Standing out while fitting in: How business students understand and practice personal branding

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Business | Master's thesis
Organization and Management
Organisaatiot ja johtaminen
Degree programme
Objective: The aim of the study is to provide understanding on the phenomenon of personal branding in the context of Finnish business students. More specifically, the research looks into how the business students understand the phenomenon on four different aspects: what personal branding is, why it is practiced, where it is practiced and how it is practiced. The latter is still divided into two sub-topics: how business students practice personal branding, and how they think it should be practiced in order to help being hired. In addition, the research looks at the greater, underlying reasons behind the development of the phenomenon. Methodology: The study is qualitative and interpretative in nature. Twelve single semi-structured interviews were conducted with final year business students at Aalto University. The interviewees represent two distinct majors: marketing and economics. Six students of both groups were interviewed. The transcribed interviews were then analyzed using the thematic data analysis method. Key findings: The key findings of the study include identifying strategies and methods that business students use for branding themselves. The analysis shows that personal branding is about constantly finding the right balance between goals, audiences and communication, and the phenomenon is perceived as highly audience- and context-specific. Individuals increase cultural and social capital to acquire field-specific knowledge and networks, which can then help the individuals in standing out while fitting in. However, as personal branding is first and foremost personal, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, but individuals need to find their own, best way to practice branding. The findings also show that while being such an individualistic approach, the understanding of the phenomenon varies greatly between the students. Interestingly, no perceivable differences were found between the two major groups. Despite social media being widely present in personal branding, the students still prefer the traditional offline world for branding themselves.
brand, personal brand, personal branding, recruiting, standing out, fitting in
Other note