Connect with them via email and on social networks like LinkedIn. Meet and greets need to be your best friend if you want to build a local brand.
Above all else, it's not just about how many contacts you have in your spreadsheet. It's about making genuine connections with people in your community. What can they do for you? What can you do for them? You have to be ready to go beyond just knowing their name for an event and forgetting it. Make notes about them, research them after you meet them, and come up with ways that you can work together.
2. Take An Internship At A Local Company
Internships are a great way to get some experience while networking with people in your area. Internships can also turn into full-time jobs after college if done the right way. Dive into your internship and go above and beyond.
If you can, make sure it's a local company versus a big company with a business in your city. There are likely many small local businesses in your town, and if you do well with one of them, they may not be able to provide a job but know someone who is looking for employees.
3. Reach Out To Your Professors & Work With Them
Your professors can introduce you to more than just the academic circle in your town! Depending on the major, they may be working with many different people in the local community (and the country, but that doesn't create a local brand.)
Your professors want to get to know you, but they can't get to know every single student. Some professors are great at reaching out first, but the majority of them expect you to come to them. Visit their office hours, take an interest in the research that they do, and learn more about how they study your field.
Take it further! Work with them on a project like one of your papers or one of theirs. You can probably even get class credit for working with your professor if you take an independent study course with them.
4. Utilize Career Services On Campus
While you are a student (and usually a year after you graduate), you have access to a lot of wonderful resources at career services on your campus. Don't miss the opportunity to take advantage of that and use it to your fullest.
- Get your interview skills on point by going to a mock interview.
- Have your resume reviewed by professionals at Career Services.
- Go to career fairs hosted by Career Services to meet people who are hiring.
- Take any one-off classes that Career Services hosts to learn more about job hunting.
- Check out any job listings that Career Services offers for students.
There are so many things that your Career Services office can help you with!
5. Create Your Own Small Local Business Or Nonprofit
If you want to take your local brand up a notch, create a small local business or nonprofit from your dorm room. So many great business ideas started in dorm rooms, and you can do the same. I started my blog from my dorm room, and I know many people begin physical product businesses from their dorm rooms.
Think about the skills that you have: are you good at branding? Fixing computers? Sign spinning? Graphic Design? Mechanics? Whatever your skills are, get a business card, see what you need to do business in your city, and start offering those services to local businesses and entrepreneurs.
You may start by simply offering your services to people in your dorm room, but then branch out. You can make a nice bit of money just selling your services to the people beside you. This gives you some experience to put under your belt.
Start a website or even a social media page, get a few testimonials under your belt, and before you know it, you have yourself a functioning side-hustle!
5 Tips For Building Your Digital Brand In College
I personally went with the digital brand route in college. I started a blog from my dorm room that has lead to so many opportunities to grow and help students across the country. Let's chat about some tips that will help you build your digital brand.
1. Create Content Online
The internet is made up of content. Written, audio, and even visual content shared back and forth amongst acquaintances, friends, and colleagues. If you want to build your digital brand, you have to be a content creator. You have to showcase your expertise and build a following centered around content, but it doesn’t always have to be written content.
- Create videos on YouTube.
- Start a podcast on Apple Podcasts or even Soundcloud.
- Get a blog started on Wordpress, Blogger, or Squarespace.
- You may also decide to just share written content on a platform like LinkedIn Pulse or Medium.
- Make a Facebook Group.
- Start a Twitter Chat.
Make sure that above all else, your content has an initial connection to something that you own and can control like a website. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. are going to change their algorithm incessantly to appease who they feel their core market is. You won't have any say in that whatsoever. Your content needs a home base that you can control. So, instead of being held hostage by all of these platforms, make sure you are building your home base with a website.
2. Network On Social Media
While you can’t control social media, you still need to use it to network. It’s hard to make connections online when you aren’t using social networks like Twitter and Instagram to connect with people online.
Be sociable! It's so easy to get lost in the social world because you are trying to schedule everything out and always put out helpful content, but sometimes the best thing you can do is simply talk to your audience instead of throwing content at them.
When they respond to you, respond to them. Take five to ten minutes a day to respond to people that you follow and people that don’t follow you. Use hashtags to find new people to talk to. Make genuine comments and add to the conversation. Don’t just say GREAT or NICE PICTURE. Offer advice (yep, for free!), add value to their day, and let them feel heard.
Go to Twitter Chats, join Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, and find those small ways that you can connect with more people online.
3. Go To Digital & Physical Conferences
Conferences are a great way to learn more about your field and connect with your colleagues.
Conferences are vital for online creators because they hardly ever get to work with or see each other. If you can afford it, go to some physical conferences, if not host or find a digital conference to attend.
Do the same networking there. Bring business cards, make plans to hang out with other people in your niche ahead of time, so you aren't scrambling to make plans at the event.
Don’t just shake a bunch of hands, follow up on social media later. Find them on LinkedIn, send them an email, and see how you can collaborate with them!
4. Measure & Perfect Your Marketing
To grow your brand, you have to reach the right people. You should be taking stock of who your brand is actually reaching versus just who you want to reach. Every couple of months dig deeply into your analytics. Who is following you?For example, if your goal is to reach businesswomen in their 30s-40s, but your main following consists of men in the 18-24 category, you aren't doing something right. You should be evaluating your social media usage and making the changes necessary to reach your target audience.
That may mean running ads to get to your target market or getting a coach to help you target your market better. Either way, you will have to make adjustments if the work you are doing isn't helping you pull in your target demographic. A bunch of followers means nothing if they aren't who you are creating content for.
5. Collect Leads & Follow Up
Having an email list is key to building your digital brand. A nurtured email list can lead to sales and a deeper connection with your audience. An email address is one of the greatest things your audience can give you besides straight up cash in your bank account. Emails are sacred, and you should treat them with the utmost respect and care.
Once you have your email addresses or leads, follow up with them. Send out weekly or biweekly emails. Ask them questions, provide them value, and grow your connection with them.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to new sign-ups individually as well as with emails that go out automatically. Give them value every time you end up in the email inbox.
You should never have a take take take relationship with your audience. Always pour into your audience, and eventually, this will lead to something more significant for you and them.
Growing your brand takes time and energy, but it's all excellent work. The brand that you create can follow you for a long time to come and give you continued opportunities to grow and succeed. Taking the time to start your brand today, can lead to beautiful things in the future. The best part? Anyone with some time and patience can create a brand that they are proud of.
How will you brand yourself?