Effective Branding and Networking

University and high school students are normally told that institutions are preparing them for the real world. Is it truly?

At times, several students pass their time in various level of institutions following or trying to achieve high grades and being involved in several extracurricular activities. Students feel overly confident if successful in university and focus on activities in their local area (university, high school).

However, one key area students fail to realize is that once they graduate, no matter how many experiences they have accumulated within an institution, this might not translate effectively once graduating. The key to success is to have an effective brand outside of university/high school as well.

Your Brand: what makes you unique? What do you like doing differently from anyone else? Are you willing to take the risks to share your passions with an external audience?

Effective branding outside of university entails being involved on LinkedIn (making posts weekly about key topics you find interesting or connecting with individuals of interest), and attending various networking sessions to expand one’s network outside of school.

LinkedIn has grown exponentially over the years and most people I have advised/spoken to received some form of a job lead through LinkedIn. It is important to leverage your experiences from university/high school and tailor it to an external audience on LinekdIn.

Topics include: a recent competition and the key skills you learned from the experience, a side business you are trying to learn, quotes you find important and many more. Your focus should be to build a small audience and build your writing/editing skills over the long run.

In relation to networking, students need to maintain continuous relationships with professionals met during networking sessions. Follow ups via LinkedIn (preferably) or email should be done on a monthly basis (more frequently, if there is a strong connection). Having an established connection with an individual can give you an advantage in applying for upcoming job postings, from their organization.

It is imperative to not discredit your capabilities. An individual does not need an executive role in an existing club on campus to be successful in the job search or entrepreneurial initiative. In fact, employers and start-up companies value students who can create their own initiatives and online footprint that is not defined by a single role or club. In turn, it is highly recommended in creating your own key interests which could include a blog, a group or topic you find a passion in, your own part-time business, etc.

Note, none of these initiatives need to be connected to the university in any way. However, keep in mind whatever you decide to follow, to effectively think of ways to share it with an external audience outside of your university. This is the best way to expand your network beyond your own school/university.

Overall, students cannot simply rely on grades and extracurricular activities as a metric of success in finding jobs externally. To add, the key to this topic really comes down to the advancement of social media. With LinkedIn becoming more prominent, students can create an effective brand beyond their studies and truly commit to something they might be passionate about. This passion can be shared to various external recruiters/companies, in turn increasing your brand’s awareness.

The question is, are you willing to be unique and take the risk of projecting your ideas publicly in order to find what you are truly passionate about?

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Writer: Syed Azam Afzal

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