Developing a Personal Brand In and Out of the Classroom

Professional Development
Career Readiness, Professional Development

Article Summary

  • Brand is important for instructors to consider, as students, faculty and administrators all take into account the various online and offline clues that help indicate who an instructor is.
  • Students need to understand their brands as well, as 85% of hiring managers report being influenced by a candidate’s personal brand.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Personal brand is a buzzword used across industries and accompanied by a variety of definitions. Historically, the term “branding” has been used to describe how companies and products differentiate themselves from their competitors. However, in today’s digital world, personal branding has become a part of our daily lives—helping us showcase our individuality, professionalism, experience and more.

With this in mind, it’s important to understand the role personal brand plays. For instructors and students alike, it’s not just an obscure idea, it’s a key ingredient to unlocking better engagement, more career opportunities and personal development.

In this post, we’re exploring the concept of personal branding—highlighting its importance for both educators and the students they teach.

What is a Personal Brand?

While the word, “brand” might conjure up images of business cards, catchy slogans or TV ads, a personal brand exists to paint a picture of one’s unique identity.

Today, we live in a hyper-connected world. In just a few clicks, scrolls or swipes, we can find out just about anything. As the digital landscape continues to expand, we have both the ability—and need—to accurately manage our reputations, online and off.

Everyone, including instructors and students, has unique traits, skills and quirks, all of which represent who we are in front of the people we encounter every day. Put simply, a personal brand is the organized representation of everything that makes us ourselves.

The Importance of a Personal Brand for Students and Educators

As Jeff Bezos puts it, “your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” While this definition leaves a lot to the imagination, it highlights the value of a strong personal brand. To get the most out of life, it’s crucial to put our best foot forward in every situation—professional or social. Being able to effectively showcase who we are allows us to do just that.

That’s because a personal brand:

  1. Builds Trust:

    When someone clearly articulates their individuality, it conveys a sense of trust. Think about it this way: in your professional experience, you’ve probably noticed that students work harder toward their educational goals when they know and trust you. When people have a solid grasp of who someone is, they’re less likely to feel reserved in their interactions—and as a result—much more likely to be receptive to that person.

  2. Establishes Credibility:

    In and out of the academic space, credibility is paramount to success. By developing a strong personal brand, both instructors and students can clearly demonstrate their contributions as professionals, experts, leaders, etc. across their online and offline presence. In doing so, they will demonstrate their unique credibility more effectively.

  3. Differentiates You from Your Peers:

    From the classroom to the boardroom, we’re inherently wired to notice differences. From instructors who use unique teaching methods, to employees who offer unique skill sets—being able to convey how you’re different from your peers is vital. By developing a personal brand, the talents, accomplishments and expertise that helps a person stand out can be clearly illustrated.

With that said, let’s explore the impact a positive brand can have on instructors and their students—in and out of the classroom.

Personal Branding for Instructors

We all know that a university’s brand is meticulously analyzed—from the quality of its courses to its reputation to its affordability and beyond. So, why wouldn’t this concept also apply to the educators working within these institutions? The simple truth is, it does. We all know the role rating sites like Rate My Professors play in influencing students’ course decisions. However, what many of us don’t always realize is that these style sites are one piece of an overarching puzzle.

Students, faculty and administrators all take into account the various online and offline clues that help indicate who an instructor is. Whether it be scholarly publications, teaching methods or course expectations, there are plenty of things out there that impact an instructor’s career and teaching.

Take Adjunct Professor at Simmons University, Renee Rawcliffe’s approach to teaching, which demonstrates her unique personal brand in the classroom:

My approach comes from a place of fairness and humility that I’m learning as much from them as they are from me. I’m not omnipotent. It’s a collaborative approach. I don’t lecture a lot. It’s very experiential, more like a conversation, trying to get [my students] to be self-reflective [using a] very inclusive [approach].

While they all focus on different fields and have very distinctive professions, one thing they all have in common is that they’re masters of their own brand. As such, universities know their value and students respect them and want to learn from them. In short, they’ve made it easy to understand the unique bits that make them special. By this same token, educators that can master their own brands in and out of the classroom stand to positively impact students, colleagues, administrators and others.

Personal Branding for Students

Think about the aspects students focus on when it comes to their education and future career paths. More often than not, academic records, extracurriculars, internships and ambitions dominate the conversation. But when the time comes for them to find their first job or pursue advanced degrees, how do they convey their value? The culmination of all their experiences, education and frequently left out of the equation?

For students, a well-articulated personal brand can tie together all the disparate aspects of their collective experiences—providing a clear view into their unique value as a potential employee . Considering 85% of hiring managers now report being influenced by a candidate’s personal brand and 35% of admissions officers turn to an applicant’s online presence, it’s a necessity that students have the ability to a represent themselves on personal and professional levels.

Personal Branding for Better Instructional, Professional and Learning Outcomes

As the role of digital media evolves, personal branding will continue to play a vital role in the success of instructors, students and professionals alike. By taking the time to develop and implement a personal brand, you’re helping put your best foot forward in every situation you encounter. Moreover, by helping your students understand the importance of personal brands, you’re helping them maximize their potential from the classroom to the boardroom.

Want More Tips and Tricks for Your Brand?

Check out our second article in this series, 5 Easy Steps to Building a Personal Brand as an Instructor. In it, we list some easy steps you can take to develop and maintain a unique personal brand that engages students and unlocks career opportunity.