Importance of personal branding as a young adult

A man pointing at himself with tabs showing his skills.
Photo: Orchid Chakma

We live in an age where marketing ourselves has become a necessity. From academics and job interviews to building a portfolio, or even creating an online presence, curating a brand around our skills and abilities is essential for standing out from the crowd.

There's a reason why people like the Kardashians, Elon Musk, Beyonce, and Oprah Winfrey are such easily recognisable household names today. They have successfully built a personal brand that resonates with people and compels them to buy anything they endorse.

While having a unique personal brand and monetising our skills might sound like something only politicians and celebrities need to do, what many people don't realise is that it's a necessary step for everyone trying to make it in today's contemporary work culture.

With the rise of social media platforms and various personalities building an audience through them, personal branding is no longer about conforming to a general audience. It is about claiming ownership of our individual personal identities on digitised public platforms. Social media influencers like Addison Rae and Bella Poarch, who have successfully transitioned into the more traditional music and movie industries due to their social media following, act as good examples of successful personal branding.

Shehrin Tabassum Odri, who is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Marketing from the University of Ulster shares, "When I first started job-hunting, I would often downplay my abilities at job interviews for fear of being asked to act on everything I mentioned later on. As a result, I would see people less qualified than me getting hired because they were more confident in themselves and knew how to successfully market themselves in interviews. So, I learnt to adapt. As I started being more self-confident and putting myself forward in my academic and work life, I began seeing the results. My hard work and dedication to crafting my personal brand paid off as I made a lasting impression and landed a job, and also got complimented by my teachers in class."

Maysha Chowdhury, a body-positive fashion model and influencer adds, "In the beginning, I started posting body-positive content to show people that you don't need to have a certain body type to be confident or pretty."

"As I continued following the latest fashion trends and themes, my message resonated with the people as brands started reaching out to me for collaborations and photoshoots," she continues. "Being confident in myself, aware of my personal brand, and just being authentic helped me connect with people and start my career as a model."

Some may hold the belief that personal branding is important primarily for influencers or social media personalities. However, that is not the case, as its importance is prevalent in a wide range of professions.

 When I started my career as a freelance writer in 2016, I realised early on that in order to be taken seriously as a writer and make my name known in literary spaces, I had to be my own best promoter. Simply creating an online portfolio and publishing frequently wasn't enough. Only when I was able to accept my self-worth as a writer and advocate for my skills was I able to establish myself as a journalist. But it definitely wasn't an easy process.

It is often easier said than done to tell someone who is introverted or has social anxiety to be vocal about their abilities. In Bangladeshi households, being proud of our accomplishments is often seen as boasting. Girls especially are taught to keep our eyes down and voices low. So, it is no wonder why most of us grew up being self-conscious and having low self-esteem.

There have been countless moments at interviews, both academic and professional ones, where I got tongue-tied when the interviewer asked me to say something about myself. The fear of being judged as over-confident or narcissistic crept in. Thus, I would downplay my abilities and experiences, giving them a SparkNotes version of my personal skills.

Many will tell you that a good CV is the most important thing a fresh graduate can have to vouch for their skills, which is only partly true. Anyone can make a fancy CV with a list of events they participated in to make themselves appear more outgoing. However, it is how you utilise the skills you gained from your previous experiences and how confidently you can market yourself that sets you apart from the other candidates.

Personal branding isn't simply about being loud and proud of your abilities. It is about truly knowing yourself and knowing how to market your skillset effectively.