Six months before I was going to graduate from UCF, I had no idea how I was going to secure a job. My portfolio was very small, I had done some freelance work and my biggest project consisted of a website I designed at an internship I had. I realized that before I started applying for jobs, I needed to come up with a gameplan on how I could sell myself to potential employers. I needed to develop a personal brand.
Having a personal brand will help in areas like getting a job, networking, and running a successful freelance business. The majority of things that I did are geared more towards designers/developers, but the concepts (for the most part) remain the same. So I’ve decided to split this article into two parts, the first being themed around my experience branding myself as a designer, and the second themed around how you can apply the same principles to any profession.
Figuring out your goals is a good place to start.
I was absolutely clueless. I had no direction. Finally I thought to myself, “Figuring out your goals is a good place to start.” I knew my primary goal was to secure a solid job after graduation. My secondary goal was to help grow my freelance business a little bit as I would probably need to depend on that if I couldn’t find a job.
When I started figuring out what were things I would use to secure myself a job, I found I was going to need three things:
- A portfolio website
- A resume that stood out
- Marketing materials (business cards, etc.)
I started researching branding a lot, as it was an area of design I hadn’t really ventured into yet. That’s when I came across graphic designer Jacob Cass and his blog Just Creative Design (now Just Creative). He is an excellent designer, and one of the best (if not the best) logo designers I’ve ever come across. After reading his blog, I was determined I needed to create a logo to represent myself.
After a week’s worth of sketching and messing with Adobe Illustrator without coming up with anything worthwhile, I was getting ready to give up. The next thing that happened changed my personal branding forever. I accidentally turned the letter “C” on it’s side. Something clicked, and the ideas started flowing. After a few more hours messing around, I came up with my personal logo. I’m super proud of it, and heck, it even won a Logo of the Day award!
After that, I was able to develop my portfolio site, a nicely designed resume (no Microsoft Word here), and a business card that just had my logo, name, and contact info on it. I finally felt like I had a solid tool to help me get the job I wanted (needed).
Having these things is nice, but it is certainly not the core of my personal brand. It’s taking it to the next level that really puts it motion, it’s living your brand that will set you apart. I noticed over time, my emails developed a tone and I incorporated that into my brand as well, always signing off with “Best Regards”. When I went to interviews, you better damn well believe that I wore a red tie, just like I do in my logo.
I am constantly updating and perfecting the Chris Morata brand. I attended the Front-End Design Conference in July of 2010 and heard Lea Alcantara speak about the Art of Self-Branding and got some great insight into how I could further develop it. When you have some time, I’d suggest giving her article(s) a once over including this one, as she has a lot to offer.
In a nutshell, I ended up applying for a lot of jobs. A lot. After a few interviews, I ended up accepting a job as an Associate Web Designer for Magnetic (now Bridgeline Digital – Tampa) and was able to start 2 weeks after graduation. I consider myself very lucky, but I can’t say that I would’ve had the same outcome if I didn’t put so much effort into building my personal brand.
Part two of this article has even more tips on how you can better market yourself, even if you’re not a designer! Be sure to check it out.
I want to hear what you have to say! Do you have any personal branding strategies that work well for you?