Building your personal brand takes time, thoughtful consideration, and plenty of trial and error, but it’s never too early to start exploring.
There are so many possibilities for your future—high school is all about discovering your interests and figuring out what comes next. If you’re struggling with where to start, these tips can help you get started on your personal brand journey.
Why is Building Your Personal Brand Important?
Telling the world who you are in a simple and straightforward way can be more complicated than you might think. However, developing a clear way to present what makes you unique is vital, whether you’re pursuing professional opportunities, applying to college, or simply meeting new people.
Conveying your talents and interests will take practice and exploration, so don’t be afraid to experiment with the methods and tools that work best for you.
Create a Strong Resume
Your resume is often the first thing that potential employers, internship supervisors, and even many colleges may see about you.
A strong resume should be a snapshot of your accomplishments and represent the best you have to offer. Make a good first impression by ensuring that your resume is easily readable, clear, and concise.
Your one-page resume should include your educational information, jobs and internships, awards and accolades, school clubs, organizations, or extracurricular activities, volunteering commitments, and college classes and college-prep programs if relevant. It should also include any special skills you may have, such as multimedia editing, proficiency in programs like Photoshop, or coding languages.
Many design websites such as Canva offer free templates so you can create a resume that best represents you.
Craft a Unique Elevator Pitch
An “elevator pitch” is a simple way to encapsulate who you are in the amount of time it would take to introduce yourself to someone in an elevator—about 30 seconds. Your pitch should offer the most essential information that a college admissions officer, teammate, or peer should know about you.
Consider factors like where you go to school, what you plan to study in college, and a potential post-high school goal. It can also be helpful to practice with friends, family, teachers, and mentors and invite feedback from them so you can continue to develop your ideas.
Build a Website or Portfolio
A website or portfolio are both great ways to provide a home for your work. Think of them as ways to expand the information in your resume. A website or portfolio is also a one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to learn more about you.
Include a simple homepage with easy navigation to pages like work samples, a copy of your resume, a section about you (this can be based on your elevator pitch!), and a link to your contact information or social media. If you write a blog, practice photography, play an instrument, or create YouTube videos, your website is an excellent place to host this content as well.
Once you set up your website, you should be able to easily update it whenever you want to make changes. Platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress all offer templates to help you get started.
Learn How to Use LinkedIn
Unlike most social media platforms, LinkedIn is designed specifically to connect people professionally. Many professional communities are surprisingly accessible and people are often only a few degrees of separation from one another.
If you’re joining LinkedIn for the first time, be selective about who you connect with. Try following these guidelines when deciding whether or not to connect with someone:
- Have we met in person? (i.e. at an event; through a mutual peer; at school, work, or an internship, etc.)
- Do we share an industry, interests, and/or several other connections?
- Is this even a real person? (Some of these bots are, in fact, surprisingly realistic.)
After you’ve gained a few connections, you can start engaging with them. For example, if someone makes a post announcing a promotion or a new job, comment with your congratulations. Not only is it a courteous thing to do, but with only a few sentences and a simple click, it will show your peers that you’re supportive of their success.
Even if you’re not looking for a job right now, the LinkedIn jobs section can provide you with a good idea of the kinds of careers available in whatever fields you might be interested in, as well as the typical skills needed.
Invest in Business Cards—and Hand Them Out!
Business cards aren’t only useful for working professionals; students can take advantage of this tool as well. Your business card is a way to help people remember who you are and gives them the opportunity to get in touch with you easily.
Your business card should include your name, contact information, and a catchy title, such as “future journalist.” It can also include an original tagline, like “byline coming to a paper near you.”
Moo.com is a resource for designing and printing your own business cards. If a physical card doesn’t fit your brand, consider stickers of a QR code that links to your website, or some other idea. The point is to make it quick and easy to stay connected with people you meet, so get creative!
Network with Others
Networking is necessary to build a robust community of support throughout your academic and professional career. (It’s also a great way to hand out those custom business cards!) Whether through school, work, or an extracurricular, find an organization, team, or club that feels welcoming, inclusive, and suits your interests.
You can also attend virtual events and make good use of the “live chat” feature. Introduce yourself, plug your social accounts, talk to other attendees, and ask questions to stay engaged in the discussion.
Once you’ve connected with new people, try to maintain that link. Keep an eye on what your connections are doing in their work and reach out (in a polite, non-invasive, and professional way) if you think you can be of assistance or are looking for advice. While it may not always work out, showing support still goes a long way.
Once you have built up your network, don’t be afraid to use it! A network is strongest when it’s full of people who are mutually supportive of one another, whether it’s meeting up for a coffee, a job recommendation, or a professional partnership. Ideally, everyone in your network should be someone who wants you to succeed and vice versa.