In today’s job market, hundreds of candidates may be applying for every “one” interior design position opening. The competition is fierce, so how do you increase your chances of being the chosen “one”? Recent graduates are forced to compete for entry-level jobs against much more experienced, displaced designers. With a slowly but consistently improving economy, the job market will remain oversaturated for the next several years. How will you stack up to the competition? Start building that professional advantage today.
The Brand of You Is A Promise
Let’s start with your habits and professional behavior in the classroom. Do you show up on time? Do you show at all? Do you do what you say you will? Do you go the extra mile on a mandatory assignment, or that extra credit task?
Whether you realize it or not, The Brand of You is beginning to be shaped even before you set your foot into the “real world.” Teachers take notice of who you are. Classmates do too. Be sure to control that message and leave a positive impression. You never know when you’ll need a teacher’s recommendation, or a classmate’s help to advance in the professional world.
The Brand of You Makes You Different
No two people are the same. We are naturally different, and that’s good. Recognize your unique abilities, skills and interests before you graduate, so you have time to market The Brand of You to the professional world.
Identify a design area that you are truly passionate about, learn all there is to learn on the subject, lend a helping hand with event planning and committee work for a local non-profit, attend a conference or two, and meet some industry leaders. Then, tell the world.
Write about it for the school paper, blog about it and share your knowledge and experiences with the world. Soon, people will start connecting the dots between you, your efforts and the subject. Set yourself apart by identifying areas of focus and engaging with the community outside the classroom before graduation. The sooner you start, the greater the chance you will get noticed.
The Rule of Seven
There is an old marketing adage that says that a brand/business must be heard or seen by a prospective client seven times before he/she takes action (buys the product or services marketed). The same rule can and should be applied in marketing The Brand of You.
Meeting a potential employer, or a future client, once is certainly not enough. Plant the seed before you graduate, but know that it may take a long time for it to sprout. Following up and staying connected is hard work, and requires consistency (here is that word again).
No matter what tools you use to stay in front of your newly made connection (email, phone, social media, in-person), your message must be professional, timely and on point. Connect in a way that allows for conversation, personal story sharing, and emotional attachment. That’s how strong connections are built – it’s a long, two-way road.
Every Brand Needs A Network
Brands and businesses don’t just survive because they have a good product or service. The support of customers, colleagues, vendors and even the media impact the success of the day-to-day business and the reputation of the brand. How does that apply to you?
The Brand of You needs to include these three elements in order to be successful:
- A Quality Offering – strong skills, field experience, technical knowledge, etc.
- A Strong Network – connections to potential employers, project opportunities and resources
- A Support System – family, friends and professionals who you trust
Growing a strong network is a long process. Often it takes years, not months. There is no time like the present to start developing that network. In fact, starting to develop your network while you are still in school is the best thing you can do to prepare for graduation.
Students get caught up in their schoolwork too much to realize the pressing need to create and maintain their own brand. Whether you like it or not, you have been creating impressions on faculty, staff and guest speakers, so why not take more control of those impressions. No matter if it’s in a classroom, internship or summer job, The Brand of You makes you stand out from the crowd.
Aga Artka, Allied ASID, LEED AP, and Jenny Schrank, Allied ASID, work together to educate and motivate young design professionals to take charge of their lives and build careers of their dreams. They started a career building newsletter and are working on a career development publication, which is planned to be released in 2014.
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