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College Kids: Start Your Personal Brand this Summer

It was about this time last year when I pitched-in on a piece over at US News & World Report titlesd 5 Ways to Make a Jobless Summer More ProductiveThe piece discussed ways for college students to leverage their off-time to build a personal brand.

As a benefactor of building a personal brand I’ve had many advantages such as:  leverage in job interviews, media exposure and to some extent – even income.

Very few students figure this out ahead of time. To be honest, I did not start building my personal brand until after College and well into my first job. In fact, my first personal branding move was to join LinkedIn, that was in 2004.

Looking back, I regret that I did not start building my personal brand until after college. I started to build immediately after I graduated, using LinkedIn and eventually my blog to collect my thoughts and present my ideas in an organized and branded format.

But man, I wish I would have started just a few years earlier. If I had to do it over again here is what I would have done:

Made Better Use of My Downtime

In College you have a tremendous amount of downtime between classes. I used to kill this time working out, playing video games, or eating. I could have been spending it writing blog posts or promoting content via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

I know, I know, sounds like a lot of fun. But actually it is. When I write content regularly and promote it I get noticed. I get free stuff to local events, new business opportunities and in general, I meet new people and extend my network of influence.

In college, you already have access to a close knit group of people, imagine if you have most of them following you on Twitter or Facebook.

Imagine if you were driving them all back to a single blog or website. Imagine if you had the foresight in college to use these kinds of experiments to learn what works and doesn’t online.

I would have learned a skill that would have allowed me to control my online presence more easily. I would then leverage these skills to build my own freelance business or personal websites.

Or, if you like to write, maybe use this time to take more journalism courses and learn how to become a better writer.

Many of the worlds greatest brands were built in college dorms, why can’t your personal brand take a similar approach?

Developed a Stronger Social Media Following

I touched on this briefly, but in College you have access to so many people. You are constantly taking new classes, participating in new activities and attending events.

This form of offline networking can be used to build an online network by following up with people and asking them to join you on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or Facebook.

I met so many influential people in college and never even grabbed a business card. I kick myself every day.

Grab those cards, event flyers, whatever information there may be and follow up and build your social network out with like-minded people.

Chances are you will find a way to help each other post graduation.

Organized My Papers into a Book

If I had to do it all over again I would have tried to write a book in College. I would have gone about it a little different though. In college you are writing papers for classes all the time. Imagine having the foresight to see this, select classes that compliment each other and then write papers that fall under an overarching theme, eventually amassing hundreds of pages that could be folded into a book.

What would you have done differently in college to grow your personal brand?

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