Why is a professional brand important? Think of your professional brand as how people perceive you. These impressions matter. And given the digital world, first impressions are made not only at phone screens or interviews, but as employees look at your resume and application and view your online profiles.
Here's what you need to know about creating a professional brand that will further your career ambitions, and not sabotage your efforts.
What's a Professional Brand?
These days, there's not much of a gap between personal and professional branding.
Your professional brand is what matters to a potential employer, networking contact, or anyone who can help you find a job or grow your career. Whether you call it your personal or professional brand, it is important that it reflects who you are as a person.
It's also key to make sure that the information available about you online is visible, available, and relevant to where you are in your career and where you want to go next.
Check Your Online Presence
What type of branding do you have? There's an easy way to check what image you are showing to the world. Search your name on the internet and see what shows up.
Most likely, your social media accounts—for instance, your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts—will show up in the top of the search results page. (Here's more on how to use social media to boost your career.) If you have a website (a blog or portfolio or other), that's also likely to show up.
Next, it's important to click through to each of these results.
Try to look at every one of the pages about you with fresh eyes. What would an employer think of your presence?
While it's OK to have some personal information, you don't want to advertise the number of "last calls" you've made at your favorite bar to anyone who might be in a position to hire you or recommend you for a job.
Instead, you want to project something professional. Again, this should match your personality and presence at work.
Keep Your Personal Life Private
You can still have personal information on the web. Just make sure that it's only available to the people you want to see it. Ensure that employers are finding what you want them to find, and what they are viewing is appropriate.
Be careful what you write on your blog, or other people's blogs or social networking pages. Don't let the whole world see your personal information.
Tips for Creating Your Professional Brand
Once you've made sure that your personal details and posts are only viewable by who you want to see them, start building your professional brand.
Showcase Your Talents
This will serve a couple of purposes. First, through your professional brand, you can showcase your talents to potential employers. For instance, if you're a writer, you can post links to recent articles you've written. Or, if you're looking to show that you're engaged in your industry, you can share relevant articles on your social media accounts.
Focus on Your Professional Content
Plus, building up your professional brand will bump the not-so-good stuff down the list in Google. That way, any prospective employer who Googles you should see what you want them to see: your professional branding.
Use the Same Photo
Use the same photo on all the networking sites, websites, and blogs that you use. For example, if you're using LinkedIn and Facebook, and/or have a blog or a personal website, upload the same photo to each site.
That visual effect will help build your brand and will help increase your recognition by prospective employers and career contacts.
Here's advice on how to take and choose a photo for your LinkedIn profile. Use that same photo on all your networking sites so the brand you are presenting is consistent.
Promote Your Name
One goal of personal branding is to increase your presence in the search engines. So, when you (or prospective employers) search Google or the other search engines, your results rank high. Using your name as your URL whenever possible will help you bolster your rankings.
If there is descriptive text—such as your bio on Twitter or summary on LinkedIn—you can consider making it match across all of your profiles.
Professional Branding Tools
- LinkedIn: Create a LinkedIn profile and start connecting. Ask and answer LinkedIn questions to increase your visibility.
- JibberJobber: Use JibberJobber to keep track of those networking contacts and keep a log of how they have helped you.
- Build a Website: Consider a website to create and showcase your brand. Many web hosting services have built in web building tools and it's quick and easy to build a site that reflects your professional presence.
- Write a Blog: A well-written blog focused on your area of expertise is another good addition to your professional branding package.
- Create a Presence: Comment on other people's blogs, write some articles, go to industry meetings, conventions, and events, and make contacts in your field. Be sure that all your endeavors are focused and relevant to both your skills and your career goals.
- Get Your Name Out There: Try to meet, either online or in-person, the important people in your field. Send them an email or a message via their website or networking profile.
- Volunteer: If you have time and if there's a way to volunteer in a capacity where you can use your skills and expertise, volunteering is another way to gain exposure as an expert in your career field. It's a good resume building tool, as well.
Keep Building Your Brand
Building your brand isn't a one shot deal. It takes time to build a solid presence and should be an ongoing endeavor. Keep your profiles up-to-date, stay in touch with your contacts, build and maintain your network, and work on your branding on a regular basis.