Nurturing Your Child’s Personal Brand with Stacey Ross Cohen

Nurturing Your Child’s Personal Brand with Stacey Ross Cohen

by Chris Tompkins | March 7, 2024

An award-winning branding and marketing professional, Stacey Ross-Cohen realized the need for young people to have a strong online presence — or digital brand—when she was going through the university admissions process alongside her daughters. The process sparked the idea for her book, Brand Up: The Ultimate Playbook for College & Career Success in the Digital World, where she compiles exercises, tools, and tips to help kids have a positive social media presence, which allows them to stand out in our connected and competitive world. In addition to running her own marketing and PR company, Stacey is a sought-after speaker — recently having made her debut on the TEDx stage — and she also passes on her expertise through blogs at Huffington Post and Thrive Global.

You can’t leave your digital footprint to chance

Stacey tells listeners that it’s imperative that their kids be proactive about their online image. Competition to get into universities in both Canada and the U.S. is fierce and the majority of admissions officers are checking applicants’ social media profiles. As such, she stresses the importance of kids being intentional about theirs.

“Google has become the new resume,” Stacey explains. “To get to the top of the application pile, teens need to stand out, and they need to answer the million dollar question: Why choose you?”

Stacey points out that putting their best foot forward on social media is not only helpful for school admissions, but also in the future as young adults enter the workforce. Employers also look at candidates’ social media footprint.

Personal branding in 3-D

So how do parents go about helping their kids build their personal brand? Stacey calls the process “personal branding in 3-D,” which includes three steps: self-reflection, development, and delivery. Stacey stresses the importance of the first step or self-reflection, which most people — and even brands she has worked with as a marketing professional — tend to skip over. Self-reflection is really figuring out your “who” and “why,” or as she calls it, your super power.

In Brand Up, she offers various tools to help young people come to that conclusion and develop their “uniquely me” statement, which she describes as, “a really compelling statement that you’re going to share with the world.”

Development is the packaging, or your online portfolio, which can take many forms including a website that showcases your artwork, for instance, or a sizzle reel that shows off your athletic accomplishments. The development phase also includes having things like thank-you letters prepared and ready to be sent out after interviewing with an admissions officer, and an email signature that sets you apart in a sea of applicants.

Delivery is how you broadcast yourself to the world through social media. Stacey thinks that LinkedIn is the most important social media platform and that all teens should be on the platform by the time they’re 16 so that they can network and start following and engaging with alumni and faculty members in the fields and at the schools they are interested in.

Social media: discerning the virtue from the vulnerability

When asked about the importance of a kids’ presence on social media vs. the negative impacts of social media on youth mental health, Stacey agrees that there is no easy answer. However she talks about the importance of self-awareness, and the confidence that comes from kids knowing who they are. Stacey says that kids have to be “like Teflon” to navigate some parts of social media that are undeniably tough, and that confidence is key. She also emphasizes the importance of teaching kids digital leadership and citizenship from an early age and encourages parents to lead by example when it comes to their own consumption of social media.

Listen to the complete episode at the top of this post for more on what Stacey has to say on the importance of kids putting their best foot forward on social media.

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.


[00:00:13.030] – Speaker 1
Well, hey, everyone. This is Chris Tompkins, host of the Shaping Our World podcast. This is about young people, the world they live in, and how we, as caring adults, can come alongside them and support them and help them navigate the complexities that they face every day. For four seasons now, we’ve been having conversations with experts and people that have done research and writing and thinking and got professional degrees about young people. And so much of the conversation is driven by our care for young people, for wanting the best and seeing them thrive. And every once in a while, we have these unique ways to look into their world. And today, I’m excited to bring you this conversation because it was a really specific and unique conversation that I haven’t really thought about we haven’t spent much time doing. It was really invigorating for me. I want to introduce you to Stacey Ross Cohen. Stacey is an award-winning branding and marketing professional who has been studying the personal branding approach of students, job seekers, and CEOs for decades. She realized the need for young people to have a strong online presence or digital brand when she was going through the university admission process along alongside her daughters, which sparked the idea for her book, Brand Up: The Ultimate Playbook for College and Career Success, which was released in April 2023.

