Developing your personal brand as a millennial

Jaime Bochantin teachingBy: Jaime Bochantin
(Originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal)

While navigating the murky waters of career development, being able to express one’s personal brand is important.

Millennial job seekers need to ask themselves, “What sets me apart?” This differentiation piece is vital. Thinking that you’re too early in your career to have a personal brand is a mistake.

In fact, most millennials are already marketing themselves, whether they know it or not. Here’s how:

  • Millennials are hyper-connected with media. They go online more than any other generation.
  • Millennials are equipped with a bottomless pit of marketing tools.
  • Millennials are the masters of social media, which means they understand that marketing exists through other people. What’s more, millennials can position themselves in their company as the go-to-person for all technology needs, making them an invaluable asset to their work group.

You might be thinking that if millennials are already so effective at marketing themselves, then why is this article important to continue reading? Here is your answer: A recent survey done by Beyond.com has shown that unfortunately, millennials still have a not-so-great perception among many non-millennial HR professionals and hiring managers.

This can make it difficult to get hired or promoted. The biggest gap is with regard to the loyalty factor. Only 1 percent of hiring managers thought millennials were loyal to their employer, while 85 percent of millennials believed they are loyal. Older generations, like baby boomers, think in terms of years or decades of devotion to an employer.

Millennials have a shorter time span, like today or next week. Ambitious and eager to move up (like any generation), they are not afraid of being labeled “job-hoppers.” Millennials think of their career as something more personal and proactive.

This is becoming evident in the workforce as we experience a “millennial takeover.” Fact: 10,000 baby boomers retire each day. Millennials will be almost half of the workforce by 2020. What’s more, the millennial generation is the most educated and most ethnically diverse of all the generations. They often delay marriage for a career. Half of millennials surveyed would rather have no job than a job they hate, and one-third prefer recognition over pay.

However, to really succeed, millennials will need to transform their image. People born between 1982 and 2000 make up 25 percent of the U.S. population and represent the most plugged-in generation. Sharing your personal brand today is easier than ever through social media and other digital technology, but you have to know what, when, and how much to share. Here are some tips:

  • Put out content that benefits people. Push content from blog posts, videos, infographics and feature pieces. Whatever it is should be highly beneficial to your audience and offer insights that will benefit them. Don’t know where to start? Look at what others are writing about within your industry and see what types of content performs well. A great way to do that is by using free tools like BuzzSumo.
  • Capitalize on your personal connections. When building your personal brand, your strongest asset is the network of people you already have. Reach out to those who support you (friends, family, older mentors, college roommates, previous employers, etc.) and tell them about what you’re doing. Ask for their advice, learn about their experiences and see how you can apply their successes to your own business model. Not only have you now gathered valuable insights, but you’ve spread the word about your business as well.
  • Be visible. The small things are just as important – add your information to your email footer, hyperlink your website in the content you write and create social media accounts if you think it will be beneficial. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to appear narcissistic – your brand, your dream and your success are on the line here. Also, be sure to continuously update every site to ensure your online content is consistent. If you choose to include a photo of yourself on these sites, ensure that the photo is a head shot and that any visible clothing looks like interview attire. To present a consistent image, use the same photo in all of your online profiles, including your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. You may also consider using the same username or handle to remain consistent. Lastly, activate your presence across as many social media platforms as possible. Start with the Big 5: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
  • Be valuable. You will not be competitive if your content does not persuade the audience that you have something to offer. Ask yourself, "What can I provide my audience with that they cannot get elsewhere?"
  • Perfect your off-line brand. Work on your “elevator pitch.” This is your commercial – about you and the company that you work for. Generally, 30 to 45 seconds long, hence the name elevator speech (about how long it would take to ride an elevator down from the 20th floor). Be sure to include: who you are with, what your role is, how you and/or the firm are different from other providers.
  • Personal branding is a dynamic process. You cannot determine your brand once and expect it to be relevant long-term. You need to evaluate your effectiveness, monitor what others are saying and above all manage your platforms (social media, personal interactions, etc.) to ensure you are controlling your reputation in the marketplace and not the other way around.

Dr. Jaime Bochantin is an assistant professor of communication and organizational science at UNC Charlotte and offers programs through UNC Charlotte Executive Education. 

The Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte is the academic partner of #NextGenCLT. The Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research business school. Find out more at belkcollege.uncc.edu.

Date Published: 
Monday, March 6, 2017