Career Guide

Dear College Graduates: Creating a Personal Brand Starts Now

We can all empathize with the many different ways that COVID-19 has impacted our lives these last several months.

This is especially true for students around the country who were hit with a particularly hard curveball — the sudden end to the joys and celebrations from graduation and senior years. They were abruptly sent home, transitioned to all virtual classes, and not able to say goodbye to their friends.

It’s fair to say their futures may seem bleak for the thousands of new college graduates now faced with the daunting challenge of finding a job in their field when the unemployment rate sits at nearly 20 percent in some cities. Will they find internships? Will they move back in with their parents and work at a small local business until the job market opens back up? Will they continue with graduate studies? After dealing with such disappointment over the past few months, they’re now facing even more uncertainty (and debt) as the summer continues.

For most of these new graduates, they’ll need to find their place and purpose faster than previous classes had to. Many are just waiting to find out what their future holds. 

Making it through a global pandemic with the weight of their futures hanging in the balance, we know that these former students are strong, smart and ready to make an impact on the world. Despite having a choppy start to their next chapter, they shouldn’t retreat; instead, they must stay positive and active where they can. It’s an opportunity to help create their personal brand.

Here’s some advice for our newest changemakers:

Read until it hurts.

Yeah, I know that you just spent more than a decade reading. But give yourself a leg up: Soak up all the articles and books you can find that will make you a better student and a better global citizen. Take this opportunity to read more about important social issues about anti-racism or being a better ally to our LGBTQ community. Learning is a lifelong endeavor. It’s the only way to stay ahead of the pack and be one of the smartest and admired people in the room.

Collaborate with your friends (or family).

You’re stuck at home, so why not make something fun and inspirational that could gain traction online? Not only are you digitally savvy, but also many of you have multimedia skills. If your sibling has a piece of advice or info to share, or your parent has a cool job that you want to show behind the scenes, then interview them. Splice up the content for social media. Give readers or viewers something that they can learn from. Or, just utilize TikTok.

Document your thoughts.

You don’t have to be a great writer or videographer to document and package your thoughts. You have to be a great entertainer. That’s what gets people’s attention. There’s so much content in the world, but people are drawn to things that make them happy, or laugh, or something they can relate to, like a day in the life of this second-year medical student. It’s also a good way to share with the world who you are, and what you stand for.

Connect with people outside your circles.

One of the best parts of being on campus is meeting new people. If that is put on hold for the time being, then reach out to current students or alumni. They can help inform and inspire you about what’s ahead. Some colleges are making it easy to connect current students with alumni through their websites, like this one from South Dakota State University. See if you can schedule a Zoom call to talk about what campus is like, or what opportunities you might have to intern with them in the future.

At a time when student’s lives are in limbo, try encouraging them to stay on a path of positivity — to explore more, and use their voices. While their college journey awaits, empower and encourage them to step up for their own futures. Remember, adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.


Dawn Marinacci is the executive marketing director for Ologie, a branding and marketing agency based in Columbus, Ohio, that works with colleges and universities across the country.

Photo credit: simone hogan

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Dawn Marinacci

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