HOW TO BRAND YOURSELF AS A FRESH GRADUATE IN NIGERIA
According to Wikipedia; “Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands”… Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organisations. Personal branding often involves the application of one’s name to various products. For example, the celebrity real-estate mogul turned President of The United States, Donald Trump uses his last name extensively on his buildings and on the products he endorses (e.g. Trump Tower). Personal Branding focuses on “self-packaging”, where “success” is not determined by individuals’ internal sets of skills, motivations and interests but, rather by how effectively they are…branded”. It is more about self-promotion rather than through self-expression.
So, as a fresh Nigerian graduate, creating a personal brand from a young age and gradually improving upon it is one of the wisest investments you can make on your life and career. Having a strong, authentic and relevant personal brand is essential at this stage of your career. Your personal brand is what people will know you for. It represents who you are, what you have accomplished and how you present and carry yourself. And as a fresh graduate you most likely have little or no demonstrated record of work successes, this is why building a personal brand will go a long way to build up your image and reputation. In this article, I will discuss the many ways in which you can build your personal brand as a fresh graduate in Nigeria. Let’s see
1. Know what you don’t know. Keep this in mind, during this your first entry into the corporate world, no matter if you are a first class graduate or you were the best graduating student in your school, you are going to encounter things you didn’t learn in school. It might be practical, like your company’s working ethics, or political, like an unspoken rule that you’re not supposed to eat any of the food provided during the first 20 minutes of a business presentation. But whatever it is, its OK you don’t know it yet. For this reason, you need to ask questions, no matter how embarrassing they may seem. Its better to ask and strike others as a newbie than to make a misstep that could make you look incompetent or just plain stupid. You should be able to ask questions and just do your research on things and situations that may seem hazy to you. Never assume things. To effectively build your personal brand, you will need to first determine the things you don’t know and make steps to know them. To get around this challenge, you may want to consider highlighting any internship or volunteer work. Having a rich well of experience outside of academia is often a plus as it shows employers that you are able to translate what you’ve learnt in your life so far into the corporate world. There are so many activities you can participate in that will increase your knowledge and skill base, such as sport,music or volunteer work. These activities will go a long way to demonstrate who you are and what your brand represents
2. Know your audience and act accordingly. While most fresh graduates may want their work place to accept them with open arms; that is likely not usually the case. Freshies out there need to get a feel of their work environment and their coworkers and respond accordingly. Be moderate. Don’t always be ‘yourself’. You may find that the corporate world may not be as buttoned up as you’ve been made to believe, but still, you will need to exhibit flexibility in different professional environments. Every work environment has its own peculiarities and silent code of conduct which you should watch our for to properly align with. You don’t want to show up at work in your pyjamas just because you work in a super friendly environment!
3. Network. As a fresh graduate ready to step into the professional world, it is crucial for you to be a serial networker. Networking is paramount for getting you the kind of job you desire. It will also save you from months of labour and hard work submitting your resume to several job boards and corporate websites. Self-branding is directly linked to your networking strength, who you know will facilitate your brand and boost your reputation throughout your career. Check your social media presence, ensure it aligns with the image you’re looking to project for yourself. Do you have a LinkedIn account? If no, make sure you do ASAP. Note that social media is a great networking tool. So make the best use of it. Twitter makes it easy to keep your posts private, while also being a great tool for networking and commenting on trends in the industry; which will project you as someone with expertise. Your personal branding and social media presence go hand in hand, so make sure to put your best foot forward on every social media channel at your disposal. Every fresh graduate in Nigeria needs to be ‘connection conscious’. The people within your network circle set you apart from competitors, these people determine the way people see you. Networking is a basic essential for personal self-branding every freshie in Nigeria should inculcate.
