What’s in a Brand?

Next week, I’ll have been at my new job for a month. Yay! That fact coupled with articles and a few books I’ve been reading at work have got me thinking about my brand. Yes, my brand. For those not familiar with branding here’s the quick version I use when working with students: You are a product (skills, abilities, experiences, ideas, etc.) and you are trying to market, or “brand,” your product to eventually secure either an internship or job. The branding materials can encompass print (resume, cover letter, & other application materials), in-person (interview), online (blogs, other websites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), and who you surround yourself with (references). The goal is to have each of the branding materials to send the same message about you out into the world. With all of that said, I worked hard during grad school to ensure that everything I was putting out into the world was true to my personality and my “brand.” The biggest test that my brand has endured thus far was the interview process for the job I currently hold. One part of the interview was to conduct a 10 minute role play of a career counseling appointment. I learned about the topic when the student talking about her issue. Good counseling skills are hard to fake. Either you’ve got them, or you don’t. I’m thinking my brand passed the test, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today. 🙂

Okay, so you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this branding idea. As I have been reading different articles about branding, I started to think about how I’ve brought my brand into my new job. Am I living up to how I interviewed and what my references said about me? This question was rolling around in my head for a solid day or so before I really came up with the answer. Summer is a fairly slow time in career services, so I’ve spent a lot of my time working on training items, reviewing resumes that students are sending in, and reading (books & articles). My new director had a handful of books ordered for me to get my library of resources going. What I have done includes contributing ideas in the few meetings we’ve had, and just being myself. I’m excited to experience what the office is like during the regular academic year.

The other question I’ve been asking myself is, “How can I continue working on my brand through my new job?” Here’s what I came up with so far:

  • Expand my knowledge and abilities in relation to social media. This skill set was what set me apart from my competition so I need to make sure that it keeps growing.
  • Getting involved with professional organizations and on-campus. So far, I have been involved mostly with organizations that service the student affairs profession as a whole. I’m excited to become more involved with career-related organizations about both the national and state levels.
  • Sharing resources with colleagues and students. Finding new resources is always fun, too.

So here’s my advice for students/grad students/new professionals: if your brand represents who you truly are, transitioning your brand into a new workplace shouldn’t be too difficult. Growing your brand is where it can get a bit challenging. Keep your eyes and ears open for possibilities. If you have connected yourself well connected through social media, ask if anyone knows of opportunities in your field that would allow you to establish yourself as a legitimate player and the result will be your brand growing. You can also ask this of people you know in-person as well.

Here’s a brand growth example that I follow and use to inspire where I want to go with my “brand.” Laura was one of my co-workers at UW-Whitewater and she has worked diligently to establish herself in the field of career services with an emphasis in internships. The following examples of her work encompass her online presence and professional organizations. From my own observations, she works well with students, colleagues, and employers.

Laura utilized the UWW Internships Blog as a vehicle to relay information to students regarding internship resources, tips, event topic connections, and highlighting student internship experiences.

The director that Laura and I shared at UWW (hi Ron!) was always (and still is) encouraging when it comes to trying new methods of technology and connecting with students. Laura was the leader with Twitter in our office. She shares articles and advice from credible resources, interacts with students when they make comments about internships or ask questions, and she advertises local internship opportunities available to UWW students. Laura also contributes to the UWW Career Twitter account that I managed during my last year as a grad assistant.

Laura has also served as the secretary of MACIC (Milwaukee Area College Internship Consortium) and is the new president-elect. Over the years, she has also belonged to broader student affairs and career-related organizations. Currently, she is putting a concentrated effort into internship related organizations.

The final way Laura has grown her brand is as a contributing author to the Student Branding Blog. She was referred to be a contributor because of the work she was already putting out into the world of career services (internships blog, twitter, in-person, etc.). Check out her posts on Wednesdays.

Here’s the lesson I’ve learned from Laura: make sure that your brand is true to who you are and who you want to be in the field that you work in. Thanks Laura for letting me do this little feature on your work!

Also, Laura has some awesome branding skills outside of work. Check out First Class Great Outdoors!

Photos were screenshots from UWW Internships Blog, UWW Internships Twitter page, and the Student Branding Blog.

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3 thoughts on “What’s in a Brand?

  1. Laura says:

    Ellen – You Rock!!

    You have already built a solid reputation in the student affairs and career counseling fields, and I have no doubt that you will continue to build upon that foundation in positive ways. You are always willing to learn new things (which we know some people are not) and that alone will be one of the greatest assets in building your brand as you grow in this first professional role.

    I’m excited to observe the journey of my first ever “mentee” 🙂

    • ellenhatfield says:

      As inadequate as this sounds, thanks Laura. I found out a couple weeks ago that Learner is one of my top 5 strengths. That should serve me well in the future with this branding thing. I guess I should have gotten you that rock I saw on my trip that said “Laura Rocks.” 🙂

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