Why Black Millennials Should Be Branding Themselves

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It was almost a year ago that I first heard the concept of branding myself. During my time down in Atlanta for RSA , it was then the lovely Elizabeth advised to me build my online presence. From there I shared Babycakes Briauna with her and what my overall goals were. I did not realise until that moment, my blog was part of my personal brand. Through it I was leaving a digital footprint that anyone could attach to me.

Fast forward to this year, where I’m taking Branding of Me, and my instructor Gary is telling us our personal branding online should replace our resume. In a world where jobs are becoming automated and your competition is the person 100,000 miles away and not 100 miles away, you need everything you can to make yourself stand out. If you’re a black person in America, you’re working against implicit bias, institutional racism, micro-aggressions, globalization, and cultural barriers. You want to do everything you possibly can to make sure you’re the person getting the company hires or the university extends an offer to.

Build Your Credibility

There’s thousands of people applying for jobs all with almost identical qualifications. This is where your branding becomes useful to you. If the content you’re sharing is related to that field, you’re setting yourself apart from the others. You’re showing that you’re applying for this job because you actually care about and not to be filler on your resume.

You never know, you might be a lucky individual of Black Twitter whose work goes viral. You’re potentially setting yourself to manage your voice and what you know.

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Control Your Image and Voice

It’s cliche but it’s true, you only get one first impression. Today’s first impressions does not always occur through interpersonal interactions. When someone searches your name, you don’t want them finding pictures of you at a frat party via your friend’s Facebook or tweets of you bashing your current employer. What you want to pop up is pictures of you in the mountains with your friends or your latest book recommendation.

The best thing to do is use a variety of social media platforms to build your online presence. I’m talking Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Medium, LinkedIn, Google + , and your own blog. This will ensure when someone types your name, they’re finding what you want them to see. This will give you an advantage. The more positive information they find, the better your first impression becomes.

Demystify Yourself

I know some of this sounds crazy to you, and it might even go against cultural practices. It was a steep learning curve for me. We as a collective keep things to ourselves. It comes from historical – often necessary- practices of ensuring security and providing unity. We don’t go out in the streets telling our business for the entire world to know. But sometimes you have to change the rules.

You can still build your brand and be your authentic self without sharing every dark secret you have. Branding yourself is about having control of who you want to be and giving you a leg up as you build your career. It gives you the opportunity to humanise yourself. The ugly reality is your name or hometown or major or skin tone could be impacting your ability to get hired or advance in your field, but you have to some power to change that.

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This ties back to controlling your image. The goal is to paint yourself as someone who belongs in the field you’re interested in. Take the tech industry, for example, there have been recent reports that the lack of diversity has to do with black and latinx applicants not fitting the culture. Until things change and our non-black peers also understand our struggles, we’ll have to put forth some additional labour.

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While a good chunk of this work needs to be done in house, if you’re someone who knows a specific company is it for you, show them you’re about their culture before you even have an interview. Try to convey that you are someone they can grab drinks with after a long day in the office or invite to a baseball game over the summer. You are no longer just a black face or name on  a piece of paper. You are now [insert name], the applicant with all the proper trimmings. It might be the difference between your resume being tossed out vs you scoring that coveted position.

Connections Can Connect You to a Career

Networking is essential to function in this workforce. For some fields, having an online presence is the same as having a business card. For me, I’ve connected with some insightful academics who have challenged me to be a better student and offered wonderful resources and advice.

It is no longer who you know or what you know; it’s what you know, who you know, and how you use the knowledge and connections to your advantage. Unfortunately for conventional job applicants, half of the jobs that exist aren’t posted online. Don’t you want to be one of the people who receives an email or in-house referral? Being engaged on Twitter or making comments LinkedIn can help you increase your tribe and use said connections to better your chances of landing a job or getting funds for your start-up.

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Be Twice As Good

I’m sure most have heard you have to be twice a good to get half as much. Well I say be smart about what you’re being twice as good at. Don’t acquire all of these skills and have a great personality and not show it off. You aren’t grinding to accumulate these skills just to have them go to waste in unemployment. Give future employers a taste of what you have to offer , so they’ll be coming back for more.

We all have the odds stacking against us and they are out of our control. Do something with the tools you have to steer your education and/or career in the direction you want to take it in.

Until Next Time,

Aitza B

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