What is your personal brand? Can you tell someone what it is in less than thirty seconds? Within a minute? In a 400 word essay? You have to figure this out to put forward a great application to your dream graduate school. We are here to help you do it. Here are 7 tips and 1 exercise for developing a winning personal brand to help you succeed in graduate school and beyond from our consultant, Rosette.
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand is what people perceive when they think about you. It’s how you present yourself. It also encompasses your professional experience, expertise, and more. Most of all, it’s who you are. You have to decide what it is and how to present it for the personal brand to work its magic for you. So, where do you start?
1. Identify your target audience
We’re not one-dimensional people, so in many cases, we have different personal brands depending on where we are, who we’re with, and what we’re doing. Who you’re with and what they know about you will determine what your personal brand is in those contexts. That’s why it’s so important to identify, then consider your target audiences as you develop your personal brand.
When it comes to applying to graduate school, your target audience is the admissions committee and you want them to see you as a unique candidate who can succeed in a rigorous program and add value to the classroom. Your personal brand should embody those things in their eyes.
2. Live your brand by being mindful of it and thinking holistically
Think carefully about how you want your audience(s) to perceive you both directly and indirectly. What story do you want them to tell about you when you’ve moved on? Ask yourself this question and solidify the answer as you look over anything your audience will consume to determine how you fit into their worlds. For better or worse, your brand will follow you wherever you go, so make sure it’s working for you and not against you in your application process. This goes for application materials, social media profiles, and any other channel where you express your brand.
3. Develop a strong value proposition
This is critical to developing a unique brand for applying to graduate school. Think carefully about what you can offer to others that will help them solve their problems and achieve their goals. Remember the target audiences you’ve identified. Admissions committees want to see what experience you can bring to your cohort to improve your classmates’ learning experiences as much as you benefit from them. Focusing on what’s in it for them helps you stand out from your competition and helps you build trust.
4. Be the expert
What are you most knowledgeable and passionate about? This is a huge part of the personal brand you can showcase when you apply to graduate school. Best of all, you’re already an expert in your field! If you keep up with industry news and who the key players are, you will know more than the average person about your industry and how it works.
5. Be consistent
In addition to telling them, how will people know you as the expert in your field? If you’re telling a consistent story about yourself across your social media profiles, your elevator pitches, and the knowledge you share, it’ll be easy for people to see you as the expert. Further, you also need to be consistent in how you present yourself in person, over video conference calls, and verbally. Posture, physical presence, and tone of voice all create a brand for you in someone’s head as they get to know you more.
6. Keep in mind that your brand will one day include more people than just you
We make associations with others all of the time. People might associate you with the school you got your undergraduate degree from, where you worked, or even who your significant other is. They’re all a part of your brand, so keep in mind how they all fit and what they say about you as a whole package.
7. Be authentic
All of this is for nothing if it’s not who you really are. Make sure that everything you’re putting forward in your applications and saying to your future cohort aligns with your values, your expertise, and who you want to be. Your entire application and presence should tell a clear, consistent story that people can remember.
By the way, you don’t have to be the only person telling your story. You’ll know your brand is really sticking if you hear people talking about you with the same words you’ve used to describe yourself.
Ready to start building your brand? Start with this exercise!
Write your personal brand in 30 second, 60 second, and 30 minute stories that you’ll be able to tell. Record yourself on video telling those stories so you can practice nailing your story and making a strong impression.
Building a strong brand takes time, so don’t stop here. Continue to refine and develop your personal brand with feedback from your friends, family, colleagues, and even our team! If you have questions about how to make your personal brand stand out to and resonate with admissions committees at your dream graduate school programs, book a quick call with our team today!