Personal branding for students: Interview with Josiah

Josiah Hyacinth is a creative director, photographer and all-round creative. In today’s blog post, we’re finding out how he built his personal brand whilst at university, used to this to support his creative career and how you, as a student can start building your personal brand. If you’re a student looking to build your personal brand or you’re a creative and want to get more comfortable with sharing your work then keep reading!

What is a personal brand in your opinion?

A personal brand is a portfolio or visual collection of what you really represent. At a glance, can show what you care about and the values you believe in.

How did you start building your personal brand and how should someone else build their personal brand?

What my personal brand has become was actually by accident. My motivation at the start stemmed from me being an athlete and wanting to showcase this with the world. At this point, I didn’t have a strategy and it was just a case of just posting and documenting my journey. As my life changed, I decided to be a bit more transparent and the brand has morphed into what it is today.

Personal branding is a very messy process but the best way to do it is to start by recognising the reason behind building a personal brand. The purpose is to show what you’re doing and have that bring opportunities for you. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, show off your designs and what you want to be found for. You start by showing and then naturally, you’ll receive feedback from your audience and can tailor your work going forward accordingly.

If you could recommend three SECRET ingredients to building a personal brand, what would they be?

I’m making this up as I go along but I’d say the first ingredient should be authenticity- worry less about what’s out there and focus on what you want to produce. The most distinctive characters and people we look up to are those who are brave enough to be genuine and true to themselves. If you’re a naturally awkward person then keep that element of your personality in your personal brand. Secondly, I would say just get out there and start building a good habit of consistency. People spend time trying to develop and show the best piece of work they’ve ever created but in that waiting, you can miss out on showing a lot of equally good work that your audience can resonate with. Back to our example of the graphic designer, during the 5 months you’ve spent giving in to perfectionism and not sharing your craft, there would have been someone looking for what you have to offer. Lastly, the process of creating and documenting is massively helpful for figuring out what you enjoy creating and what you don’t enjoy putting out. A lot of us focus on the scoreboard so much that we never actually play the game and if you spend all your time looking at the scoreboard and trying to ‘crack the code’, you’ll never have scores on that board.

What challenges have you faced whilst building your personal brand?

I’ve faced a lot of challenges whilst building my brand online but I’d say a big one is that people will often dislike you before they understand you or your mission.

Imposter syndrome is also a massive one, constantly feeling like I have to be the best just to be there and most times, this is false. You simply need to be willing to learn and take risks. The people I tend to enjoy working with the most or those I allow to shadow me are the people who are bold enough to take a risk, reach out and ask for an opportunity. With imposter syndrome, I think it’s important to recognise that everyone does things differently so they’ll always be value in how you do things specifically. Always remember the unique angle and perspective you bring to what you do.

Finally, I’d say don’t expect to love the very thing that you love- you’ll probably hate it at first. A lot us start a new journey or project on passion but passion can’t be enough to sustain building a successful brand. Even if you love the thing you’re building your brand around, there will be days when you don’t feel like it or times when you have to conquer doing the mundane activities. Sometimes you have to force yourself into the shoe and let it mould into your shape, it’s not everyday you wait for the shoe to fit like the movies have told us. you don’t want to just leave a trail of unsuccessful ideas or otherwise, you’ll start to loose faith in yourself. Finish things you start and have a trail…

How do you pivot your brand if what your online presence shows no longer reflects your professional values?

I think this will depend on what you do but the best approach would probably be to pivot slowly, one piece of content as a time. Be open and genuine with your audience with the change you’re going through and how this will affect what you document going forward. It’s very rare to see a company or organisational brand to completely shut down and come back announcing ‘Oh we’ve changed’ and I think the same should go for most personal brands. In some very rare cases, you might have to delete and start again but often it’s about being honest and making slow and incremental changes.

What’s something you’ve learnt about personal branding that has stood out to you?

One quote that directly changed my life said ‘You have to be like a duck in water. Nobody should see you padding, they should see you float.’ Essentially, this quote explains that you attract opportunities by looking available and accessible. Especially from the perspective of a recruiter, you want to know that the person you’re considering is available and willing to work with you or that you would get a reply if you reached out to them.

The best realisation I’ve had about personal branding came at university when I decided in university that I would have a million conversations. If you were to ask 1 million people for £1 each, you’re much more likely to get £1 million than if you tried asking one person for £1 million.

I realised that if you value all your conversations in the same regard and invest in your interactions with people, you can easily build relationships or partnerships will eventually, can be worth more than £1 million. Your personal brand should enable you to make those positive impressions on the 1 million people you converse with for example.

Lastly, I’d say make sure you do good work. Good people recommend good people and even if you have a shiny profile online, if you don’t produce work that is of value, you undermine the legitimacy of the brand you’ve built and make people less likely to want to work with you.

Now unto some quick fire questions.

Top app or system you need to build a personal brand?

Notion- This is great for organising your life and you’ll need to be organised when building your brand.

Biggest advantage of having a personal brand?

I like to think of it as an extra arm: you’re better with than without it. In today’s work landscape, online portfolios and CVs are becoming increasingly important, especially in certain industries. A friend of mine just got hired by Apple because he built something and he shared his creations on Twitter!

Biggest challenge of having a personal brand?

Maintaining a part of your life that’s public. This also means potentially being open to scrutiny, insults or other people’s opinions of you but it’s important to find a healthy way to deal with that which works for you.

A book everyone reading this should read.

It’s hard to choose one but I’ll give a couple of recommendations!

1. Negotiate to close by Gary Karrass– negotiation is one of those skills that can be helpful in everything so definitely worth a read.

2. So Good They can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport– this book talks about why skill trumps passion in the workplace, a useful reminder that passion alone isn’t enough to sustain building.

3. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller– An interesting book about how to live a better story by being intentional in your actions and decisions.

4. Mastermind Dinners by Jayson Gaignard– A really short and really good book about cultivating relationships and connections.

Any podcasts you would recommend?

I actually produce a podcast called ‘Better with Paul‘ and we get to talk to people who have brought amazing ideas to life and done so through an unorthodox path.

Any final words?

Stop questioning yourself. Time spent questioning is good time for experimenting. The best way to learn is to do your best, get feedback on that and then improve.

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