Junior Jake Tenenbaum, a business administration major, applied for 37 internships this year. Next fall, he will use his self-branding skills that landed him the job to market his employer.
Tenenbaum met Steve Gonick, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of The Adirondack Small Cap Fund, at a networking event in Albany, N.Y., and was offered the internship when Gonick added him on LinkedIn and viewed his professional profile. By posting the projects he has done, as well as his work experience, Tenenbaum shows employers he is both professional and fun.
“My personal brand — I may never have put words to it, but I know who I am,” he said. “I know I’m very professional and very conservative in voice and articulation, yet I still have fun with it.”
In today’s job and internship market, students like Tenenbaum are increasingly developing online profiles, websites and portfolios to create a personal brand and market their professional strengths and desires to future employers. Though self-marketing can help a student land a job, it may also lead employers to information better kept private.
Blue Fountain Media, a website design and web marketing company based in New York City, does pro bono research on online image management for students and young professionals. Jon Gelberg, chief content officer, said students should not try to market themselves in a way that changes who they are. He said being truthful with future employers will help students find the right career fit.
“You don’t want to go into a job being somewhere you don’t want to be,” he said. “Present yourself honestly and express your interest, and you’re much more likely to end up somewhere where you’ll be happy with the job.”
Gonick said his company wants to develop its online presence using new media platforms. He said he was impressed by the way Tenenbaum branded himself.
“Within LinkedIn he was able to really translate what is special about himself in a way I don’t see many business people do,” Gonick said. “He is the type of kid that could actually take that and be a consultant for this kind of thing.”
Tricia Ryan, principal and director of The Marketing Chefs, an internet marketing company that helps businesses and individuals create brands for themselves, said creating an online presence has become so important that GoDaddy has a program for people to buy domain names as baby shower gifts.
“You have to communicate your personality, what you stand for, the benefits you offer future employers and how you fill a need an employer may have,” she said.
John Bradac, director of career services, said the difference between having a typical résumé or cover letter and having a personal brand is that a résumé and cover letter simply express interest in a position while a personal brand tells employers what the student is passionate about and committed to.
Gabriella Napoli, a sophomore theatre arts management major, said she wants to be seen as a professional even though she is still an undergraduate student. She said she has developed an ePortfolio and a LinkedIn profile but is unsure what exact brand message she wants to use to identify herself.
“I’m trying to create this image of myself for someone who has never met me before so I do think of myself as a brand,” she said. “But I guess I’m a work in progress.”
Senior Heather Mueller, a communications management and design major, said she created a brand with LinkedIn, Twitter and BrandYourself.com, an online resource for people to monitor the online content associated with their name.
Mueller said she wants to be seen as a professional but also as an activist with progressive values. She said she includes her activist work on campus and projects in her profiles.
“I touch on the parts of my college life that most represent what I’m trying to communicate,” she said.
Mueller said she links her Twitter account to her LinkedIn profile to impress employers.
“If I’m working at a place already I’ll say ‘having a great time at March of Dimes doing this, this and this’ trying to show that I’m active and dedicated,” she said.
While having an online presence can help students promote themselves to future employers, Ryan said, it can also harm the student’s reputation. She said students should Google themselves to make sure they are portrayed in a positive light.
In a survey commissioned by Microsoft, researchers found 70 percent of recruiters and hiring managers in the United States have rejected an applicant based on information they found online.
In February, Richard Doherty, a Massachusetts fire-fighter, was fired from his job for allegedly criticizing town officials and writing a homosexual slur on a Facebook post. Unemployment because of Facebook has become such an issue, there is a Facebook group for people to share stories about being fired because they posted pictures or statuses their companies found inappropriate.
Gelberg said students should monitor their personal brands and limit information they post. He said maintaining a true and likeable image is key.
“People have strong political, social or religious views and not everyone is going to share those online,” he said. “It’s important to not turn people off.”
David Allen, a sophomore television-radio and video production double major, created an ePortfolio and said it has helped him share the videos and other websites he has made. He said he keeps his online presence professional.
“When I do a Google search and type in ‘David Allen Ithaca College,’ [the ePortfolio] is the first thing that comes out despite other social media outlets I use,” he said. “I’m hesitant to put too much personal information on it.”