Few people realize the importance of developing a personal brand that’s professional and customized like a business. Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook represent who we are as people and professionals, whether you work for yourself, a startup, or a large corporation. Just as you want to showcase yourself well in public or in the workplace, having an organized, detailed, and polished online presence will not only reflect well when you seek a new job, it can also help you gain new opportunities in your current role.
Think about it: If you’re looking to hire someone to do a task, you’re going to look them up online to see if they’re qualified, right? If you can’t find them or identify whether they’re up for the task, you’ll find someone else. Displaying your skills, talents, experience, and personality are essential to creating a personal brand that people can trust. Having a competent personal brand also reflects positively on your company — you are a representative of the larger brand.
In a conversation with career website, Levo League on Twitter, we asked them for practical tips on #PersonalBranding:
— Levo League (@levoleague) April 24, 2015
Whether you’re looking for new clients or a promotion, a strong personal brand can lead to more successful connections, leads, and professional opportunities. Here’s how to define your brand and set yourself apart from the crowd.
Create a Polished Digital Presence
There are a few practical ways to create a personal brand. We spoke with JC Ford, an independent brand consultant, for insight on digital branding, “The Internet gives people the option to brand themselves in so many ways. From personal websites to LinkedIn profiles, it’s not if you brand yourself anymore, it’s how you brand. In the past, you had to create a physical portfolio, which limited the types of work you could showcase. Now you can update your work via a personal website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, About Me, and so on.”
So, first and foremost, you must have a digital presence. We can probably assume you already have a LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle, or Facebook profile, but are you using them correctly? Does it feature a professional and current photo of yourself? An appropriate photo is like a good book cover for your story. Think about how to accurately portray your skills, experience and personality in a way that’s appropriate and easy to understand.
Develop and Convey a Core Message
As a brand consultant, Ford helps companies tell their stories. With a personal brand, you have to do the same thing: “Brand voice, mission statement, core messaging. All of these apply to a personal brand.”
Ford suggests finding your “sweet spot” when it comes to expressing who you are as a brand, “Are you witty? Edgy? Technical? Make sure your personal branding copy reflects this.” Using a brand voice not only provides a consistent tone for your brand, it shows your personality in a professional way.
She also suggests having a mission statement and core messaging — two more essential components of a successful brand for a company or professional. A mission statement is a helpful reminder of who you are and where you’re going. For example, “Are you motivated by social good? Any time you’re tempted to work for a corporation that doesn’t reflect your values, pull out your mission statement and read it again,” explains Ford. “The only person who can keep you on track is you.”
And, finally, core messaging allows potential clients and prospective employers an opportunity to understand you and your work succinctly. “Hone these messages down to two or three statements,” says Ford. “If you can’t come up with statements, choose words. For example, one of my core words is ‘authentic.’ I like to work with brands who want to remain true to their customers’ wants and needs.”
Leverage Your Platform from LinkedIn to Twitter
There are a few common mistakes people make with their personal brand. Foremost, people forget that each platform has a specific purpose. Senior marketing manager of LinkedIn Talent Solutions, Blake Buisson, says: “People don’t think about how to target the right audience. While my experience is heavily indexed to LinkedIn, I often find that people aren’t thoughtful about how they come across on their LinkedIn or Facebook personas. Each platform serves a purpose and many people don’t execute them very well. For example, you don’t post cats on LinkedIn or your resume on Facebook.”
Represent Your Work Accurately
While searching for new marketing talent he also finds that people inflate their experience or simply come off as people you wouldn’t want to work with or hire, “Some people forget that real people are reading these profiles and if they are too puffy or showy, but you have limited experience, that’s not someone you’d want to hire. Clearly you’re not that great if you’re an associate manager at a company I’ve never heard of — it’s totally cool if you’ve only worked in marketing for two years. Own it — show what you’re good at and what you’ll bring to your next role.”
How can you show what you’re good at online? Buisson suggests including rich media. “If you can include rich media like a portfolio, it helps a lot. I’m recruiting right now and honestly, after a while everyone sounds the same, but when people attach a piece of work they’ve done to their profile — something that makes them real — I find that immensely valuable.”
Showing examples of your work is the perfect way to show your skills, however it also demonstrates the type of work you’re interested in doing. Attaching work to your LinkedIn profile, showcasing it on your personal website or having a record of relevant work on Twitter are great ways to increase the quality of your personal brand. Ford also suggests listing companies you’ve worked for in your profile, “I chose to list each client individually because it’s easier to scan quickly than a list. It also allows you to add the logo for each company, which can look impressive if you’ve worked for bigger brands.”
Both Ford and Buisson agreed one of the most important aspects of creating a personal brand is authenticity. “Be yourself,” says Ford, “Don’t spend hours reviewing the ways you ‘should’ do things. Decide where your talents lie and find the best way to share them with your potential audience.”
As for your digital profiles or personal website, “Write a human description of yourself,” says Buisson. “Write like a normal person you’d meet at the park or the bar. On LinkedIn a lot of people write very technically and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on my ‘Who am I?’ section because it’s written the way I speak.”
Think of your digital self as a reflection of your actual self and each platform showcases the facets of you — professional (LinkedIn) and personal (Facebook). Twitter should represent how you communicate and balance the professional and personal ways you express yourself.
Find Someone You Admire
If you’re still feeling a little lost when it comes to your personal brand, the Levo League recommends looking to others whose work you admire:
— Levo League (@levoleague) April 24, 2015
By seeking out other like-minded professionals and how they display their digital brands, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how to cultivate an accurate portrayal of yourself to so you can achieve more success and confidence in your career and professional communications. Plus, if you connect with them, you’ll grow your professional network.