[00:01:41.580] – Speaker 1
In it, she gives exercises, tools, and tips to help kids have a positive social media presence, which allows them to stand out and achieve success in our connected, cluttered, and competitive world. In addition to running her own marketing and PR Stacey is a sought-after speaker and author in the realm of personal branding. Stacey recently made her debut on the TED Talk stage and is a blogger at Huffington Post and Thrive Global, and has been featured in entrepreneur Forbes, Crane’s, and a suite of other national media outlets. Just an interesting tidbit. She had to delay our conversation because she needed to be brought in to consult with the governor of New York on a new thing that was coming out of economics and planning for the state of New York. So that’s just an interesting tidbit about our guest today. But what I think you’ll find most interesting is her passion for young people and how to help them become successful in the things that they want to pursue. What I loved about this conversation is she has some really practical and tangible things to share with us. And we do get into a bit of the tension around building an online brand and the downside of social media and the Internet, and she has some really concrete things to share to this conversation.

[00:03:09.270] – Speaker 1
Welcome to the show, Stacey.

[00:03:11.100] – Speaker 2
Thanks, Chris. Thank you for having me. I’m very excited.

[00:03:14.650] – Speaker 1
It’s great to have you. And we had a nice little catch up before. And your world’s really interesting, so I can’t wait to get into it, even just what you were doing today. So let’s get to know you a little bit more beyond the bio. Tell us, what shaped your world when you were growing up?

[00:03:28.530] – Speaker 2
I would say, without a doubt, my parents grew up in Brooklyn, very entrepreneurial parents. And they really had nothing. And And again, I saw them both creating multiple businesses and being born into that. It was just always a natural inclination. As a matter of fact, I started my first business when I was 14 years old. And what they injected in me is, and I’ve done that with my own kids, is a can-do attitude, right? It’s like, take risks. You can do anything that you set your mind to and you have the grit and resilience to do it. My parents were just such a big influence, and especially growing up with a a mom. She was far from the type of mom that just lunched all day and just having a really good work ethic. I’ve been working since I am 13. I remember coming back from college and taking temp jobs. I’m a self-professed, a little bit of a workaholic. There’s no doubt.

[00:04:58.910] – Speaker 1
Yeah, I’m sure some of that has woven into your career, which we’re going to get to in a second. But what shapes your world outside of all that workaholic stuff? Tell us a little bit about you. What do you like to do for fun?

[00:05:11.560] – Speaker 2
I’m an avid exerciser. I’m far from a marathon runner, but I run. I love film, love movies, love the theater, love history. And in particular, I love I love architecture, living in New York, to see some of the historic buildings. But of course, lucky me and have had the opportunity to go abroad to Europe and recently to Greece, is just taking in all the wonders of the world. And it’s always a challenge making time for that. But there’s no doubt that I have this, I just call it a curiosity or fire in the belly. I think all of us really need to shape our world by expanding our perspectives And then contributing positively to our community. I’m very philanthropic minded, particularly to anything relating to youth, which I know you’re doing a lot in that space and also to women entrepreneurs.

[00:06:34.270] – Speaker 1
I’m not sure if you’ve been to Toronto, but if you haven’t, you should come because architecture and theater and all the art and culture, you’d love it. It’s a little cold, but you’re in New York, so it’s not super different. Oh, yeah.

[00:06:46.870] – Speaker 2
We’re used to it in New York. Thank you for that reminder, because I have not been to Toronto in a very long time, so I am going to put it on my travel list.

[00:06:58.310] – Speaker 1
There you go. Yeah, Even just from the CN Tower and some other stuff, there’s a lot of great things I know you’d be interested in. Tell us a little bit about what you do right now, and maybe more specifically, what you’re doing to shape the world of young people, teens, kids. Tell us a bit about that.

[00:07:15.640] – Speaker 2
Sure. As you know, I have two hats. I run a PR marketing agency, but I’ve always loved working with youth. I wrote a book, which came out in April of 2023, called Brand Up: The Ultimate Playbook in College and Career Success in the Digital World. The book is for teens, and I’m in the process of developing online curriculum for it. I also have a teen ambassador program. I’m going on the speaker circuit, speaking to youth. I’ve even had the opportunity, which was so incredibly rewarding, to speak to Ukraine refugees living in Poland. I’m actually working on the second book right now, which is for an older demographic. It’s early career professionals from age, let’s say, 20 to 35. It’s really important for me to level the playing field for all teams. It doesn’t matter if their path is to attend an elite university, enter a trade, start a business, or become the next TikTok star. I think it’s really, really important in this insanely evolving, changing world of college admissions and the gig economy to really support the youth and to have them be their best selves.

