As students, we are constantly told that we need to work on our reputation. As business students, we are constantly told that we need to work on our brand and label. Essentially, it’s the same thing. But what does that even mean, anyway? It’s not as if you’re working for a Fortune 500 company in your sophomore year; why is self-branding important, even now?

The first step to self-branding is identifying your label. It’s okay to have more than one. But honestly, what the heck is a label, in the first place? To put things into perspective, I’ll give you some of my labels: I am a scholar. I am a writer. I am a professional. I am a sister. I am a friend. As you can see, your “labels” can range from professional to personal. Identifying yourself with your label means you know who you are, you’re assessing your potential, and moving forward with it.

Next, you buy into your label. You don’t even have to believe yourself; just do it. Believe that you are a scholar. You’re not a student that hates Calculus and you don’t detest being in school. You’re not going to Google your homework because that’s the easy thing to do and you’re too busy anyway. You are a scholar. Invest in that idea. Start a study group with peers, attend professional development events, and study with (dare I say it?) books. Invest in the idea that you are a professional. Your part-time job at a company you’re so-over with a boss that seems to always give you the worst schedule… it’s not detrimental. It’s giving you real-world experiences. You’re learning, and you love the opportunity your job provides. When the day comes for you to leave, you will do it in a formal and graceful manner; you’re not going to tell your boss where he can stick his paycheck. Ever. No matter how badly you hated being there. Why? Because you are a professional and you’re buying into that label.

After I realized the importance of identifying and buying into my labels, I noticed that I needed to work on being more of a scholar, rather than a student; I noticed my boss and professors would be the ones to write me letters of recommendation. I noticed that being a scholar and a professional are choices; choices I wanted to make for myself.

What we put out into the world as scholars, professionals, writers, marketers, and individuals cannot be taken back. Self- branding is an imperative factor when it comes to being a professional. A lot of students forget that they are scholars and that they will graduate at some point; and at that point, they’ve sent out a lot of unprofessional messages to the world. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a Twitter or an Instagram. This doesn’t mean you can’t crack jokes and go to a party. Simply, be cautious with the image you’re portraying. Would you hire yourself?