FOSSI | FOSSI Scholars Learn About the Importance of Building a Personal Brand 

FOSSI Scholars Learn About the Importance of Building a Personal Brand 

May 11, 2022

In April, the Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI) hosted the second virtual meeting for the 2021 FOSSI scholars about the important role communication plays in creating a lifelong path of growth and success. 

During an insightful and wide-ranging conversation, scholars heard from industry experts Alvenia Scarborough, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications & Chief Brand Officer, The Chemours Company; Kyle Pierce, Associate Director, Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, LyondellBasell; and Sheena Costa Flowers, Global Total Rewards Analyst, Hexion.

Moderated by Scarborough, the discussion began with the introduction of personal branding, with panelists defining its meaning and describing how it has played a role in their success. 

Costa Flowers offered, “It is who you are, where you want to be, and what makes you unique, as well as understanding what you don’t want to be,” adding “you must be ready to fail to keep growing.” She advised scholars to “let fear be a bridge, not a blocker. If you are afraid of something, it means it’s important to you. If you fail, be proud you tried; it will empower you.”

The significance of non-verbal communication

Pierce noted that your personal brand starts on day one. He encouraged scholars to think about and cultivate the traits they want people to remember about them. He also reminded the audience that 85 percent of communication is non-verbal, quoting his mother who often told him “you have two ears to listen and one mouth to speak, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.”  

The presenters all stressed the importance of emotional intelligence, citing the red flags they see as recruiters, including dressing inappropriately; being distracted/texting during interviews; poor body language/facial expressions; and messy surroundings.

Scarborough counseled students to remember, if nothing else, “your presence and how you show up says so much about you. How you present yourself – your face, your body language, your environment and the care and concern you take, creates a meaningful and powerful message before you even open your mouth.”

In concluding, she asked the panelists to share their 3 top takeaways. Costa Flowers contributed “Be prepared, be consistent, be confident,” while Pierce urged students to, “start conservative, be strategic, and have fun with it. Don’t be a robot. Show your personality and use your emotional intelligence to show that you’re human.”

Following the discussion, students participated in a Q&A with speakers, followed by breakout discussions led by FOSSI sponsor company volunteers from Cabot, Chemours, Deloitte, DuPont, Ingevity, and Sasol.

Additional takeaways

  • Do your homework: always know your purpose, your message and your audience.
  • Exercise your thoughts and words; when speaking, practice in front of a mirror; read written communications aloud before sending. 
  • Develop a trust circle of people who will give you honest feedback. We rarely see ourselves as others do and it is important to have a trusted source to provide a reality check.
  • Let your brand be your armor. A strong personal brand can protect you if someone in your circle or at your job does not have your best interest in mind.
  • Be confident. As a minority, you are already at a disadvantage and it can impede your confidence, especially if you lack support at home or at work. Sometimes you have to be your own support system – drive your network, set fear aside, don’t compare yourself with others. 
  • Everyone makes mistakes; it is how you handle them that makes the difference. Do not rehash or make excuses. Own your mistake, apologize to those affected, share a plan to do better. You can’t change what happened but you can change going forward.
  • When you disagree with someone, ask yourself if it is worth it to speak up. If so, lose the emotion, disagree respectfully, keep it professional, and move on.
  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Casual assumes that you are not serious.
  • Interview success requires constant practice.
  • Work on your networks constantly, at school, work, with other FOSSI scholars, during extra-curricular activities, and on LinkedIn. 
  • Personal brand and reputation are two sides of the same coin.
  • Do the work on your personal brand now while you have the freedom and time. It will save you a lot of effort and pain later.