[00:08:59.350] – Speaker 1
And I How we found you, and what I think is so intriguing is you pulling together a few of these really key things, which is social media and technology, and then also just this idea of personal brand and who we are and how to navigate some of that. So we’re going to get into that right now. And so, as you mentioned, you’re a brand expert and you specialize in building business and personal brands. And in the book, you talked about Brand Up, the ultimate play Book for college and career success in a digital world. You stress the importance of kids having a strong personal brand, which is something that I think as parents, we don’t often think about, right? Like, what’s our kid’s brand? And It’s interesting, though, because right now where I live in Ontario, there’s an increasingly high number of students with high grades competing for spots in university, and it’s become so competitive. We were just talking, Roz, the producer and I before about Kids we know that are getting mid to high 90s who aren’t getting into the program they want. And as a dad, my daughter is in grade 12, and we’re right in the midst of that university application process.

[00:10:13.070] – Speaker 1
So I can see where this all factors in. Can you tell me why you think it’s important for kids to have a strong personal brand? Why is that significant?

[00:10:23.420] – Speaker 2
Yeah, absolutely. And what you shared totally resonated with me because that was is how I had the epiphany for the book. I have two girls in their 20s, but not that long ago when they were in high school, very competitive high school district, a lot of kids had 4.0 point GPAs. I’m sure you’ve heard the term helicopter parents. There were also a lot of drone parents, if you know what I’m saying. I had an epiphany, and I said, Wow, teams now more than ever, they’ve got to market themselves and figure out how to stand out to get into colleges and rise to the top. At the same time, there were statistics that were coming out about social media, that the majority of admission officers are looking at social media as part of the admission process. But what is even more compelling There have been such dramatic shifts, and some of these are accelerated because of the pandemic. Number one, acceptance rates for colleges are going down. I don’t know what the situation is in Canada, but at least in the US, there’s a surge of test optional schools. We’re talking about 80%. Then there is also something else that is not necessarily part of this shift.

[00:12:01.050] – Speaker 2
It’s always been important, but demonstrated interest. Of course, in the States, we also have affirmative action ban. What does all this mean? It means the competition is so fierce. Teens, they need an edge more than ever because colleges just have a much more holistic point of view. They’re really looking at character. Again, a lot of people don’t like the word personal brand, and a lot of parents will say, I don’t want to brand my kid. I really toiled over this book. Like, Oh, I don’t know if I should really name it brand up. But here’s the thing. Personal branding, A lot of people will think about, Oh, it’s something that the Kardashian’s do or celebrities. There’s a big misconception because personal branding is not like this narcissistic… It really is personal branding process. It’s like you have to be intentional. You have to exert an effort to do it successfully. But personal branding, again, it’s not about me, me, me. It’s like, what is your value to others? So personal branding and digital leadership, it is no longer a luxury. It’s a requirement, if you think about it. I can tell you that you cannot…

[00:13:28.290] – Speaker 2
I mean, none of us can, but But let’s get this muscle started early. You can’t leave your digital footprint to chance. Kids need a strong online presence. And consider this. In one internet minute, there’s six million Google searches. So someone is searching for us right now. So Google has become the new resume. And so the bottom line to all of this, Chris, is that to get to the top of the application pile, teens need to stand out, and they need to answer the million dollar question, why choose you?

[00:14:06.350] – Speaker 1
I can just also add as an employer of young people, it wouldn’t be uncommon for us to check social media profiles. And you talked about building, and I don’t want to digress a little bit, but you talked about building a strong personal brand and how to put your best foot forward. It’s also clear to us when people are not putting their best foot forward in what type of imagery, especially when you work kids. And because we know, hey, as a camp counselor, kids are going to want to be friends with their people they look up to on social media. And so what are you communicating about your own values and who you are? Helps me understand whether you’re qualified to have the roles that you might have here. So yes, for college and university, like we talked about, but also even if someone’s listening going, well, yeah, but that’s just like, it’s just marks. There’s no supplemental stuff. Well, this also lives forever, and it will connect to employment down the road as well.

