I'm the first person to criticize this new "personal branding" fad. I'm also incidentally a person who figured it out because I felt like I had to. Personal branding is a gateway into the world of the young professional. If you're like me and you grew up in a middle or working class environment, then this self-inflated egotistical way of networking may seem pretty scary. That's why I'm going to share with you all that I've learned.
The first thing I learned while trying to fight off impostor syndrome is that you have to be great at acting the part of a successful young professional. Yea, it's going to seem silly looking up the latest news in business as an English or arts major but it's something that will benefit you. Most arts majors don't go into freelance work. Usually, they end up working for a company. I know, I'm sad too.
If you're not in the arts but you come from a blue collar background, then you too may feel out of the loop or as if you don't deserve your degree or your position. You do, I promise, but you may need to do some extra research to determine what's appropriate in a white collar office or career.
It definitely doesn't have to be all bad! You don't have to go out and buy new clothes or a fancy car, you just have to act like you know what you're doing. Trust me, during my first internship I never felt like I belonged.
My second internship wasn't much better, but now I have two stellar internship experiences on my resume and I'm currently interning for a literary agency, my third professional position. One of the ways I've found I can even the playing field is through a great public social media presence.
Keep your public profiles clean. Create a completely private Facebook for your friends and family and a public one for potential employers. If you're in the arts or media, create a public page dedicated to the work you're doing and the organizations you're working with. Tag all of those organizations in your text posts.
You don't have to have stellar pictures by the pool in Aruba to have a great Instagram presence either. Post your work, tag your interests and people will follow. Besides, when you use social media to connect to employers, appearances are usually way more valuable than the truth.
There are many kids with amazing Instagram photos who look way more interesting than I could ever hope to be, but who's to say they're actually more interesting? Some people take enough photos at one location to last them months, or repost a picture with a different filter.
If you want to build up a social media presence then you can't be afraid to be you. Breaking convention will be way more interesting to employers and peers than if you were your average, run of the mill Instagram user.
Use a positive voice in your posting. One thing that I've noticed about wealthy social media users is their overwhelming positivity (of course its easier for you to stay positive when your financial needs are met). Sign up for Linkedin and post your accomplishments. Unfortunately, you have to play the game. Make sure that you always appear professional to future employers.
Make sure you have a wardrobe that's professional enough but don't go spending a million dollars. Make a point to showcase your thrifty skills. Financial literacy and ingrained professionalism will look great to employers.
Finally, just make sure you research your career choice. Don't go into a position or an interview blind without knowing what to expect. Don't be afraid to ask for the salary that your peers are earning for the same work. You're not an impostor. You worked hard for your degree and you secured a job by your own hard work.
I came in blind to the college experience since I'm the first person in my dad's family to complete college, and only my grand father and great grandfather had completed college on my mother's side. I was never introduced to the world of white collar professionalism, and that's okay, but having found success in my search for internships and employment, I want to tell you a secret: your struggles have taught you skills valuable to employers, your community and to your success.