Thomas Frank Of College Info Geek on Personal Branding, How To Be Awesome At College, And Why You Need An Impossible List
So, who is Thomas Frank?
I’m just that one guy who does stuff and things, you know?
I guess if I had to give a specific answer, I’d say I’m a college senior finishing up an MIS degree at Iowa State. I’m a writer, marketer, programmer, and designer – and honestly I don’t know which of those paths to pursue.
When I’m not working, I’m lifting, playing DDR, or doing really stupid stuff with Photoshop. Also, I really like travelling.
Tell us a little bit more about College Info Geek. How did it get started, and where is it going?
College Info Geek is hands-down the greatest. college blog. in the world. – according to me, my mom, and like six other people. To everyone else it’s a blog on being awesome at college (and hopefully a pretty good one). My main mission is helping students realize their potential and teaching them how to market themselves. I also write about a lot of other things that interest me.
I started College Info Geek in June 2010 after being applying to be a writer for another blog and getting rejected. I basically wasn’t willing to let the rejection keep me from writing college tips, so I just decided to start my own site.
After being basically a college version of LifeHacker with an added focus on music, College Info Geek started to focus more and more on personal branding and teaching students to make themselves more marketable. Today, that’s the main focus of the blog, though I still write about other topics that interest me.
Personal branding is a big part of what your website is all about. Any tips for college students on that front?
There’s a lot that I’d like to say on this subject, but I’m going to try to be brief.
The most important part of building a personal brand is figuring out what you want to be known for and getting good at it. Once you have those two things under your belt, you have a perfect foundation for building a brand.
Next, you want to learn how to effectively network with other people and build relationships. Personal branding and networking go hand in hand, and the biggest goal of both is enabling you to build great relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Building your brand is all about marketing yourself, so the next thing you should do is get yourself on as many channels as possible. “Be everywhere”, as Pat Flynn likes to say. Build a personal website. Make your own business cards. Get on relevant social networks and reach out to like-minded people on them.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received? The worst?
The Best: “Focus on making friends rather than gaining business contacts. Friends will pull for you and be your business contact when you need them to be. Business contacts are only there when it’s mutually beneficial for them to be, and they’re definitely not gonna help you move.”
The Worst: “The best way to build a successful blog is to write 4-6 articles a day, 500-1000 words each, and to comment on lots of other blogs.” – This is terrible advice, as it’s what every chump tries to do. You can apply this to anything – anytime someone tells you to do the same crap everyone does to get somewhere, it’s probably not that great of advice. Case in point: someone who tells you to look for jobs on job boards and Craigslist is helping you shoot yourself in the foot. Use a less-travelled, more personal channel to make contacts – you know, like, the phone – and you’ll stand out.
You have an Impossible List. What is it and why should I have one?
An Impossible List is like a bucket list, but it’s active. Bucket lists are usually filled with things people simply wish they could do, and they’re often items that someone thinks they’ll do after retirement – or at least way in the future.
Impossible Lists are lists of items you’re actively working on. Each item on the list should be something you’re either working on achieving, or you at least have a plan for achieving.
I think everyone should have an Impossible List, because it allows you to be very ambitious with your life. My Impossible Lists ensures I won’t just settle into the normal rut, because I have a ton of awesome goals I need to be working on.
What’s the hardest thing on your list right now?
I’m not sure what the absolute hardest thing is, but the item that’s getting the most of my attention currently is paying off all of my student debt before I graduate. This is like $14K, so I’d say it’s pretty challenging – but I believe I can do it ;)
Thanks for interviewing me!
Thomas Frank is a senior at Iowa State University and the mastermind behind College Info Geek, a blog that helps students make the most out of college and learn to market themselves better. When Thomas isn’t writing or pretending to study, he’s hacking WordPress, feeding his DDR addiction, and mooching off of Dustin Curtis’ psychology studies. You should follow him on Twitter here.