[00:15:04.330] – Speaker 2
Oh, 100 %. Everything that posts online, it’s discoverable and it’s permanent. And I also think when I agree with you as an employer, there is no doubt that social media is really important as part of the interview process. We are looking at candidates’ social media. Also, again, it’s not just admission officers. The majority of hiring managers or recruiters, they are looking at social media. Really important to get an early start on this. The other important thing is, and I think it’s a lesson, I want to teach kids. This is not anything that’s inborn. I want to teach kids to avoid social media mishaps, because I don’t know if you know of this story that happened a couple of years ago. It was all over the news. Harvard had accepted 10 kids. Now, the acceptance rate at Harvard then was 4.59%. Now, it’s 3.19 9%, because remember what I just said, that acceptance rates are declining. A few years ago, there were 10 kids. They got accepted. Their golden ticket, their life was made for them. These 10 kids, they formed a a separate group, and bad social media behavior, racist remarks, et cetera, and got to the attention of administration, and all 10 of these kids, their admissions were revoked.

[00:16:46.550] – Speaker 2
And this is a common story. It’s playing out in the news. So again, it also just shows you that smart kids are not always smart on social media.

[00:16:56.890] – Speaker 1
Well, we can deduce from this conversation that it’s significant, it’s important to think about. So how do we begin to help our kids work through this? Can you take us through the three steps of personal branding?

[00:17:11.040] – Speaker 2
Sure. Absolutely. So I like to call it personal branding in 3D, right? So it’s three-dimensional because it really boils down to these steps, which it’s a process. It really creates depth and meaning in our lives. And the first and most important step which most skip over is the self-reflection. You need to do a self-audit. Figure out what is your who and why? What is your super hour. And I have a whole me squared in the book process, which helps you map out your strengths, your passions, your goals and values. Then I offer a bunch of different personality tests that can really help you crystallize. What is it that makes you stand out? Again, what is your unique value? And again, it’s almost like you could call it your elevator pitch. I call it a uniquely me statement. But this is a really compelling statement that you’re going to share with the world. The second step is developing and development, developing. And it’s really packaging. It’s like you want to do a cleanup of your social media, but you also want to package your online portfolio. It could be your resume. You really want to create a shiny online and offline portfolio.

[00:18:45.210] – Speaker 2
Within this, it’s like if you think about the different assets, it could be a number of things. It could be a website. There are some cases where I will guide a teenager. Maybe they have an affinity towards art. Why not develop a website? Someone that is more sports inclined or, of course, theater or theatrical, they might want to do a video sizz reel. Again, developing some of these assets and thinking about every single touch point, even an email signature line. This really holds for both of us, but that’s great real estate. What can you put in the email signature line that an admissions officer might see. I also, in the development process, you want to have at the ready, you want to have… I know this sounds simple and, again, obvious, but for many, it’s not. Like, thank you letters. Just have thank you letters ready to go. You want to show your gratitude to whether you’re interviewing for a job or admissions office, and you’ve got to get get this letter out or an email out very quickly. And then the last is delivery. I look at it like, we are all our own news channels.

[00:20:09.900] – Speaker 2
So how are you going to manage your social media presence and then be able to broadcast who you are to the world. I feel that one of the strongest and most important social media platforms is LinkedIn. And I highly encourage teens should get on LinkedIn by the time that they’re 16 years old. Think about the power of LinkedIn. That’s why in my book, I have a full chapter on LinkedIn and a full chapter on networking. You want them to start building relationships. Really, really important for college admissions for them to connect with alumni. Also, think about it, if a kid wants to go to engineering school, and their top school is Vandebilt, they better connect with someone within faculty, the chair of the engineering department, and also engage with their social media posts. And they may also want to produce engaging content that shows their interest in engineering.

[00:21:20.430] – Speaker 1
In the discovery step, I love how that involves drilling down, as you put it, like finding their superpower and that that me statement. What a great thing for kids to do no matter what stage they’re at in their lives, having this strong sense of who they are, what makes them unique, especially contrasting a world of comparison and trying to be like others, being able to walk with kids through, figuring out who they are. It can have such a positive impact on so many parts of growing up, including their self-esteem, how they feel about who they are. Can you talk a bit about that, maybe a bit more? And how to parents, can we come alongside and help discover that? What does that look like?

