Professional development series: Building your personal brand from the ground up

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, November 1st, 2017 at 5:51 PM

Two weeks ago and 20,000 feet above the clouds, I was sitting in a blue, plush seat riding coach on a connecting flight between Chicago and Detroit. This flight was heading back from a professional development conference in Chicago, from Oct. 19-22, where I got to experience several days full of information that frankly isn’t out there in the open where it ought to be. 

This information concerns something that many seem to fear in today’s college world, and that is: how do I get a job, or better yet a career, after I graduate? 

From day one, the first thing we learned was that no matter what major you are, you are now in the world of sales, and the product you are selling is you. There are millions of other bright-eyed graduates heading out into the job market just like you, so what sets you apart?

Building up a personal brand is extremely important, but maintaining quality assurance is another. You’re always under the microscope in the business world, so be prepared to always be talking to a potential hiring manager, even in the elevator heading to the interview or out on the street.

The first step to this is to purge your social media of anything that may paint you in a poor light, because in today’s climate this is one of the first places talent recruiters will look. Have you ever Googled yourself and looked at what comes up, because be assured that the same thing you see is what they’ll see.

If you go to the interview calm, collected and professional, but on Facebook you use foul language and post solely about drinking, this could be the difference between a job and a “we’ll have someone call you if we need you to come back in.” 

Beware though, as online presence is only the first look, so even if your online trail is pretty clean, you need to be able to uphold these same standards in person. Be prepared to dress your best for the interview, keep good hygiene, and know the interviewer ahead of time.

By researching the interviewer and the company, you will be light years ahead of the competition, so when they ask if you have questions, be prepared with some of your own. This kind of proactive preparation will show real interest in the company and what you can do for them, which is exactly what the employer is looking for.

Last but not least, be prepared with business cards and follow-up thank you cards. The majority of hiring staff are from the baby boomer generation and often times physical items will make a nice mark and will be something to add to their files about you. 

By the end of the interview, you want them to remember two things: your name and where their calendar is so they can set-up your follow-up interview.

Stay tuned for next week’s iteration of “The Professional Development Series” where I will talk about improving your LinkedIn to make it tell your professional story in the best way possible.

Roman Sabella can be reached at This is the first in a series on professional development. 

Tags: voices

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