personal branding for students

Personal Branding for Students & Graduates [long].

Assalamualaikum, and hello!

Last week I hosted a free webinar on Zoom & Facebook Live on Personal Branding for Students & Graduates. I kind of decided to host the webinar on a whim. But Alhamdulillah, it went better than expected (despite the expected hiccups here and there).

I am grateful for my good friends at Seeds Job Fair for their support and help to make it all work well. This includes lending me their Zoom platform and helping me to process and manage the registration and the whole webinar. Thanks again Aiman, Fathin, Syafa, and the rest of the Seeds team!

The webinar received more than 350 registrations (Alhamdulillah!!), which is more than the initial 100-150 people that I was expecting. Feel free to rewatch it again on Facebook if you’d like, and do share it with your friends and families! 🙂

Early warning: This is a super long post, as I will be answering some questions that I was not able to answer during the webinar.

What triggered me to suddenly want to do this “Personal branding for students” webinar?

So, I’ve been working closely with students and graduates for quite a while now (plus-minus 5-6 years, or so?). This is in many different capacities, of course, ranging from my volunteer work with post-SPM students, my actual work at Monash University Malaysia, and, now, through my work at Alice Smith School & my side hustle as a career consultant/resume reviewer.

personal branding for students and graduates webinar
(Honestly, I don’t know what I was talking about to look like that lol)

Students face a lot of challenges in the job market, especially after graduating from university. From my observations, most of these challenges can, at least partially (if not in full), be solved with good self-awareness and a strong personal brand.

This includes answering some of the most commonly-asked-questions from fresh graduates, such as:

  • How do I know which jobs do I apply for?
  • How do I compete with other candidates?
  • I never hear back from any job applications – what am I doing wrong?
  • How am I going to find a job in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, when there are a lot of people getting retrenched?
  • I don’t know what my strengths are.
  • How do I get noticed by employers?

After running a few Job Search 101 classes, and talking to graduates here and there, I decided… Hey, you know what, let’s do this webinar thing, just for fun.

So, I did.

You can rewatch the webinar here for more, but here is just some of what I shared. Further down the post, I’ll also be answering some of the questions that I was not able to answer during the webinar.

How you can start building your personal brand?

In the world with high competition in the job market, it is important for you to be able to stand out among other candidates. This is especially true during this COVID-19 pandemic, with a higher number of unemployed graduates.

Your personal brand is more than just what people know about you. It shows people about your values, your skills, your goals, and your experiences. Your personal brand is something that is uniquely yours, something that defines who you are as an individual.

Find what makes you, you.

Everyone should already have something within themselves that define who they are as a person. A good personal brand starts with good self-awareness. It takes a while, and for some people, it can be a difficult journey. But being aware of who you are can help you to understand where you stand in this world.

Start by understanding who you are as a person.

You can start your self-discovery journey by asking yourself some of these questions:

  • What are your non-negotiable value(s) in your life?
  • How do you want to be remembered for?
  • What would your friends and families say about you?
  • What is your overall life goals?
  • How have your past experiences helped build you into the person you are now?
  • What are your top strengths? What about your weaknesses?

If you are not used to doing self-reflection, this may take a while. Feel free to do it in any way that fits you. Some people prefer to contemplate while doing yoga. Some people do journalling. It is your choice on how you want to do it, but make sure you are being open and honest with yourself.

There are also a lot of resources, both free and paid, out there that can help you in the whole journey. Some of the free resources include the following:

personal branding for students

Answering your questions on “Personal Branding for Students & Graduates”

During the webinar last week, we had quite a lot of good questions asked by participants. Unfortunately, due to the time constraint, I was not able to answer them all.

So I now want to take some time to answer some, if not all, of the questions (or those that I wasn’t able to answer yet, at least).

“How do you buy your own domain for your website? Where you buy the domain?”

I started my personal blog back in 2008 when I was in high school. Over the years, I’ve changed my blog URL quite a few times until I settled on this domain.

The first time I bought the domain was around 2011/12, I think? I was using Blogger at that time, so I bought the domain for RM30/year + RM10 setup fee from NetKL. I think the price is now RM45/year for a .com domain.

After a year there, I decided to self-host my blog on WordPress. I tried out GoDaddy and BlueHost (made use of their promotional rates for new customers for the first year), before ultimately changing to ExaBytes until now.

“What are your tips to stay motivated in writing blog posts? I did try during high school years but I’d never finished what I started :(“

Haaa, this is also something that I’m asking myself so so so many times. Every year, I’ll be all “I’m going to write more on the blog, I want to do this, and that.” And every year, I’d fail to accomplish the goal lol.

One thing that helps is to try to stick to a consistent schedule. I haven’t been able to stick to a schedule for this blog (yet), that one I know. But, Alhamdulillah I have been fairly consistent with my #SayWhat newsletter, with new issues coming out every two weeks (one out this weekend too, actually!).

personal branding for students
I’m trying to be more organized and consistent with my blog, like Suraya is with her Ringgit oh Ringgit, but I’m a long way from being that disciplined lol.

But having that list of topics and ideas is actually useful (bar my lack of discipline and commitment to actually follow them though). For my #SayWhat newsletter, I have a list of topics I want to write about on my Notes app. Every time I sit down to write a new issue, I will either pull something from what I’ve read in the past two weeks or pick a topic from the list.

“Currently, I am doing the course that I am not really passionate about. But if I were to apply a job that is not related to the course I’m taking, is it going to affect my career?  But I know I can do well in the thing I am passionate about. It is just that I don’t have a specific qualification.”

It’s important for you to consider two things:

  1. What is your overall career goal?
  2. How can you get there?

Personally, my educational background (a degree in Actuarial Science) is not really related to what I do for a career anyway (which is in Education/Higher Education). If you’re interested to know more about how and why I made the change, feel free to read this post.