[00:22:06.460] – Speaker 2
Wow. I love that you’re going there. So self-awareness is really important. Most, let’s say, 14-year-olds are not self-aware. But I believe that what a great time for them to build that. It’s almost like that inner strength, that inner core to know who they are, understand their passions, what they’re really good at. This builds confidence. This builds confidence. And there’s also been a lot of studies done on self-awareness, that those that are more self-aware, it just translates into personal, academic, and career success. And so the collaborator of the book, Jason Schafer, he actually starts teaching this in middle school. So he’s using the book as a model. The difference is it’s more of a discovery. And he teaches kids through music, picking their favorite song and just exploring themselves. Why is it your perfect song? Is there something about you that really really sinks with the song? Or I think a great exercise for kids are vision boards. I actually just did a vision board with my kids before the New Year, and it was so great in exploring, again, not just who you are, but where you want to be. What are your aspirations? And think about what we all did is goal setting.

[00:23:57.850] – Speaker 2
Goal setting is a really important part of this discovery process. Again, because if you don’t set goals, you’re probably going to be stuck and keep doing the same thing. So again, I think that the discovery phase is one where most just jump right over. It’s the same thing in business. In the agency and promoting products or services, it’s like everybody wants to go to that shiny penny, Oh, let’s do a TikTok video. My competitor is on TikTok now. No, let’s look at who we are. And I think there’s so much pressure on kids now because especially with social media, they’re comparing themselves with everyone around them. But build that inner core and be true to yourself and who you are. And again, really important muscle to develop as early as possible. Yeah.

[00:25:00.240] – Speaker 1
What I love about what you’re saying is, and I’ve heard you talk about this doesn’t happen by accident, this stuff, right? There’s intentionality. And so much of the conversation that we’ve had, even outside of this topic, is around as parents, how we can get involved and be intentional with our kids and go through a journey with them. And I think it also brings in this idea, I think in our second season, we We had a gentleman named Richard Kalata who wrote the book called Digital for Good: Raising Kids to Thrive in an Online World. And he talked about like, yeah, we can talk about all the dangers and all the stuff for social media, but how can we use this tool that we’ve been given for good? And an example is he would tell his kids on a holiday, get out your phones. I want you to take these specific photos and you’re going to create a scrapbook of our trip. And rather than just having this adversarial relationship, how do we use technology for good. And I think that’s really what you’re doing. You’re combining this idea of using technology for a positive thing in the lives of our kids, but also not just giving them an…

[00:26:13.270] – Speaker 1
We have to get in there and help them uncover some of this. And so it’s an opportunity for adults who care about kids, parents, particularly, to get into the mix of it with kids. And the byproduct of that, which I’m sure you know, Stacy, is like, there’ll be relationship forming things that are significant for you and your child as well, right? Having conversations about what makes them tick, what makes them set apart. It’s not just to be able to write it on a piece of paper, it’s to help them gain some of that inner fortitude about who they are, and then for us to be able to speak into that and journey with them through it. So I love that. And you’ve mentioned a few different age. You talk about 16th and LinkedIn and middle school for the work that your colleague does in that. Just in general, when do we start helping kids build their personal brands? What does that look like? What are the stages? When do we actually sit down and say, Okay, here’s what we’re going to do?

[00:27:16.130] – Speaker 2
It’s interesting. When I wrote this book, I said, I’d say, ninth grade. But after getting out there and speaking and seeing that there’s an interest Just amongst middle school, I pivoted my thinking. But here’s the thing, and I know Jason is teaching my book in a middle school right now. The part that he leaves out of the conversation is social media. When he was teaching on the high school level, he would help them use social media to their advantage. Because as you said before, a strong social media presence can help shine. Rather than hiding online, as many teens tend to do, especially knowing with college admissions, I want them to use social media to share their strengths, interests, and character. And so the age, and again, it can vary on a kid’s maturity, but I believe the exploration and the inner journey, there’s no reason why you can’t start it in middle school. That’s also where a lot of peer pressure begins and a lot of the competition. So I think the sooner you can become more self-aware and figure out, again, what your why is and your wow and who you are and explore, because it’s an experiment.

