Why is personal branding for high school students important?
How about some easier questions. Who are you? What are you known for? What do you have to offer?
These three questions may seem easier to answer than the first. Now, imagine you do not have the ability to answer them in a face-to-face environment. How do you get these answers out to the people that need to know them?
In reality, it is tough to accomplish this. It takes time and effort to be able to make your name recognizable, and to show people why you are the best person for a specific role.
A personal brand can do that and more.
If you’re having trouble understanding this, let’s think about it from a perspective that is easier to connect with.
On Instagram, the amount of followers you have typically correlates with how knowledgable or skilled you are in a specific industry. If you are a leader in your specialty, people trust your opinion and want to see the things you are doing. For example, LeBron James is arguably the best basketball player of not only this generation, but of all time. As a leader in this industry, he is able to surpass 49 million Instagram followers.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “I am not LeBron James. I am only in high school. Why should this matter to me?”
It matters because building an audience takes time and effort. However, the pay-off in the end is worth it.
The name Cole Anthony may not mean anything to you, but in the basketball world, it has become a well known name. Cole Anthony is one of the top high school basketball players in the United States. He has also amassed 433,000 Instagram followers. He is a larger celebrity than some NBA players. In fact, he is famous enough that kids only a few years younger than him ask for autographs.
As a high school student, this has to be a pretty surreal feeling. It may also seem like it is impossible. But why does it have to be?
Basketball may be Cole Anthony’s thing, but you too have a thing you are passionate about too. How can we take that thing and enhance it in a way that allows you to achieve celebrity status?
My Journey With Personal Branding
I never put a focus on building a brand. I didn’t think I was good enough at anything to have people look at me as a credible source in any field.
My social media feeds were filled with images that did more damage than anything. I put zero focus on putting anything credible online. I spent more time sharing memes and posting random thoughts than finding out what I can capitalize on.
Basically, my entire online presence looked like a typical teenagers.
When I began my education program, I learned how impactful party pictures and controversial tweets can have. It is easy for anyone to access this content. I thought it was harmless, but once I learned how it could affect my ability to get a teaching job, I started to purge.
Cleaning social media feeds takes a lot of time. You can shortcut it by deleting accounts, but that does not get rid of everything. Getting your followers back can be a hard task to complete too.
Since then, I never truly focused on building a personal brand. I never saw the benefit of it even though I ran a successful business program. However, once I began receiving offers to speak at conferences, my opinion changed. I realized people actually cared about what I had to say.
This blog was developed to help motivate my students, but building my personal brand goes hand-in-hand. I now have an outlet that allows me to share my thoughts and experiences. It can also answer the questions above. Now that I can show who I am, what I’m known for, and what I have to offer, opportunities start to show up.
This outlet does not have to be a blog. Social media platforms, podcasting, and a YouTube channel can all accomplish the same thing. It is all about what you are comfortable with and most motivated to focus on.
What Is Your Personal Brand?
As a high school student, everything you do online represents yourself and your personal brand. Think about it the way Jeff Bezos does. Your personal brand is what people say about your when you’re not in the room.
Lets say you are a strong academic student who can qualify for many University-level programs. Maybe in your high school you are one of few who can say this. What if you extend that through your entire town/city? Province/state? Country? As you can see, you become a lot less unique. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of students in the same position as you. How do you differentiate yourself from the others?
Additionally, the reputation you currently have affects your personal brand. The way you carry yourself in the classroom, at an event, and in public can change your reputation to others. This can have a pretty major impact when it comes to different opportunities you may seek out, such as applying for jobs or colleges. The things people say about you when you’re not around will funnel to the people who decide whether or not they hire or accept you.
If someone were to Google search your name, what would you like them to see? Alternatively, what would you like them to never be able to see?
You have complete control over all of this. It is up to you to start beefing up those search results, and high school is a great time to do just that.
How Do High School Students Identify Their Personal Brand?
What are you passionate about? Can you name your greatest attributes? What do you know more about than the people around you? What makes you different?
These may seem like simple questions, but answering them effectively can have a major impact on building your personal brand.
Next, identify how you can back up the things you list. Do you think you’re good at basketball? Prove it by posting images and videos. That is exactly what Cole Anthony did in high school, and we have already seen where that got him. Do you think you are a good baker or cook? Prove it by publishing your recipes on a blog or YouTube video. That is exactly what Amy-Beth Ellice has been doing since she was a teenager. You get the picture.
When I ask these questions to my students, I encourage them to write down without thought. Typically, the first things that come to mind are the things you should focus on. If that thing is not an answer, then why would it be in the forefront of your mind? I encourage you not to think too in depth on this.
How Do High School Students Start Developing a Personal Brand?
Personal branding for high school students will have its challenges. However, starting on it early will help you build it to new heights!
The best two starting points to build a personal brand are:
- Wipe your social media platforms. This does not mean delete everything. However, anything involving drugs, alcohol, or anything that would develop a negative opinion in someones mind should be taken down. You want your online presence to reflect your brand. These types of images don’t do that.
