If you have just graduated or are a fairly new entrant into the professional world you may be a bit mystified by all the talk of personal branding buzzing around the Internet. How can I have a brand if I just started out? Can my brand be “desperate for work”? Don’t worry. You can create a brand for yourself right from the start with four simple steps ~ but don’t go with the desperate for work theme, that one is not a door opener.
Step One: Decide on a Theme
This step will take some thought. How do you want employers and colleagues to think of you? Try to come up with three interconnected character traits that encapsulate who you want to be professionally. It is OK if this is not who you are yet. It is meant to be your end goal at this point.
Do you want to be “motivational, dynamic and client driven” or “meticulous, professional and straight to the point.” Throw around some ideas. Hash it over with some friends. After a while you will hit on a theme that describes who you want to be.
Step Two: Scrub Your Virtual Identity
This one is pretty straightforward but it will take some time. As someone who grew up in the midst of the information revolution you most likely have a pretty substantial virtual footprint. It is time to look at the entirety of it with a very critical eye. The first step in creating a personal brand is making sure there is nothing out there that will contradict your soon-to-be-decided on theme.
Go through your various profiles and postings on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pisca, MySpace and any other social media site. Delete anything that could come back to haunt you. You don’t need to wipe them clean- employers want you to have a personality after all. However, if your posts paint the picture of a serial keg-stand artist you may want to change that.
Step Three: Rewrite Your Profiles
Now create a new profile for each of your social media accounts with the thematic statement you created in Step One in mind. Use your three character traits as your tag line in each account. Let this be the first thing anyone searching for you sees. Then back it up. Create a reading list at Amazon that supports your goals and attach it to your profile. Put a quote or two from someone who exemplifies your theme on your page.
At this point you have begun building your brand. Congratulations! But you’re not done yet.
Step Four: Create Your Professional Documents
There are two main items that fit in this category, your resume and your Linkedin profile. Both are vitally important in creating a personal brand. Start with the resume as that will give you some content for the Linkedin profile later. There are numerous tutorials out there for how to write a resume, including some of my own, so I won’t go into detail as to the nuts and bolts.
However I do want to say a few words on how to insert your brand. Go back to your theme from Step One (notice I keep going back up there ~ yes, it is that important!) when your write your objective or profile statement at the top of your resume include the character traits prominently. Then as you fill out the rest of the resume sections be sure to make those traits the driving message of the document. If something doesn’t support those ideas, leave it out, or at least minimize it.
Then upload your resume to a Linkedin account. Be sure to fill out your profile completely. Take advantage of all the apps that the site allows for. Include your Amazon list here. You can’t have too much info up on this site, as long as it supports your new brand.
OK, I’ve done everything you said. Now what?
Now comes the hard part. You have to get involved socially online with people and organizations that you want to be part of your professional life and to whom you want to promote yourself as your newly created brand. This will take time, but a couple years down the road when you have a fully search-able and professional brand associated with your name, future job searching will be that much more productive.