Why personal branding is important for every student—and how to build one

We’ve all heard the age-old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but within the competitive job market of the MarComms world, the smallest detail on how you package your application could make you stand apart from the rest. This is where personal branding comes into play.

The first question you should ask yourself when applying for jobs is: what’s my competitive advantage? You need to define what will set you apart. In the Brand Strategy class of the Master in Visual & Digital Media, we were asked 1) what our purpose is, 2) what our values are, and 3) what our character traits are. Thinking of ourselves as a brand, we build the foundation to our identities, resulting in unique personal branding.

Ask yourself: Have you ever worked overseas? Do you speak multiple languages? Did you work somewhere amazing? Think of yourself as a startup founder, and sell your idea in an elevator pitch. But in this case, you are the brand. Sometimes it’s also okay to name drop a company you worked for to catch their attention. This competitive advantage should be something interesting that will make your interviewer remember you. 

Ask yourself what, how, and why you are doing what you are doing. Simon Sinek developed The Golden Circle framework, explaining why leaders like Steve Jobs were able to build successful brands. Do this exercise and define key words for yourself. It will help you lay down the groundwork, and define your personal and professional goals. 

These may feel like big questions now, but it will guide you to build the elements of your personal branding. Building this will also help you prepare for those difficult questions during interviews.

Getting to the heart of personal branding

Got those questions down? Now it’s time to reflect on your personality. Are you someone with a dry sense of humor? Someone with a passion for sports? Show that on your application, website, and LinkedIn. You don’t always have to write everything clean cut and formal. Just one sentence can showcase your personality. This is your personal branding language, and it’s defined by your tone of voice and vocabulary. 

Don’t start searching through the thesaurus for big fancy words. In general, write how you would talk, but also know your audience. Be cheeky, funny, or sarcastic when you write a blog post, but tone that down when you’re writing a cover letter. Think of it like a DJ panel, you can push a personality trait up or down according to the medium you’re writing on. But most importantly, stay true to your personality. Don’t embellish and become something you’re not.

How it’s presented: standing out with visual identity

Once you’ve defined and answered those questions, now it’s time to look at your personal branding’s visual identity. This doesn’t mean you need to be a designer, but by adding these extra elements you’ll show that you’ve gone the extra mile. 

As HR flips through the piles of applications, a hint of color, a logo, or even a different font choice could be that refreshing change that makes them stop to read more. These make up the design elements of your personal branding. Tools like Canva are a good starting point if you don’t feel confident in design. Pick one design element and move forward with that.

Another thing you should consider is a takeaway—whether physical, digital, or verbal. Printing a business card shows that you are ready to network and confident in your brand. Having a clear USP makes you memorable in the interview. Posting cool content on Linkedin shows interest. Give them something to comment on—an icebreaker to start the conversation, for instance.

With your personal branding all set, it’s finally time to upload a Linkedin banner image. Start creating content that reflects you as a candidate. Clean up or organize your social media, define which to privatize and which to make public. Whether through blog posts or an Instagram photo, showcase your unique personal branding to the world—it might even boost your SEO in the meantime. A win-win situation. 

Consistency is key

Lastly, keeping your personal branding consistent throughout all your professional channels is the most important thing. Having the slightest difference between communications will make them question your personal branding. Don’t give them a chance to ask about that. Make yourself stand out. Have a clear message and goal in mind, just like brands do. And enter the creative job market with confidence. 


Born and raised in the fragrant harbor, Carmen Rodriguez Lo is a multicultural designer currently pursuing the Master in Visual & Digital Media at IE School of Human Sciences & Technology. With a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, she’s worked in the creative industry specializing in brand identity, creative storytelling, and visual communication. She loves a good tortilla de patata with some shumai on the side. Connect with her on LinkedIn.