How to build a personal brand online
Just as Coca-Cola®, Apple® and Microsoft® corporate brands can instantly convey an unspoken message about their companies’ quality and value to consumers, a strong personal brand can communicate what job seekers have to offer to employers.
“Your personal brand is the perception others have of you … and ideally, that perception should be an authentic reflection of your credibility, skills, talent, personality and character,” explains Shauna Mackenzie, MA, a professional image consultant. “It’s a combination of appearance, behavior and communication.”
Here are four ways to build a marketable personal brand to attract an employer’s attention:
Establish a wide online presence.
Set up multiple Internet venues to showcase your skills and experience, stresses Grace Chan, MA, a licensed professional counselor and career coach for Phoenix Career Services™.
“CEOs and corporations have online brands, and as such, they assess potential job candidates based on their online platforms,” Chan explains. “In order to be marketable, you need to demonstrate that you’re up to date on all the current [online] technology instead of just handing out resumés.”
Chan recommends starting with the LinkedIn® professional network and establishing professional profiles on Facebook®, Twitter® and Google+™ social media platforms. “Fill out all the profiles completely and keep them updated with all your latest accomplishments, skills and awards,” she advises. “Use a professional-looking recent headshot in work attire, not a personal photo.”
Use current terminology to describe your skills and experience so your profile comes up on job recruiters’ keyword searches, Chan notes. “Read job postings for positions you want, to discover the right keywords to use,” she says.
Other networking sites to consider include about.me, Flavors and BrandYourself, according to Mackenzie. “These sites serve as interactive online resumés of sorts and are a great way to help ensure that [your professional profiles] pop up first in a Google™ search of your name,” she says.
Act in a professional manner.
“Try to keep your personal online profiles separate from your professional ones,” Chan stresses, and set personal accounts to “private” so they don’t show up in Google searches. “You don’t want potential employers finding pictures of you drinking [alcohol] or wearing a Halloween costume,” she says.
You also shouldn’t post anything controversial or too personal. “Avoid political rants, religious references or anything else you wouldn’t be comfortable discussing with an employer,” Chan recommends.
Mackenzie suggests regularly untagging yourself from any photos or other content shared on social media. “If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it, it should probably come down,” she says, regardless of who posted it.
Establish yourself as a credible expert.
A strong online brand illustrates that you’re knowledgeable and engaged in your chosen field and the professional world, Mackenzie maintains.
“Get involved on LinkedIn first — join discussion groups there related to your discipline, ask questions, answer others’ questions and share your knowledge,” she advises. “Seek to become an influencer in your area of expertise or desired expertise that the job you’re seeking requires.”
Mackenzie also recommends frequenting blogs, news sites and other venues that post content related to your profession, and writing thoughtful comments on articles or videos that interest you, which can showcase your expertise to potential employers trolling those sites. Most disciplines have their own professional associations, so find one that fits you, she advises.
Whether you’re entry-level or advanced, Chan recommends creating a blog, podcast or video diary in which you discuss interesting happenings in your discipline, such as ideas for solving common workplace problems. “Make it entertaining and post often — at least weekly,” she notes.
Aim for a consistent message.
Everything you do and say online becomes part of your brand, so “never post anything online you can’t back up in person,” Mackenzie says, whether it’s making sure you actually look like your posted headshot or using the same well-informed tone in an email or status update as you would in an actual job interview.
“You can walk the walk all you want online, but if you can’t talk the talk in person, your credibility will be tarnished tremendously,” Mackenzie explains. “The ideal situation is that when you walk into the room for an interview, the employer is thrilled that their initial perception of you based on your online presence turned out to be true in person.”
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