Having a professional brand is not a new concept. It’s the image you present to potential employers/investors/JV Partners/Clients etc wherever you are. In a competitive market, it’s essential to build your own professional brand so that you will stand out from the rest of the pack and build a consistent reputation. Your brand will also help people remember who you are so that when they are asked if they know someone good for a job, you’ll be more likely to come to mind.
What Determines Your Professional Brand?
There are four key elements that make up the image and brand you present to the public:
1. What you look like. This includes the clothes you wear, your features, your cleanliness, and your makeup (if you wear any). No matter what anyone tells you, people do judge a book by its cover.
2. How you behave. Your behavior is demonstrated through things like your personality, the way you speak, any mannerisms you exhibit (such as twirling your hair), the way you smile (or not), the way you shake someone’s hand, and other actions and statements that demonstrate your values.
3. What you know. Your education gives some indication of what you know. But people will be primarily looking at the skills, knowledge and talent that you possess when assessing your professional brand.
4. How you are different. Your professional brand must include anything that demonstrates how you are different from others. Potential employers are always looking at how you would add value to their company.
Where Will People See Your Professional Brand?
You exhibit your professional brand everywhere, both online and offline, in everything you do. Online, you find your brand reflected in search engine results, social media, any blogs you write for, photos of yourself, or any articles you’ve written. Whether good or bad, your brand is also reflected wherever someone mentions your name.
Offline, you demonstrate your personal brand in any face to face encounters with people. For example, in networking lunches, business meetings, interviews or casual introductions people give you. Anywhere you are mentioned or shown in print, or any offline publications you’ve done will also help build your brand.
Tips for Building the Professional Brand You Want
Here are a few tips that will help you build and maintain the type of professional image and brand that you want potentials to see:
Plug your name into the major search engines and see what results come up. You’ll need to make an effort to move good stuff up the rankings and the not-so-good down the list where people are less likely to find them. You can do this by adding more content to the sites you want to appear. If possible, you can even delete some things, though it might take time to disappear.
Keep your personal life private. Check the privacy filters on anything you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see. Wherever possible, keep personal information offline, unless it is relevant or helps build the image you want.
Practice your elevator speech. Think about what your main skills and knowledge are and how you add value for an employer. Put that into a short 1 minute blurb and practice saying it out loud. You often only get a minute to make an impression when networking, so you need to spark an interest as fast as possible without giving a sales pitch.
Use the same professional photo. Wherever you need to upload or supply a photo of yourself, try to make it the same one. If necessary, get a professional one taken. Whatever you do, take down that photo on your Facebook profile of you and the gang partying on the beach.
Be active on social media, or stay away. Social media and blogs are all about the interaction and social element. If you’re not going to be active on these sites, don’t be there at all and don’t have a profile there. While it’s important to show up online, it’s better to not be there than to seem apathetic by posting once or twice and then disappearing for weeks at a time.
Educate yourself consistently. Stay up to date on what is going on in your industry and the world in general. Read the top blogs and publications in your industry, watch the news, read the latest hot business book, etc.
Do your research. Whenever you are scheduled to have a networking meeting or interview, make sure you have done your research into the company in advance. Demonstrate your knowledge and interest.
The internet has made it easier than ever to establish your own professional brand. However, it is just as easy to project a bad image of yourself as a good one. Work on building a consistent professional brand that is visible to potential employers both online and offline. It can help you stand out from the crowd and land that ideal project much faster.