“A LOT of times people tell me ‘I’m not successful enough for personal branding’ and students will say ‘I don’t have anything to talk about.’ I always tell them it starts in school and not after you graduate, which will be too late. The moment you send out your resumes, people will look up your profile, especially your Linkedin,” said Xavier Mah.
The public relations consultant and strategist who is the founder of Xavier Mah Consultancy, recently spoke to theSun on personal branding and its importance for students and graduates.
“It is crucial for graduates to understand personal branding digitally, because without this understanding, it is very difficult for them to get a desired career,” he said, explaining that graduates can often start with the basics of highlighting their engagement and contributions to the community, as well as things that can be documented such as case studies.
“If they don’t invest in personal branding, potential employers will not be able to gauge their suitability for a job.”
Pointing out that cover letters and resumes aren’t all employers look at when it comes to headhunting talent, Mah explained that students and graduates have to understand that Google is a powerful tool employed by him and other employers when it comes to job recruitment, as the search engine allows them to look up existing digital footprints of potential employees.
Mah is a coach, writer and speaker who actively undertakes speaking engagements at universities, corporations and government agencies. He also conducts personal branding training for students and entrepreneurs.
“It is important for graduates to understand the importance of personal branding digitally. Without having this understanding, it’s very difficult for them to get a desired career,” he explained.
In this era, where almost everyone has a “passive digital footprint” – a data trail unintentionally left online –personal branding begins whether someone realises it or not.
“I always have this problem with millennials, who claim that their social media is private and confidential, but how is it private and confidential?” Mah quipped.
“The moment your social media has followers, these are the people that will talk about you. For instance, do not share your anger and personal feelings on social media like saying you’re not happy with your organisation, keep it to yourself.”
“If you keep saying ‘This company is not good’, do you think future companies will look at your profile and think about engaging you? It’s not a good image,” Mah points out, highlighting the need for students and graduates aiming to have a successful professional life to have a clean online presence.
To craft a successful and desirable personal brand, Mah says candidates should possess the “5Cs” – character, communication, community, creativity and consistency.
“Without having a strong character, you’re just like anyone else. Of course everyone is different and special, but how will you bring out your best across Linkedin and social media? You need to build certain characteristics that your social media can portray,” he said.
“The way you communicate with an online and offline audience is important. It’s not just that you look good offline and not online. These involve conveying messages clearly and effectively. Without these, you’re just a normal communicator.”
Mah also expounded on the belief that students should forge good relationships with their professors, academic tutors and industry leaders, so that upon graduation, there is a group or network that is able to support them due to familiarity and the branding foundation that was already laid while studying.
In terms of creativity, Mah explained that it is rather simple: “Creativity is very important for a student or graduate, as it helps differentiate them from others. Creatives are often sought after by companies.”
“How many people are consistent in posting, say on Linkedin?” Mah says of those that are not active on social media. “They have to be persistent in posting and putting themselves out there. The message and your goal have to be clear.”
Stressing that it is not all about Linkedin and other forms of social media, Mah spoke about the importance of how a person is in the real world, which involves their behaviour and appearance that employers look at after the digital aspect.
“You need to look at how you speak. A lot of graduates when they speak, the tone and body language is extroverted and expressive. If you’re too expressive, people tend to look at you like you’re unable to control your emotions. How you speak and express your body language is very important,” he said.
“Another is how they act or behave. Let’s say they are given opportunities, how they react towards these responsibilities say a lot. Would they be afraid in taking more challenges and responsibilities? A lot often resign, especially younger graduates. The thing is how will you be given a bigger task to handle if you can’t handle something lesser,” Mah said.
In conclusion, Mah encouraged graduates to chase after experience over filling their bank accounts, as once again, the expression of wanting to learn gives a better impression on a potential jobseeker’s personal brand.
“If you start to look at the money, how would people be willing to give you the training for experience? If you prioritise money, people will not sacrifice their time to train you. When you have the experience, you can demand for money,” he said.
Product: Have a clear, clean
professional profile picture.
Features: Include a good copy or writing that highlights what you’ve done, can do and are looking to do.
Location: Add in your location, so that you can be engaged by those nearby or for those seeking talents residing in specific areas.
Accessibility: Display means of how to contact you.