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Student-Athletes Learn to Build Personal Brand
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Student-Athletes Learn to Build Personal Brand

Building a personal brand that extends outside of the athletics arena was the focus of a recent presentation to South Carolina student-athletes participating in the Athletics Department’s Beyond Sports Professional Development and Summer Internship Program. Will Baggett, a highly regarded speaker, author, and founder of Executive Image, met with two groups of student-athletes Monday at Williams-Brice Stadium to help them establish their own executive image.

“For me, it’s a commitment to helping them see a different side of themselves,” said Baggett, who currently works at the College Football Playoff in Dallas, Texas. “I think we all have a perception of ourselves inwardly, but how do we reflect that outwardly? We want to make that executive, that leader, that professional that’s within you, and we can reflect that to people that see you in everyday life. That awareness is what is important to me. I had great mentors when I was coming up, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. To give that information that they can use tomorrow or five to ten years down the road, that’s the fulfillment that I get out of this.”

“The goal is to outwardly reflect who you are on the in inside so that no matter how you spin it, the perceived value does not change.”

“It’s very hard sometimes to know how you are influencing people and how your appearance and your gestures can make people feel about you,” said Mikayla Shields, a rising junior volleyball student-athlete and a biology/pre-med major. “This presentation helped me a lot in understanding how each gesture can help or hurt me in portraying what I’m thinking and my personality even when I’m not saying anything.”

Much of the dialogue with the student-athletes focused on how they can build their own personal brand. Baggett stressed the importance of making a good first impression within the first seven seconds of meeting someone, and that more than half of the impressions you make on someone can come from body language.

“It’s how we look, what we do, and what we say,” Baggett said. “Those impressions form opinions. You have full control over each of these impression points. Perception is reality.”

Those perceptions are critical when interviewing for a job.

“You have to realize you have a unique selling proposition. You have to find that one thing that sets you apart from someone else. Find out what that one thing is. It can be tangible or intangible.”

“It was awesome. We learned a lot,” said junior football student-athlete Jake Bentley, who is studying sport and entertainment management. “There are a lot of little things that many people don’t think about such as how to shake someone’s hand properly, how you’re standing when speaking, placement of your hands, and a lot of things that go in to projecting proper business etiquette and professionalism.”

Baggett stressed the importance for the student-athletes to put good professional habits in place during their four years of college because those habits will affect them for the next 40 years in the work place. Each of the student-athletes became more self-aware of personal flaws in how they present themselves. That includes becoming aware of simple things such as the use of filler words such as “like,” “um,” and “you know,” in every day conversation.

“I thought it was great because there are a lot of things you don’t know about how to come into an interview,” said Courtney Koehler, a junior sport and entertainment management major and volleyball student-athlete. “What stood out to me was how we all use filler words when speaking. I use them all the time, and it’s something that’s difficult to take out. I don’t think our generation notices that we’re doing it as much.”

“We all use those filler words,” Bentley said. “For me, I move around a lot when I’m talking. So, I need to learn to be still and be confident in what I’m saying. One thing that really struck me is that you have seven seconds to make an impression on someone, and how that impression can stick with them forever.”

This was the second straight year that Baggett spoke to student-athletes in the Beyond Sports program, and his presentations have become very popular at South Carolina and around the country as well.

“When we were preparing our professional development presentations for this year, I went and looked back at the ratings from last year by our student-athletes, and Will’s presentation was the highest rated out of all of them last year,” said Megan Stoltzfus, Director of Student-Athlete Development. “It’s incredible content. It’s about their personal brand, body language, how they act on a daily basis, and how that impacts the overall perception of them as professionals.”

Baggett stressed the importance of the “A, B, Cs” — appearance, behavior, communication skills, digital presence, and executive image. He also stressed the need to use social media in a way that lifts the individual’s professional profile and personal brand with a consistent message along all platforms.

“These all have different ways you can share information, but I want to see consistency,” Baggett said. “How you speak without speaking is important.”

Beyond Sports is a professional development and summer internship program for South Carolina student-athletes that includes weekly educational professional development programming. One of the main goals is to provide student-athletes with a meaningful professional development and work experience, while also helping them to be better prepared for professional life after college.