- Optimize your LinkedIn profile. I get all of my students to create a LinkedIn profile in Grade 11. Although they may not have much use to them now, LinkedIn profiles can be incredibly helpful in the future. Additionally, when someone Google searches you, LinkedIn will be one of the top results. This is a surefire way for you to not only showcase your skills and experiences, but it allows you to leverage your personal brand on another social media platform. Make sure to remember to include a professional headshot as well. Partnering with a photography class can make this process a lot easier.
Once these have been accomplished, you now have an ability to start showcasing your personal brand.
How Do High School Students Start Creating Content Around Their Personal Brand?
There are many mediums for content sharing when developing personal branding for high school students. Many of these will be familiar to students already, but can be leveraged in different ways.
- Instagram feeds can be used to showcase images and videos that tie into a students personal brand. I have seen plenty of students with a passion for photography or videography grow a following on this platform.
- Twitter or Facebook can be used to share thoughts and ideas around a specific interest area. Additionally, these platforms are great for connecting with other industry leaders, and engaging in meaningful discussions. If a student puts a lot of focus and effort on these platforms, they can grow a big following.
- Blogging or podcasting can be used as platforms to share thoughts and ideas as well. Depending on the topic a student wants to focus on, each of these options have a great following and opportunities for growth (look at these statistics for podcasting). Even if they never receive a reader or listener, having published content gives the student immediate credibility in the eyes of potential employers.
- Outgoing students can share their passions on YouTube through tutorials or reviews. Using this platform can also beef up your video editing skills, which can take you in an entirely different career path.
- Students can build a website to showcase their personal brand. They can include items such as their resume, blog, about me, certifications, and a contact page. This page can be sent to people who can open up opportunities for them.
The one personal branding concept high school students should keep in mind is regardless of which platform(s) they choose, how they conduct themselves will be very important. If comedic videos are your thing, that is fine. However, the reputation they build around their comedy will carry with them.
You should also keep the brand they are building consistent across all platforms. Building a strong and consistent relationship across all social media platforms will help drive that positive image to everyone they connect with. Focus on the one or two that benefit your brand, but share content across every platform you have already built a following on.
Think about it like you are preparing for a job interview, but showing everything they have in advance to meeting the potential employer. Candidates do not want employers to have a negative image of them before they get to meet face-to-face. It is almost a guarantee they will get Google searched, so we want to leverage that to their advantage.
What Do High School Students Have To Do To Grow Their Personal Brand?
Starting to focus on personal branding will be the easiest step for high school students. However, trying to grow it will be challenging. In order to facilitate growth, there are a few things students should focus on:
- Be consistent. Being as active as possible will facilitate growth. If you are looking to create written, auditory, or visual content, you should try to do this on a consistent schedule. Creating one blog post/podcast/YouTube video every month will not develop as much of a following as weekly posts would. Students have a wealth of knowledge on their passion. I encourage you to share that as consistently as you can.
- Network. One thing that can discourage high school students from attempting personal branding around a passion is competition. Most industries already have people who have developed a large following around the same passion. However, students need to realize that those people were at the same point as them at one time, and worked their way to their current position. Industry leaders know the struggle to build a brand, and many are willing to help newcomers. Networking with others in your industry can give you advice, motivation, and potentially someone who can share your content to their audience. This can help streamline your own growth!
- Accept feedback. Growing your brand will be challenging, but developing stronger content will help build an audience. Asking for and accepting feedback from your current audience will help you in the future.
- Stay positive. Keep in mind that everything you post will be viewable by everyone, including people who can offer you jobs or income-earning opportunities. Keeping a consistent and positive image across all platforms will help build that positive reputation in the minds of your audience.
- Take advantage of opportunities. If your passion is something you want to try to monetize in the future, find opportunities within it. Engage in Twitter chats. participate in Facebook groups. Volunteer at events around your passions. The more you get your name and face out there, the more recognizable you will become.
Developing personal branding as a high school student will be challenging task. However, the opportunities that can come from it will far outweigh the work you put in.
By following the above steps, there are a number of advantages you will now hold over others in a similar standing to you:
- You will become credible in your passion area, which in turn will make you a more credible applicant for job and career opportunities.
- Speaking engagements, consulting roles, and career options you’ve never dreamed of may materialize. If you are looked at as a credible source in your passion area, people will seek you out and want to hear what you have to say.
- You will differentiate yourself from the competition. When applying for a job, showcasing your platform with a follower base will put you in a higher bracket than others.
Personal branding is something I spend a lot of time on with my students, and many have seen the benefits from it. As an example, one former student has turned his passion of social media marketing into a podcast!
Additionally, developing a strong personal brand can allow you to sell products, services, or courses around that. An example of that is Scott Ramos, who created a pin based on his personal brand’s logo that sells out almost instantaneously.
Thank you for supporting me in my quest to grow my personal brand. I hope you (and your students) can do the same!