4. Build a website. Building your own website can set you apart and convince recruiters to hire you, of course if you come across as professional. The first major step towards building a flourishing and lasting personal brand is creating a website. Your website should express your vision and mission, it should reveal both your personal and professional qualities, as well as define your commitments for success. While you might have limited work experience, you should leverage your previous experiences, such as internships or volunteer work to build your website. Get rid of anything that might tarnish your personal brand. If your social media activity contains something ‘crazy’ or its got offensive posts, remove them without delay. Create a collection of everything you’ve done and put it into building your website. It’s really worthwhile to create a catalog where you can put everything you’ve done in the past, just in case something you’ve done in the past may have relevance to a future calling. You never know.
5. Get a mentor. As a fresh graduate with promise for a great future, you might be tempted to go it alone. However, in reality, even when you may clearly see the prospects of a smooth career path, you may not know exactly what you should be doing during certain times of your career journey. Having a mentor will provide you with information and knowledge. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. Mentors can see where you need to improve and where we often cannot. As movie maker, George Lucas noted, “Mentors have a way of seeing more of your faults than we would like. It’s like the only way we grow”. In building a great personal brand for yourself, you need a mentor or mentors. Having a mentor in your life at this early stage of your career will help stimulate your personal and professional growth. Inspirational entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey stated, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside of yourself.” Your mentor will help you set goals that will solidify your work ethics and sharpen your career focus. Having a mentor, or mentors, as you like it, is a double win, because they play a dual role of teacher and connector, your mentor can provide access to those within your industry that are willing to invest in your career, offer their skills and expertise, introduce you to talent that can fuel your career and help you get closer to experts in your field. In creating a flourishing personal brand, getting yourself a mentor is paramount and key.
6. Become a mentor. Mentorship has obvious benefits for both the mentee and the mentor. Now that you’re a fresh graduate looking to branding yourself, why not become a mentor? When you teach someone, you truly become a master on that subject. You not only reinforce valuable leadership lessons, but you also question and refine your own thinking and mindset. You’ll find yourself working hard to live up to the expectations of your mentee. Becoming a great mentor to a younger inexperienced person will invariably fetch you good quality referrals. Your name is mentioned anytime your mentee achieves a career milestone. So look to becoming a mentor for a great personal brand
7. Be mindful of your image. When creating your personal brand, look to building a credible reputation. What comes to mind whenever your name is being mentioned? This is the time of your life where you need to clean out your personal equity, check for flaws and characters that may irreversibly mar your career. And at all times, be conscious of the kind of image you are projecting. Your image should promote your personal brand. Stay honest and disciplined. Don’t over promise and under deliver.
8. Are you an entrepreneur or a corporate employee? As a fresh graduate in Nigeria, now is the time to determine your place in the scheme of things, there’s absolutely no need wasting valuable time in a career you are not suited for, or don’t belong. What is your calling? The answer to this question will help you pinpoint the necessary steps to effect in building your personal brand. Before building a good personal brand, you need to find out what you are good at, as well as define the kind of career that will help you implement what you have learnt from school. Working on something you are passionate about will boost your zest to keep moving forward and upgrade your skills. So take out time to really determine your place, are you an entrepreneur or a corporate employee?
9. Forming good habits. Know the age long quote, “Watch your thoughts, they become words, watch your words, they become acts, watch your acts, they become habits, watch your habits, they become character?” I’m sure you do. Your character is directly linked with your habits, meaning that good positive habits will result in a positive character. Take time to inculcate good habits in building your personal brand. And avoid habits that are ‘persona- destructive’. Don’t lie habitually, don’t be fake. Deliver on things you said you would. Avoid too much self promotion, and watch out for the little things that have the potential of negating your ‘persona’
10. What problems where you made to solve? Another major factor in self branding is determining the problems you where made to solve. God didn’t just throw you in here without a purpose. Find out what your purpose is and work with it to build your personal brand. Your personal brand is a mirror image of your purpose in life. It’s not possible to create a lasting self brand without first understanding your purpose. So, find out your purpose in life and engage it in building a solid personal brand for yourself.
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