Internship and Job Search – What Is Personal Branding?

If a recruiter asked your best friend to describe you in a few sentences, what would they say? What if they asked one of your professors? Your parents? Siblings? Everyone in your life has an impression of you built on their experiences interacting with you, and these will often be quite different. Your family and your professor would probably answer very differently. Why? Because what you share with your professor and what you share with your family is most often going to be very different. The same is true of your future employer. All they know about you is what you present to them—and what they can find on their own—about you.

To have the greatest impact on an employer, you need to control the image you are presenting at every step of the way. And that image needs to be consistent and reflect your goals and qualifications for the target job or industry you are pursuing. That cohesiveness of message in every aspect you can control—resume, cover letters, LinkedIn profile, interview, email/phone communications, social media activity—is what we mean by personal branding.

What do you do best? What are you “known” for? What evidence can you give to prove your skills and experience exist? The better you are able to identify your accomplishments and consistently apply them to your branding tools, the more attractive a candidate you will become. Some students are uncomfortable with the idea of talking up their accomplishments. They feel it is rude, or just plain narcissistic, to talk about themselves and what they have accomplished. The apprehension is understandable. After all, it can be hard to like someone who does nothing but tell you how great they are and why you should like them!

Conversely, some self‐promotion is unavoidable. In fact, that is what the job search process is all about. Your goal is to get an employer to pick you, from a pool of possibly hundreds of others, who in all likelihood have very similar backgrounds and experience. You must be talking about your accomplishments in this circumstance, because it is your accomplishments that can help separate you from others.

This isn’t to suggest you must become a full‐blown braggart, and you should absolutely never lie about your accomplishments. Stick to examples from your past, including facts and quantifiable results, and let the facts speak for you. As Muhammad Ali once said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”

Check out the CAS Resume Writing Guide for some additional tips on articulating accomplishments.