Building Your Own Brand

Students and faculty members gathered in the College Terrace on Monday, Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. to listen to a panel of four professionals speak about their careers and answer questions on forming personal brands, a component they said is really important for landing a job.

The economy is in rough shape and in such a competitive job market, individuals must capitalize on their personal brands and find what it is that makes them stand out of the crowd, said Ellis Henican, event moderator, award-winning columnist at Newsday and political analyst for Fox News.

“There are so many smart young people out there and the economy sucks so much,” Henican said. “The job opportunities are frankly not as easy as when [we] came out of school.”

Henican told those in the audience that if they really want to start successful careers, they really have to make some “smart and energetic moves.”

“What is it that we have and nobody else does?” he asked. “What is it that I have special that differentiates me from the people out there?”

Henican introduced the four panelists as hard-working people who do not have run-of-the-mill jobs and climbed their way to the top by really finding that special thing which separated them from the rest.

Barry Katz was the first panelist to speak. He began his career on the more creative side, but everyone was a critic there he said.

Building Your Personal Brand, a forum hosted by Sobel Media, was presented at SUNY New Paltz. Photo courtesy of Bill Sobel.He is now Jon Stewart’s landlord and the SVP and GM of NEP Studios, as well as having 35 years of experience in the television industry. He has worked behind the scenes of shows like the Daily Show, Jerry Springer and the Steve Wilkos show.

Katz said he always loved television and when in college, he was studying to become a lawyer, but realized his heart was not in it and that the job description went against his morals. Katz said that the field was competitive and he wanted to succeed. He realized that it wasn’t about trying to make the big bucks, but falling into a place where you can do well and be happy.

“You can’t chase money,” he said. “If you do well, the money will come.”

He said that people are losing jobs within the industry and will in the future, but if you have developed a good brand, and you have the reputation of being honest and going out of your way to fix problems, people will remember you when you come back into the industry.

The second panelist, Victoria Nastri is the manager of distribution and marketing for MTVu, a division of Viacom Media Networks. MTVu is the channel geared toward college students. She was not a sales or media person, but had her degree in education and a background working with college administration. Her brand was being able to bring something different to the table at MTV.

“I get the university thing,” she said. “I am able to talk to students, administrators, and the people at Viacom and marketers.”

The “Building your Personal Brand” function brought students out because they were either unsure of how to brand themselves or wanted to reinforce what they already knew.

Before the panel began their discussions, students sat at tables together, eating a variety of hors d’oeuvres talking to one another about the reasons they came to the event and what they are doing to secure their brands.

Clarissa Moses, second-year journalism major with a PR concentration said she wants to be a special events planner and freelance journalist after she graduates. She said that she works on her brand by putting together a collection of writing clips, as well as builds upon her resume.

“I am working on a writing portfolio with all my articles,” she said. “I work for a special events planner organization on campus for the Caribbean Club, and I am a resident mentor.”

Other students are not as aware as Moses and have not started approaching the branding topic.

Michelle Eisenstadt, fourth-year journalism major with a PR concentration, said she was not so sure what making a personal brand meant, but coming to the event was a first step for her to work on a brand and get the job she wants after graduation.

“It makes sense to come,” she said. “I have no clue [how to brand myself]. I’m here, aren’t I?”

The panelists left the audience off with the advice of putting together a goal list and really just figuring out what it is that an individual has that will be relevant for the one job that hundreds of applicants are trying to get.

“Fight for your interview,” Katz said. “Sell yourself because nobody else is going to.”


Caterina De Gaetano

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