Personal Branding for International Students

If you know anything about Devant and our career development programs, you are aware of our PLAN, PREPARATION, ACTION process. We continue to emphasize the plan stage, which includes conducting industry and employment research, today we look to the preparation stage. 

The preparation stage is all about getting ready to put your best foot forward in front of potential employers, recruiters and peers. In a recent conversation with Syeda Kahbir, HR practitioner and former international student, said, “I post a new role late in the evening and overnight I receive over 200 applications”.  With stories like this, it’s hard to deny the competition you will likely face in the job search process. This begs the question – how do I make my application stand out? The answer might be a well thought out personal brand.

Recruiters and employers are looking beyond just a strong cover letter and resume package. They want more than your educational background and work experiences. You’ll have to showcase your soft skills, understand an organization’s culture fit, and be able to communicate your unique story. Building a personal brand can help you do just this. 

In this article, you will get a full understanding of what personal branding is, why it’s important, its some do’s and don’ts. Stick around the end of the article for a personal branding checklist to help you get started.

What is personal branding?

To start, let’s define what personal branding is, especially as it relates to the job search process. A personal brand wraps up your skills, accomplishments and unique story into a package for employers and recruiters, that is both easy to understand and remember. When most of your competition has similar qualifications as you, your personal brand can help you stand out. It aims to communicate your values, goals and the solution you can be for an organization. 

A successful personal brand starts with self-reflection and requires a deliberate strategy to really make an impact on potential employers and recruiters. By this point (if you’ve completed the PLAN stage) you have done industry and employer research. In addition, you’ve also crafted long and short-term career goals for yourself. These exercises will inform how you develop your personal brand. 

I would also recommend that you do some research on what other individuals in your industry are doing with their brand. Take a look at their voice, tone, content and design elements. You are not trying to copy others but rather to find inspiration in how others have communicated their personal positioning/brand.

Why is it important?

From the definition outlined earlier, you may be thinking this is a big undertaking that requires planning and continued maintenance. You’d be right. So why does it matter if you have a successful personal brand? 

For this answer, I reached out to valued members of the Devant community. You may have met them at one of our online workshops or networking events. I asked them the question: why is buildings a solid personal brand important (especially for international students)? Here’s what the experts had to say. 

Personal Branding is a way to share your uniqueness with potential employers and to the world. These days when the job market is extremely competitive. It’s so easy to get lost among the piles of resumes and job applications. However, a candidate with strong personal branding will always have an advantage. Think about the impact good branding has on a product or service you purchase. The same principle can be applied to your brand.

There are many ways to create a great personal brand. One example of a successful personal brand is, Oprah Winfrey. We know exactly what her values and goals are. We see what makes her unique and how hard she has worked over the years to reach that level. Ask yourself: What is our passion? What makes us unique? What are our strengths?

Syeda Kabir – HR Professional | Former International Student

Just as it is important for international students to ensure they have a Canadianized resume, in order to compete with local talent, it’s also important for international students to focus on their personal brand.  Just like organizations build their brands, so should individuals. It’s all part of building a positive, memorable, and credible impression with others.

You want your personal brand to stand out for the right reasons!  Are you demonstrating a positive, professional impression? Consider not only the documents and/links you’re sharing with potential employers but also your digital presence.

Lynda Jackson – Senior Human Resources Leader | Employment Advisor | Career Coach 

What should you include in your personal brand?

Next, let’s break down the components that are involved in building a compelling personal brand.

  • Your brand statement is where it all begins. Developing your brand statement will help to inform all the other areas of your brand including your voice, social presence and your networking strategy. Your brand statement (or two) will summarize who you are and what you can offer to others. What value or solution do you bring to an organization or an individual? This is also a great start to think about your elevator pitch.
  • Your online presence is what shows up when you Google your name. This can include your personal website, social media profiles or passion projects(volunteer achievements, start-up involvement). Curating your online presence is important in your job search as more and more organizations place emphasis on culture fit and social impact as part of the application process. It’s a great way to showcase your interests, projects and achievements outside the traditional resume and cover letter package. Finally, an active online presence is a great way to attract employees and recruiters to you as well as network with other professionals in your industry.

What should you avoid in our personal brand?

  • Neglecting your brand Your personal brand is a living thing. It requires maintenance the same way a resume requires regular updates. That said, allocate some time in your schedule to continually evaluate the success of your personal brand. Alternatively, if your brand is stale, hasn’t been updated, or if you don’t continue to nurture your networking relationships, it can fall flat.
  • Inconsistency – Look for inconsistencies across your brand and when you compare your brand and your real-life persona. For the best impact, it’s important that your story comes across in all your interactions. Although different interactions require different behaviours, a consistent voice, tone and design can help you be more readily remembered. From the perspective of a recruiter, who’s likely looking and hundred of applications every day, a consistent personal brand across your application package can make a big impact.
  • Lack of focus – Your brand should always be truthful to your core values and career goals. That said, you don’t need to include everything about yourself in your brand. Similar to how will present a targeting cover letter and resume to a potential employer, that includes the most important information, your brand should reflect only relevant skills, experiences and values. Always keep your career goals in mind to measure your content against. 

On a final note, remember to get feedback from others about your personal brand drafts. It is vital to understand if others are receiving your brand the way you intended it to come across. Keep revising as you learn more about your own values, career goals and employability skills.

Now that you know exactly what makes a great personal brand, here’s access to a checklist that will guide you to start building your (best) personal brand now. Alternatively, you can also schedule time with our career coach, if you’d like to work through the worksheet (+more).

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If you’d like to ask a question about something you’ve read here, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Director, Operations & Client Experience, Sejal Ahir at sejal.ahir@devant.ca or by phone at 1 (647) 781-2945.