“Dine with Alums” Event Connects Students with Successful Alumni
As students dined and discussed the future with a strong contingent of Gael alumni at the annual “Dine with Alums” event, the seeds of personal brands were being planted, whether the networking students knew it or not.
The important skill of establishing your own personal brand came into focus as keynote speaker Susan Chritton M.Ed. '92, the author of “Personal Branding for Dummies,” shared her expertise in showcasing your individuality in today’s competitive job market.
“Personal branding really is reconnecting with that awesome part of who you are,” said Chritton.
As an executive coach and certified master personal brand strategist, Chritton helps others to build their reputation.
"I’m really a modern-day yenta (a Jewish term for a matchmaker),” said Chritton. “I help people become human and accept the human in themselves.”
When people really take a deep look at who they are, their personal brand begins to take shape, Chritton said, adding, “Your personal brand is the legacy you leave and more than anything how people remember you.”
Part of the image you present is simply finding out what makes you, you.
“Think about what makes you different, what are your differentiators from other people,” said Chritton. “Everyone can do that. You just have to think about it.”
Chritton likes to refer to differentiators as your “Freak Factor” – what really sets you apart from the rest.
Proudly proclaiming her “Freak Factor” to be riding her red Vespa scooter around town, Chritton says we all have something that makes us stand out and sometimes just need help realizing what that is.
Creating a brand is hardly an overnight process. Even Chritton did not realize the power of her own brand right away.
When she was approached out of the blue to write “Personal Branding for Dummies,” Chritton at first thought it was a prank. Astonished, she asked, “How did you find me?” and the publisher’s representative told her, “You looked good online.”
For Chritton, it was confirmation that she had followed her own advice and created a personal brand for success.
After Chritton’s talk, students at the “Dine with Alums” event also heard about an opportunity to join the new “Gael Mentors Network.” Patty Bishop, director of the Career Development Center, unveiled the new program, a collaboration with EdgeOnCollege that will allow students to connect online with professional and experienced SMC alumni to get a head start in preparing for their careers.
Whether through the “Dine with Alums” dinner, the “Gael Mentors Network” or other avenues, it was clear that alumni are more than willing to help current Gaels find the right path after college.
Andy Hsu '09, who participated in “Dine with Alums” when he was a student, gladly returned as an alumnus to share his knowledge. He had a message for all of the students he met: “There’s no linear path to success. You have to be open to change and opportunity.”
As the current batch of Saint Mary’s students begins to navigate life beyond their undergraduate years in Moraga, creating a personal brand is going to play a key role in reacting to the ever-changing career field.
As Chritton told the audience, “If you build your brand on your strengths, you will be extraordinary.”
By Dan Murphy ’13