How Are You Branding Yourself?

As a young designer it's incredibly important to begin to establish some sort of identity.  Why? Because when going after internships and entry-level jobs this identity is what will set you apart from the competition.  When I was in college I remember at the end of a project during pin-ups I could always tell which project belonged to whom without even looking at the name.  This is because as you go through school and various design studios you begin to develop your own style and your own point-of-view and you get to know that of your peers as well.  Now the question is how do you effectively display this point-of-view that you've developed in school to potential employers?  The answer is through branding!  The AMA - American Marketing Association - defines a brand as "a name, term, symbol, design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller and differentiate them from other sellers."  When you're looking for work you are essentially trying to sell yourself and your services to a potential employer so it is important that when marketing yourself you make certain that everything you put out there is engaging, clear, cohesive, and is showcasing your uniqueness and your talent!

Let's break it down to the six pieces of marketing collateral that you'll need while on the hunt for internships and entry-level jobs and how you can use these tools to begin to develop your brand:

1. Cover Letter - The cover letter and resume should work hand-in-hand.  I know a lot of people who use a standard blank Microsoft Word document for writing cover letters and I'll admit I use to do that too!  One day something just clicked (I think it was the economy) and I decided to put as much effort in actually designing my cover letter than I did when I designed my resume and portfolio.  Guess what? After graphically designing my cover letter to compliment my (well-designed) resume & portfolio I saw a huge spike in the number of call backs for interviews then when I was using the standard "blank" document.

2. Resume - I don't think it needs to be said that if you're a Designer then this document should be well designed.  I'll just reiterate point number one and that is to make sure that it is in sync with the design of your cover letter.  This can be done by doing simple things like using the same fonts, colors, and graphics. *Quick Tip: Set up your resume and cover letter document as one file using Adobe InDesign and export that file as one pdf document when you're ready to send it off.  That way you limit the amount of attachments you send out to each employer and it shows that you're thinking about the two documents in tandem.

3. Work Sample - Most employers will ask you to send work samples along with your resume.  So it's a good idea to already have this document set up, again the layout of your work sample should be coherent with the design of your resume and cover letter.  *Quick Tip: Always send relevant work samples, you can show your diversity in your portfolio on the actual interview, but if you're applying for an internship or job with a firm specializing in traditional architecture don't send samples of your zany "not in this lifetime" student projects.

4. Print Portfolio - Now comes the fun part.  As a student or young designer it's okay to have a diverse portfolio but as you grow and become more experienced employers are going to expect this document to be a little more focused.  While the work in your portfolio may be diverse for now; be sure that the general outline of the book itself is keeping with the theme of the rest of your documents.  Try going with the same color scheme or doing something cool (yet clear and professional) with your name in Illustrator and use that as a logo to put on all your documents.

5. Digital Portfolio - Do you have your own personal space on the web yet?  If not you'd better get one!  If you don't have the tools to develop your own personal website check out this article about other options for setting up an online portfolio.  Again, if an employer views your work on the web and then receives a hard copy of your resume in the mail later through effective personal branding they should be able to make the connection from one document to the next and know that each submission is from the same individual.

6. Personal Business Cards - It is so important to have personal business cards on hand nowadays because you just never know who you will run into!  Plus they are so inexpensive and accessible that there is no reason for any young professional to be walking around without one.  You can create customized business cards on www.moo.com for as little as $22!  Again consistency is key in the details of this small yet largely important document.

All the items listed above are essential when it comes to marketing and developing your personal brand.  The key is just to be consistent all across the board when showcasing your uniqueness.

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