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The Best Gift for College Graduates: Personal Branding Advice

|May 10|magazine12 min read

 

Written by Peggy Noe Stevens

As my son nears his high school graduation, I am reminded of the feelings of excitement and anticipation I had as a teenager for the next chapter of college life. 

When I graduated from college I was eager to break out into the world with my degree in tow and land that incredible paying job with a big title. My most treasured gift was a grey leather portfolio with a monogrammed silver plaque that my parents gave to me. It was the real deal—a professional piece (my first) that I planned to carry to every interview. 

Inside was a blank pad of legal paper, ready for me to write down my first brilliant idea. Looking back, I wish it could have been filled with advice, a road map of sorts that would have prepared me for the relationships, conflicts, time management, work-life balance, employee reviews, interviews, travel tips, etc., which you must literally learn about through experience. 

When we graduate, we walk out the door with an education that reflects our degree. A first job will more than likely also offer on the job training to fit a company’s needs. However, it’s the other side of the fence—the ‘soft skills’ needed to manage the day-to-day communication and business etiquette that is essential for professional presence and moving forward successfully—that I wish I would have been given to me on that pad of paper.

Professional presence is difficult to describe, but you sure know when you see it. If you were to assess your professional presence now, where would you start?

At Peggy Noe Stevens and Associates we believe a great place to start is to eat the elephant one bite at a time and assess four areas – the P4’s of Personal branding:  Personal, Professional, Protocol and People. Each category is a platform from which you evaluate and gauge your level of knowledge to build your professional brand/image. 

Personal:

·  Overall image of dress – What is the snap shot impression that you make with your overall appearance and dress?  Do you look the part for the interview?  Have you matched your dress with the culture of the company for which you are interviewing? Have you transitioned from college student to young professional with the quality and fit of your clothing?

·  Grooming – Are hair and make-up distraction-free, accentuating your best features?

·  Time management for work/life purpose – Can you articulate a balanced view of how you have managed to juggle multiple tasks and succeed with results? It is not enough to just list activities on your resume. How have you mastered results?

Protocol:

·  Poise - Do you enter the room with confidence and ease?

·  Handshaking - Can you properly shake hands using eye contact and a confident grip?

·  Eye contact- Do you display good eye contact when asked questions, so you appear focused and engaged in the conversation?

·  Knowledge of dining etiquette - If the interview is during a meal, can you navigate the china, glass and silverware during conversation?

People:

·  Knowing your team

·  Interacting with colleagues

·  Communicating with transparency

·  Conflict management

·  Understanding how your performance is measured

Professional:

·  Making presentations

·  Speech

·  Establishing credibility

·  Delivering messages with impact

·  Micro messaging (non verbal skills)

·  Diplomacy

·  Running effective meetings

·  Active listening

Although I will indeed go out and buy graduation gifts for my friends’ college graduates, I plan to give them something longer lasting- the gift of mentorship and advice on soft skills.  For now, the graduates may scratch their heads and wonder what kind of gift this is, but somewhere, on some occasion when they need to use a soft skill they may look back and knowingly smile because it will be then that they will see its purpose.

About the Author: Peggy Noe Stevens has over 25 years of industry experience. Today she runs a global image branding business, helping companies develop exceptional talent by teaching confidence, self-awareness and professional presence. She just released her book, Professional Presence.  More information can be found about Peggy and her book on her website: www.peggynoestevens.com.