A Tu x Tuif: interview to professor Ilijana Petrovska

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This is the third interview from the series A Tu x Tuif, that our association is drafting in collaboration with different professors. This time, we are with Professor Ilijana Petrovska, guest professor at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, where she recently taught personal branding in the course “Brandyourself”.

Prof. Petrovska is the Vice-Dean for Education at the "American University College" of Skopje and she is currently teaching Marketing at the Qatar University, College of Business & Economics, so we reached her through Skype. As a specialist in “Personal Branding”, she is going to give us some tips for our lives and future careers.

  1. Why should we brand ourselves?

I think you should brand yourself because it is very important for your life. For everybody’s life. Branding yourself is something you have to think about because if you don't brand yourself somebody else will do it for you. For example, when you are shy and you do not like talking about yourself, certainly someone else will label you, creating their own opinion. It happens in everyday life and it makes you recognizable in a certain group.

By word of mouth, people start knowing you better and better, maybe also for something you don't want to. Anyway, this is not what defines you.

That is why you should really think and start analyzing, planning, and developing your brand image, in order to be recognizable and to be perceived in the way you like; create the profile you want to be known for.  This is really important for your future job position, to be accepted in a certain group of people or in an association with certain values, and even for future relationships.

This is something like the brand for a product. If you develop a certain product branding, people will start wanting to have it because it creates a certain quality and provides some standard value. This is the same for people. If you create your reputation, people would like to hire, to work or partner with you.

  1. How did personal branding help you with your job?

The first job I got after the university was by applying everywhere and testing everything. That's how I got the first job in an advertising agency.

I would like to share my story on my personal branding because it brings me back to where everything started, when I presented my final thesis. For my final thesis, I decided to write a research about credit cards. In 1997, in Macedonia, a research thesis about credit cards was not very common. I contacted the most important people in the banks who dealt with credit cards and I analyzed all the information they would give me.

Then, I invited all of them to assist to the public presentation of my thesis. They benefited from it since it was an important topic for them. After presenting my thesis, I went to thank them and gave them a copy of my thesis on a floppy disk, with contact details on it.

None of these banks had a job opportunity at the time, so I started working in this advertising agency, which was a great experience for me because I was not planning to work in this area. I studied finance, so it was a completely different area, but that job gave me a lot of experience. After four years, two banks approached me because of my floppy disk. This is an example of personal branding. Leave some marks.

They knew I was working in the advertising area and they needed someone in the marketing department, so they took my number from the floppy disk and asked me if I wanted to work with them. I started working in the smaller bank and after six months I entered the final competition announcement where I was selected. I started looking for a job in marketing also in bigger banks, where after a year I was promoted as marketing manager. Then, I was invited to an American university for some lectures.

Seeing that your experiences and what you have done so far is giving results gives you a high satisfaction.

You must show proudly all you have done even if it concerns small things. Put everything on a CV, show them off. These are your strengths. It helps you leave the mark.

You never know who needs you and for what!

  1. How do you think personal positioning in the job market changed in the last years?

Regarding the job market, it is a very interesting topic. We cannot isolate the job market from everything that is happening around us.

We see a lot of changes and this affects also the job market. There is so much more competition. Nowadays, the job market is global and it is affected by international participants that have much more work experience and are open-minded about new challenges and new ways of working.  

Digitalization is a reality. It’s real and we have to accept it. So, of great importance is the online presence and online brand positioning. All the transformations of the world affect the job market and we have to be aware that the world is changing fast and we should change and adapt accordingly to it. This is the only certain thing of the future: that everything is changing!

We should be prepared for the future thanks to lifelong learning; we cannot say we know everything. Nowadays the computers are out there to give us knowledge, but we should be aware of how to read the news and how to accept them because not everything is true. There are also fake news. We should be prepared to develop all of our skills, since open-minded people with more cultural understanding are more recognizable.

Personal positioning should be considered as a combination, not only of education and experience but also of life values, vision, and something which is valuable for ourselves and for the overall surroundings.

  1. Suppose we don't have any experiences; could an efficient personal branding help us find the first experience (i.e. summer internship)? In which way?

When you started university, you just started building your own ground. Personal branding is everything you do, your values and not just your work experience. I've seen in my classes lots of students with many activities and excellent personal values. This is something you have to care about. You must have additional activities in order to support your values if you want to become somebody.

You don't have to wait until you finish the university to build your path because you find it in everything you are doing.

By organizing yourself, socializing with friends, having your own opinions or expressing yourself about your values, you create your personal brand. So, talk out about whatever you think is important in your life. This is the actual personal branding.

Never lie, transparency is really important in the 21st century because trust is built not just on words, but also on actions.

  1. How much time is required to brand ourselves efficiently? What do you recommend to start with and what are the steps we should follow?

You have all the time in the world. So, use every day, every minute, not only to write something about you, but to build something for your brand. Much more important is its development: thus, before you decide how to develop your brand, the important tool to start with is a careful analysis in order to use your strengths for your future opportunities.

Analyse yourself, the environment you live in (not only the competitors) what is the future you want, the future job you would be interested in, the global market (do not limit yourself to your surroundings, the world is yours).

This tool helps you understand if you have a vision and a mission and it connects to the theory you study. Implement it in your personal life; it will help you write a personal branding statement, something that you would like to be recognized among others in the society.

The personal branding statement is all about how you want to be different from all the others. You are unique, nobody else is like you. You may have a lot of similar people around, but you are unique. This is something that everybody should understand and develop the fact of being unique, special and different. You have to use everything you think is cool in your private life. Next step is to check all the communication tools: social media is important because it shows to the world who you are and what you do. It takes time to build a personal brand, it is not a one-week work. It is a lifetime work.

  1. How do you manage your time? How do you organize your day?

I drink a lot of coffee in my life. I drink coffee sometimes just to finish my work. I prefer to finish it at night, so in the morning it is already done. But then, in the morning I'm running or I'm doing some exercises. When I feel that my life gets too crowded, I just go out. You need to find the right balance in your life. It is not only about work but relax as well. Going out with friends is the best. Try to make a balance in your life and to be happy with yourself. If you do so, everybody will like you because you are satisfied and you act like that.

We warmly thank Prof. Ilijana Petrovska and hope to see her soon in Tor Vergata with a new course in “Digital Personal Branding”!

If you want to adjoin her: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ilijana5rovska/

Authors: Cristina Roinita, Giulia Salvi, Michelle Petrini, Andrea Valeri.

We thank “Vilfredo Pareto” library’s staff for the usage of their spaces.