Contributor: Francine Fabricant, MA, EdM.

In the first year, students start exploring student activities and clubs, weigh the benefits of one major over another, choose courses, and begin to consider summer jobs or internships. For many students, important choices take place long before career decisions are made. Nevertheless, these early experiences influence future choices and opportunities. Students brand themselves through the choices they make, even if they are not aware of their developing reputation.

What is a Personal Brand?

A personal brand is a message to others about the qualities and strengths you represent. It reflects your choices and your reputation. It summarizes why someone would turn to you for advice, support, insight, or expertise. But, for students, identifying critical assets that would make them valuable in the workplace can be especially challenging, since they often see their future as uncertain or undecided. Thinking about a personal brand is a valuable tool to help students consider the impact of their current choices on future opportunities.

In Creating Career Success (Fabricant, Miller, and Stark, 2014), we interviewed college students and graduates, to learn about their experiences and how they prepared for their careers. Many common themes appeared in all of our interviews. Successful graduates started their college experience thinking about their future, and the impact of their choices, even if they lacked certainty about their career decisions. They were proactive, engaging in a variety of experiences and making connections that were consistent with the interests, values, and the skills they were motivated to develop. We also found that these students were willing to explore and take risks, learn from their experiences, and apply that learning to their next steps.

Meet Cody: Building a Strong Personal Brand

Cody Grant was one of the recent graduates we interviewed and featured in our Career Profiles.* Like many students, Cody started college with general career interests and wasn’t sure what major to choose. He knew he wanted to work in business, but also valued flexibility, time to volunteer, and balance in his life. While he searched for answers, he chose courses, activities, and clubs that interested him.

Cody joined a business fraternity, served as a Resident Assistant and Teaching Assistant, and volunteered. His choices reflected his unique set of interests and the skills he wanted to improve, rather than a specific career path. He developed leadership, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, along with business knowledge, while he made valuable connections with fraternity brothers, alumni, professors, and internship supervisors. He built a reputation for being a hard-worker with business interests, motivated to learn, and helpful to others.

He ultimately settled on a major in accounting, learning from others that it met many of his personal goals. He first interned at Motorola in Supply Chain Finance and then was able to land an accounting internship at Ernst & Young, LLP, where he was hired to work full-time after graduation. He believes his summer internships helped him confirm his career choice, since he was able to experience a glimpse into the day-to-day life of an accountant.
With every step, Cody made observations, asked questions, and used these insights to inform his next set of decisions. As he identified each new skill or experience that seemed consistent with his goals, he took action.


*Cody Grant was interviewed for Creating Career Success (Fabricant, Miller, Stark, 2014), and he is profiled in the feature, Career Profile: Cody Grant, Accounting on p. 101.

With an extraordinary passion for helping people make their careers work for them, Francine Fabricant, MA, EdM helps people rethink their career opportunities and build careers that are personally meaningful and rewarding. She is a frequent speaker on career topics, addressing real-world concerns and offering practical ideas and solutions.

For over ten years, Francine has provided career counseling for individuals and developed and delivered career programs for community organizations and university settings. She is the lead author of Creating Career Success: A Flexible Plan for the World of Work (Fabricant, Miller and Stark, 2014), a fully comprehensive career book and program. Francine was inspired to write the book to share the same powerful concepts and tools she uses in her courses and programs, along with some of the most current insights about success, technology, and today’s world of work.

Francine currently serves as a lecturer at Hofstra University Continuing Education and has worked at Columbia University’s Center for Career Education and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Career Services. She is committed to helping those in transition, and has volunteered with such organizations as Women in Need, Dress for Success, and more. She received a BA cum laude from Barnard College, Columbia University as well as an MA in Organizational Psychology and EdM in Psychological Counseling, both from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), a Board Certified Coach (BCC), a Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC), and has the designation of Master Career Counselor (MCC) from the National Career Development Association (NCDA). She has been featured in Counseling Today and her community-based workshops have been profiled by The New York Times.

Are you interested in helping students create a strong personal brand? Read more in the followup article, “Help Students Discover Their Own Developing Brand.”