Personal vs. Professional Branding
There may not be much difference between personal and professional branding, but from my perspective, 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. It's more than a case of making sure your personal brand reflects who are as a person. It's also making 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 Brand
What type of branding do you have? There's an easy way to check what image you are showing to the world. Google your name and see what shows up. I've put quite a bit of effort into building my "Alison Doyle" brand. Google my name and you'll find, all on page one of the search results, my About.com Job Searching site, my LinkedIn profile, my Twitter Profile, links to the books I've written, a link to my Alison Doyle blog, and a link to my company's web site.
Susan Heathfield, About.com's Guide to Human Resources, has done a good job of building her professional brand, as well. Google "Susan Heathfield" and you'll find Susan's About.com site, her blog, and her bio on Microsoft, where she has contributed some articles.
This is all the type of information you want a prospective employer or client to find. You don't want to advertise the photos of what you did on your summer vacation, the great time you had at your high school reunion, or the number of "last calls" you've made at your favorite bar or club, to anyone who might be in a position to hire you or recommend you for a job.
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. Use this Job Search Internet Checklist to 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:
Once you've made sure that your personal information is only viewable by who you want to see it, start building your professional brand. This will serve a couple of purposes. In addition to being information that showcases your talents for potential employers, it's also information that, if created properly, 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.
Professional Branding Tools
- JibberJobber - Use JibberJobber to keep track of those networking contacts and keep a log of how they have helped you.
- LinkedIn - Create a LinkedIn profile and start connecting. Ask and answer LinkedIn questions to increase your visibility.
- VisualCV - Create a VisualCV to share with contacts and prospective employers.
- Write a Blog - I know everyone, almost literally, has a blog these days. However, 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.
- Build a Web Site - Consider a web site 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.
- 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 web site or networking profile. Over the years, I've met lots of the important people in the world of job searching and careers, many of them because I sent them a quick email introducing myself or vice versa.
- 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.
Don't Slack Off
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.