Personal Branding Tips – 8 Ways to Build Your Personal Brand as a College Student

1. Take Courses Unrelated to Your Major

Steve Jobs made Apple the premier desktop publishing platform because he took a course totally unrelated to technology: calligraphy. It was out of his area of expertise, yet it inspired him to popularize fonts and typography on personal computers.

Even if you’re obsessed with accounting, don’t limit your education one single area. College is about risk-taking and leaving your comfort zone.

Besides being well-rounded, the benefits are enormous. You will be able to talk comfortably and intelligently with people from all areas of expertise, which is extremely important in the world of business. Being able to understand where other people are coming from also increases your ability to connect with them and form meaningful relationships. A strong personal brand means little without strong relationships to back it up.

2. Don’t Join Clubs and Organizations. LEAD Them.

Student organizations, fraternities and sororities are opportunities to lead. Not only will you become known around campus, but you will learn firsthand what it takes to lead a team. If you were making hiring decisions, would you rather hire a club “President” or a club “member?” Leadership positions go a long way to build your brand.

You will also meet passionate people your age that share your interests. Certain clubs in particular, such as Toastmasters – which focuses on improving your public speaking skills in a supportive group environment – will help you hone some of the most vital skills needed to succeed in business and in life.

3. Be a Teaching Assistant For a Semester

It’s often easier than you might think to be a T.A., and professors are always happy for the help. Simply go up to your professor after class (in a subject that interests you) and ask if they’d be interested in having you as their T.A.

The position will improve highly transferable skills including organizational and interpersonal skills. You’ll also get to know professors on a more personal level, deepening your relationships and forming bonds that may last a lifetime.

4. Take Leadership Roles at Every Turn.

Take leadership roles whenever they appear. If you think you don’t have enough time for multiple leadership roles, prioritize and eliminate the positions that excite you the least.

The more leadership roles you take on, the easier leading becomes – and the more comfortable you’ll be taking on even better roles. You may want to start simple, such as tutoring your favorite subject. You could become a peer advisor and help organize events or aid in spearheading a fundraiser. You’ll meet new passionate people (the best kind of people to know!) and hone your leadership, interpersonal and organizational skills.

5. Do a co-op or shadow a prominent figure in your field.

You can’t get real-world experience through books. The most important lessons in life – and the ones we remember most – are lessons we learn from our own mistakes. You can’t the make mistakes that will shape a strong Brand You if you hide under textbooks.

That’s not to say that books aren’t valuable tools. However, you need to get yourself out there and trip up a few times. Everybody does, and everybody needs to. The more mistakes you make early on, the less you’ll make later. And as a student, you’re not expected to be perfect. Make sure you ask questions constantly and tap into the knowledge of those above you.

6. Rabidly approach everyday problems with an entrepreneurial mindset.

Constantly ask yourself how you can capitalize on everyday problems. Look around you and ask yourself: what annoys you? For example, college student Ricky Podsiadlo launched at a Syracuse University, where students often skip classes because it snows so hard. He looked at a problem – excessively cold weather – as an opportunity to offer a solution.

7. Work a part-time job.

There are often a variety of part-time jobs on campus, and it’s up to you to find them. A dining services position can strengthen a weak resume by showing that you’re hardworking, punctual and energetic. A Resident Advisor position demonstrates your interpersonal, time management and organizational skills. No matter what job you take, you will be meeting new people, learning new skills and learning how to manage your time more effectively.

8. Volunteer.

Contributing your time can pay dividends by strengthening your resume, adding to your network and learning about new opportunities. Maria Elena Duro is an excellent example of someone who used volunteering to strengthen her personal brand: “As the vice president of a business fraternity in college,” she said, “I booked speakers to speak to our fraternity for professional development. I asked each of them to write a letter for me about their experience working with me so that I could include that in my personal portfolio. Many of these speakers went on to become regional directors, chief operation officers, chief financial officers, company presidents and further that my portfolio has become quite valuable. Actively ‘buzz’ your brand! Doing that will develop credibility; credibility will lead to influence; and influence with lead to leadership.”

When it comes down to it, building your brand means getting out and doing things that build your skills or are aligned with your passions. What can you do today to start building Brand You?

For more tips about building your brand as a college student, check out our other post, 5 Things to do in College To Lay Your Brand’s Foundation.