A majority of people will most probably do something that is completely unrelated to their degrees anyway, and that is fine. You are free to apply to whatever jobs you want, as long as (1) you meet their requirements, and (2) it fits in your overall career plan.

This is a question you should be asking yourself. Because, ultimately, only you know what your overall career plans are, and then you can start planning what you can do to get there. Think about what skills you can develop, what opportunities would suit your skills and passion, and where you can best utilize your strengths.

“What is the best channel to use? I’m coming out of university as a web developer. I want to know web developer community on Twitter, on Facebook, etc. What’s the place I need to pick to start? / Is it better to make our own personal brand in a focused-based social media (e.g. focus on 1 soc media only) or in general/broad-based (e.g. using multiple-platforms) for similar posts?”

I would probably say focus on exactly what your end goal(s) is/are.

Every industry or niche has its own community/group on different social media platforms. Depending on what you want to achieve, you might have a different approach to your personal brand.

For instance, personally, I am spending more time on LinkedIn and Twitter. This is because that’s where most of my target audience, university students and graduates, are.

So think about your area, and the people you want to reach out to, and figure out where you can find them. Feel free to experiment with a few different platforms to see which suits your needs best.

7 June class
Most of the people who join my Job Search 101 class are from Twitter/LinkedIn!

“Does the number of followers you on social media really matter when you are branding yourself? / Does the number of connections on LinkedIn matter to future employers?”

That kind of depends on what industry you are going into. But, generally speaking, I would not worry yourself with the number of followers, connections, fans, and the likes, on social media.

Those numbers are, after all, a vanity metric.

It is just a misleading number that doesn’t really tell much about who you are as a person, considering how there are services selling fake followers, fake comments, and all.

Don’t focus too much on getting a lot of followers or connections. But instead, focus your time and effort into building strong connections with the ones you already have. Get to know who your followers or connections are, and interact fully with them.

Be selective about who you surround yourself with. Your community is a part of your personal brand, so be sure to surround yourself with positive and kind people.

“My passion is in eradicating stigma about mental illness. It comes from my experience in experiencing mental illness symptoms before. Personally, that unique experience itself open a load of lessons in my life, especially on empathy. I would love to share my experiences to help people understand mental illness and how much misunderstood it is, but, I’m too afraid of public stigma/judgment. I’m also worried if I’m not qualified to talk about it. Since I’m still in my Psy Degre, and not MClin Psy.”

Everyone has to start somewhere, no?

When I first started to write about graduate employability (i.e. my #FreshGrad101 series), I was a fresh graduate myself, just a few months out of university. Even now, writing about personal branding and all, when I’m not a qualified trainer or career coach.

I started my career consultation journey earlier this year, despite feeling like “Who am I to do this?”

I wrote a little about overcoming impostor syndrome in my #SayWhat newsletter previously, which might help a little. Another post that may somewhat be related is this one on inferiority complex.

Like I said during the webinar – everyone has their own unique story to tell. You have your own experiences in going through mental illness, which helps you to learn more about it. This makes you the right person to talk about it because you have gone through it yourself.

Talk about your experiences. Talk about what you’ve learned from the experiences. Be upfront about how you will be writing from your own perspective as someone who has personally experienced it, and not as a professional psychologist.

Just remember – you cannot please everybody. People will comment and criticize you, for everything. Just focus on the reason(s) why you want to do what you do, and surround yourself with people who believe in you.

“What do you think about introverted & passive people to create their personal brand? How do they start on that? Thank you. / What is your advice to people who don’t consider themselves as content creators or writers?”

First, remember that there is a difference between being passive and being introverted. Being an introvert is OK, it is not a bad thing. You just need to figure out what works for you and focus on capitalizing on your unique strengths.

Don’t try to follow what other people are doing if it does not make you feel comfortable. Figure out what your goals are, and what you would enjoy doing.

For instance – if you’re not a fan of recording videos on YouTube, don’t force yourself (I’ve thought about it so many times but could never bring myself to do it). If you’re not a fan of writing, don’t force yourself to start a blog.

Utilize social media and blogs to create your personal brand in a way that you are comfortable with. Start small. Look for communities in areas that you are interested in and passionate about, and start from there. See how other introverts do it and find out what works best for you.

Some links for you to read: this, this, this, and this. A friend of mine, Arifah Badli, who actually (I believe) also self-identify as an introvert, shares this good article as well.

Building your personal brand is not about being all ‘out there’, getting hundreds or thousands of followers, being ‘loud’ and all. It’s about finding your voice, knowing your own story, and sharing it with the world.

“How do I overcome and move away from a time when I made a bad social media impression? How do I recover and repurpose my social media brand to reflect my ongoing growth and change in being a better person?”

This is a very good question, but unfortunately, not one that I am in the position to write about. But personally, I think, with any bad impressions or mistakes, the first thing to do is to own up to that mistake and apologize. This is especially true if you did or said something that affects someone else negatively.

Own up to the mistakes and be honest about your wrongdoings. We are all human beings, and we make mistakes. And that’s OK. Just own up to your mistakes, and figure out a way to fix it, if you can. And focus on what you can control (i.e. how you use your social media for your growth and better things), rather than focusing on things that you cannot control (the past).

Finding your own voice and place in this chaotic world.

Everyone has their own story to tell the world. We are all unique in our own ways, and it’s time for us to own our awesomeness.

If you managed to catch the webinar last week, or if you went and rewatch it on Facebook Live, or if you manage to read through this super-long post – thank you very much!

I hope the webinar and this post have been useful (in one way or another), and feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below!

Until I see you again next time – stay awesome, and take care!

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