[00:28:56.480] – Speaker 2
It’s an art and a science. Just explore different different avenues, and you’ll be achieving things along the way. There’ll also be some failures and some things you don’t like, but it’s all… What a great learning experience. And I just think it’s kids in middle school, and even early on in high school, they definitely don’t do enough self-exploration. So I think the earlier you can do it… I mean, think about someone in kindergarten versus someone in eighth or ninth grade. There’s such a difference between… Someone in kindergarten is just like, Draw a picture of one of your favorite moments moments. And the kid just goes on and does that. When you get older, you have all these self-limiting beliefs. But my thought is, just don’t worry what anyone else thinks about the picture. Take your own inward journey and figure it out. And there’s so many different ways to do it. It could be journaling. I’m also a believer in… I talk in my book about a growth versus a fixed mindset and really important teaching for parents to teach kids. And I was so lucky that my mom did this with me. Just a can-do positive attitude.

[00:30:30.260] – Speaker 2
Because that’s when kids will open up and explore and try different things. A fixed mindset would just be, Well, no, I can’t do that. But a growth mindset said, I’ve never done this before, but let me try. It looks really interesting. So again, I also think that that’s a big confidence builder, and it also in turn brings you the awareness of who you are.

[00:30:59.140] – Speaker 1
So on one hand, putting their best foot forward by building an online brand is really important, as we’ve just talked about. But we also know that social media can have a negative impact on kids because of the pressure to be perfect, the comparison inherent in all that. And we’ve been talking a lot about that with different guests in the show, and recently been spending some time doing research. And the surgeon general has now got a warning out for social media and youth mental health. And in the recent advisory, he states that in early adolescence, when identities and sense of self-worth are forming, brain development is especially susceptible to social pressures, peer opinions, and peer comparisons. So how do we navigate the line of doing this in a healthy, positive way and not feeding into this downward spiral of social media comparison? There’s a tension here, right? Of we want to put our best foot forward, but we also don’t want to get swept away in evaluating that compared to others and then having that negative impact. Can you talk a little bit about how we navigate that in a healthy way so that this really helpful process doesn’t then bleed into creating some of the issues that we know social media can?

[00:32:26.480] – Speaker 2
First of all, such a powerful statement. I’m very familiar with the surgeon general and mental health issues. I would actually say, let’s start with the parents, because I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the concept share-enting. It’s basically parents have to be really good role models. So share-and-teeing, and as parents, we all do it. We love our kids. We start out showing pictures from their sonogram to the potty pictures. We’re putting a lot of information out there, and this impacts their digital footprint. It’s so important, again, for us to be a good role model for kids. We want to protect their privacy, their online safety. I recognize after doing some of this work several years ago, I will never, and even though my kids are older, I will never, I ever post without asking them. I’ll show them, let’s say, a family picture. Girls, are you okay if I post this? Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no. But we have to be mindful of this and we have to be respectful. This is their digital footprint. It’s not yours. So that’s one of the issues. The other issue is, I really believe believe that teaching kids digital leadership, citizenship, whatever you want to call it, it should start early.

[00:34:11.550] – Speaker 2
This is not something that’s innate. I can’t imagine. My girls, again, are in their 20s, and they’ll say to me, I would never want to grow up in the world today. It’s like social media and kids feeling left out and bullied. It was like nothing like this. I wish there was an easy answer. I do think, again, this is going back to building that inner core confidence that almost to some degree, you’ve got to be like Teflon, because there’s no way that social media, other people’s posts or seeing other kids together at a party that you weren’t invited. It hurts. It really stinks. And there’s no denying that. I always think that kids need to, again, it’s got to be a little bit like Teflon. Again, and starting that early, kids are given cell phones by the time that they’re 10 and a half. That’s the average age that we give our kids cell phones. So what can we do as parents, as educators, to reinforce the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media to our kids, and how they can navigate their ways through it so they stay mentally healthy and become good citizens themselves.

