The application process is a competition; from your education, certifications, work experience, and CV presentation, you will be compared to every other applicant. While ubiquitous across every industry, this competition can be more fierce for fields like IT; in IT, your technical knowledge is scrutinized more harshly, and hard skills are highly prized and rigorously tested. However, this does not mean that presentation, appearance, and networking go out the window. On the contrary, in these highly competitive fields, the brand elements of your portfolio are more important than ever. Think about it this way, if you are in a lineup of 20 other applicants, each with roughly equivalent skill and technical proficiency, the applicant who presents their identity, skillset, ambition, and other valuable traits the best will be more likely to get hired, or be more likely noticed by an IT recruiter. This is where personal branding for students and grads alike becomes the jobseeker’s key asset.

This presentation of a “personal brand” is essential for recent graduates. If you have just graduated, you likely won’t have the work experience to separate you from other fresh grads, so presenting your skills and personality will be needed to stand out ahead of your contemporaries.

What Is A Personal Brand?

A personal brand refers to how you present and promote your online identity. Personal brands should illustrate your skills, abilities, beliefs, personality, and attitude uniquely and compellingly. Simply put, your personal brand should sell you.

Why Are Personal Brands Important?

By curating your online image, you can control the perception others, namely IT recruiters, potential employers, and other industry professionals, have of you. By defining your online image, you can express the professionalism, expertise, and personal qualities employers find valuable, resulting in better chances of employment and recruitment.

Beyond finding a job, effective personal branding allows for more successful networking both offline and online. With a brand that expresses likability and expertise, fellow industry members will be more likely to add you to their network of contacts and, in turn, proliferate your online profile.

How Do You Curate A Personal Brand?

Curating an effective personal brand is all about consistent presentation. Here are all the basic requirements and useful practices for creating and maintaining a strong personal brand:

  • Make a social presence online: if you haven’t already, the first step is to create various social media; the most important are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, with other valuable options being Snapchat and Instagram. LinkedIn is the most important of these, as it is the primary social media business professionals will go to when looking into you.

  • Understand what you want to present: Once you have your various socials created, your next step will be to define what elements of yourself you want to present through. This is the hardest part of personal branding. It requires a deep level of introspection and self-awareness; if you run into trouble here, it can be helpful to turn to friends and family to help define your most valuable and authentic assets. Generally, you want to present marketable skills, achievements, and personality, along with your core values, passions, and interests. These are some of the vital personal and professional elements that will help prospective employers understand you as an individual, along with your level of expertise and ability. When defining and presenting these values, be genuine, as sincere passion is recognizable and highly valued.

  • Create a consistent theme and voice: Consistency is key in personal branding. Therefore, you will want to select design elements that will persist throughout all of your socials; color scheme, fonts, images, headers, etc. At the same time, you will want to define a pervasive voice that you will utilize when making posts and communicating. Voice in this context refers to your speaking style, inflection, and general demeanor; you should ensure your voice, all online communications, and posts are both professional and non-controversial at all times.

  • Don’t Oversell: One of the most significant errors in personal brands is the tendency to oversell. Nothing can be as detrimental as coming off as the stereotype of a used car salesman. Recruiters, hiring managers, and other industry members can smell insincerity a mile away, so be honest, genuine, and sincere when creating your brand.

  • Create Clear Career Goals and Relevance: Understand what you want to get out of your brand, and dedicate your brand to that goal. If you aim to be a systems administrator of a large tech company, the skills, achievements, and industry-related posts you share should all be relevant to that position. One way to help define this is to create a mission statement for your career goals; this should be a short (30 seconds or less) pitch that you make for yourself that is concise, understandable, passionate, and authentic. When creating posts online, or communicating with others, keep this mission statement in mind, and use it as a guideline.

  • Have a portfolio: While typical in media-driven industries (film, writing, design, etc.), having a robust portfolio is advantageous for all fields that have demonstrable hard skills. For IT professionals, code snippets, technical flow charts, program demos, and infographics all possess the ability to showcase your skills and achievements. You should have an online location where anyone can view your portfolio. The most professional option is to have a dedicated website that contains all your best work; this is doubly beneficial because you can create a custom bio or about me page that can encapsulate your brand. However you choose to host your portfolio, you should have it linked in each of your social media. Many social media sites have a dedicated section for portfolio and personal sites; for those that do not, linking at the end of your bio or summary section is standard. Having a dedicated site also allows you to easily link a portfolio to applications, or send to an IT recruiter to get their interest.

Overall, personal brands allow students and recent graduates to create a memorable, lasting impression that can be more impactful than a cover letter.

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