[00:35:52.400] – Speaker 1
As I was listening to that, I loved how this continues to create this narrative of being involved with our kids, even from shareting what we do into some of the strength that kids need. You talked about Teflon, but that comes from our role with them, too, continuing to firm who they are. And And making sure that even a positive journey of building a personal brand doesn’t get too far ahead, that it could just ease… That’s up to us to be able to navigate that. And I love the involvement. As a bit of a pro tip as a parent, also, do not accept friend requests from your kid’s friends. Yes, you’re right. Because I’ve done that and I got the like, Are you kidding me now, dad, all these photos that you have of me as a kid or whatever, now all my friends can see them, and that’s embarrassing. I didn’t even think of that, right?

[00:36:54.240] – Speaker 2
Yes, that’s a great… Oh, Chris, that is a great tip. The other thing that I hear from because I work with a lot of teens now, is they will complain to me, You should be speaking to my parents about social media and cell phone use. Because we’re at dinner and they’re on their cell phone. It’s like, again, it’s like set ground rules as parents for social media usage. I love that you said that. The other thing that I want to bring up because it’s really important, and I’m always surprised, a lot of kids don’t realize it, not just social media, but be really careful with texting. Don’t think that texting is safe because there are so many stories how kids have screenshot texts that have gone viral. So again, I always say put everything through the pure test.

[00:37:55.790] – Speaker 1
Well, it’s been so helpful and just such a great invigorating conversation. I wonder, as we’re wrapping up a little bit, what are some resources and opportunities you can suggest to parents who are wanting to help their kids put their best foot forward, whether volunteer, first job, school admissions? What are some tools? Obviously, there’s your book, which we’ve talked about, but what other things can you give us advice, resources, opportunities, things that help them in building a strong personal brand?

[00:38:26.100] – Speaker 2
There’s a lot of tools out there currently. There’s one out there called Life Brand that does a scan of kids’ social media. It’ll give you elements, like inappropriate dress. Again, so you can clean up your act. That’s called Life Brand. There’s another tool that is very, very helpful in terms of, it’s called Livestream Digital Innovations. It basically helps kids… It’s a platform, it helps kids showcase their talents and community involvement. It allows admission officers to really conduct a more holistic evaluation beyond grades. I think that’s a great tool. Again, I have to bring in LinkedIn. Again, get on LinkedIn, age 16, really important. Then in terms of volunteer opportunities, there’s so many. I have a whole section in my book. Be very intentional, be deliberate about picking out a volunteer activity. I’ve spoken to so many admission officers, educational consultants that are not wowed when they see a high school student that has gone abroad to a very obvious, expensive volunteer opportunity. Just make it match. Make your volunteer opportunity match with what drives you. What are you passionate about? Just make sure everything is in sync. Admission officers want to see more depth than seeing a kid that has done a million things.

[00:40:28.160] – Speaker 2
I also One other tip that I felt that really helped my older daughter was in her junior year, and colleges look at that, look at some leadership programs. Last but not least, I just want to share one thing. I believe, figure out something that really sets you apart, that’s going to create a big wow. If a kid has unique hobbies, or maybe they want to develop a unique hobby, beekeeping, I don’t know, glass-blowing, learning Swahili, whatever it is, but it’s showing that they just set themselves apart. Show your personal growth, show your cultural heritage. Again, figure out how you’re different and what is going to help you rise to the top of the pile. Because I can I’ll tell you, if there’s two kids applying to the same school, they have a similar GPA, they have similar test scores, the college admission officer who only takes 10 minutes to look at a college application, There’ll be between these two students. The demonstrated interest will be important. But the other thing that will be important is which kid stands out. It’s probably going to be the kid that started a Maybe they started a tutoring business during the pandemic.

[00:42:04.520] – Speaker 2
So again, I actually would love to end it with one of the educational consultants that I spoke with said, Be a one out of 10. Don’t be in a pack of nine.

[00:42:20.850] – Speaker 1
Wow. That’s actually a great place to leave the conversation right there. I think that’s a great summary of what you shared with us, what you do, and really inspiring to think through for our kids. So thank you for the time today, Stacy. It’s been great meeting you and hearing what you do and hearing your passion for helping young people get to where they would want to be. So thank you.

[00:42:43.870] – Speaker 2
And thank you, Chris.

About the Author

Chris Tompkins is the CEO of Muskoka Woods. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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