If you are using the internet as a resource in your job search (which I imagine is the case), the topic of your personal brand has probably come up at some point. While this may sound a bit cheesy (it definitely did to me at first), it doesn't mean you have to come up with your own NBA slogan to stick on your business cards ('This is where employment happens'). In reality, your personal brand is simply how you come across as a polished final product to potential employers.
In the days before the internet, this was a lot easier - nice clothing, good resume paper and a business card - however things have changed. In 2009, your personal brand is much more complex and you have to do quite a bit more to maintain your positive image.
Once you have realized the importance of maintaining your personal brand, you must also realize that this is neither an overnight process, nor something that can be done once and forgotten about. Maintaining your professional image is a big time commitment and needs to be attended to even after you start your job! Some of the steps I'm going to write about are Social Networking sites and require you to build up and maintain connections to make best use of the site.
Much of what I'm going to explain will be focused on your internet image. Start off by Google searching yourself, you might be surprised by what shows up. Make sure there are no compromising photos that someone put in a Webshots account 4 years ago that you didn't even know existed. You might have to e-mail someone you haven't spoken to in years but ASK THEM TO TAKE IT DOWN.
While having compromising content show up in your Google search is the worst thing for your personal brand, having NOTHING come up is the next worst possibility. Many of the following steps will help your "search engine profile".
That being said, here are 8 easy ways to start consolidating your personal brand:
1. Get a new e-mail address
While your college e-mail address is perfectly appropriate, you will only have access to it for a few more months if it hasn't been shut down already. Go to a free e-mail provider (like Gmail) and claim your name before some similarly named person gets to it first! The most simple, appropriate and easy to remember address would be First name.Last firstname.lastname@example.org but don't despair if your name is already claimed. If this is the case, try adding your middle initial. While I am still guilty of using my college account for some older conversations, try and gradually switch over to your new account.
2. Get a set of business cards
There are plenty of cheap, online print companies that let you design your own business card. I used www.vistaprint.com and was very happy with their service and price. A business card is great to have when you are going to networking events and working hard to get your name out. By having your information consolidated on one card, it makes it much easier for your busy contacts to stay in touch with you.
3. Create a Google profile
This is much easier if you have already created a Gmail account because you will be able to link your profile to your e-mail. If keeping things simple and organized is appealing to you (and why wouldn't it be?), Google is the way to go. The point of the Google profile, which can be found here, http://www.google.com/profiles, is to control what information shows up when your name is typed into a search engine. You can fill out contact information, about me, where you've lived/worked etc. This is also the first place in my list where you can upload a picture. A picture is a good idea as long as you keep it professional. Try to keep the same picture through all of your profiles so that it is easier to connect them all together and to you!
Three weeks ago I didn't know the first thing about Twitter and now I am absolutely convinced of its value in both social networking and the job search. If you are new to Twitter, check out this site first - http://news.cnet.com/newbies-guide-to-twitter. In using Twitter for your personal brand, be sure to always update appropriately! This is something that everyone can see and you should approach the site accordingly. Again, in order to consolidate your personal brand, try to make your username as close as possible to your e-mail account. I will go into Twitter in more detail in the future, but for now, claim your name and mess around with the site. Try to be smart about who you follow, ie. don't follow a disproportionate amount of celebrities. Also, you can use Twitter in the job search - http://www.twitterjobsearch.com/.
5. Claim your name on Facebook
I'm not going to go into much detail on Facebook because it is so widely used already. In the interest of your personal brand, however, I will say to CLAIM YOUR NAME - http://www.facebook.com/username/. I know that lots of people made fun of the username feature when it was first introduced but take advantage of it. Your account link will be www.facebook.com/yourusername. In the interest of making things easier, how much more simple could your Facebook link be? Also, make sure your photos are blocked and appropriate, your updates are appropriate, and consider locking your wall so your friend doesn't 'compromise' your page at 3 AM.
6. Get LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a very powerful social networking tool focused on the professional world. If you haven't already, make an account (using your new e-mail) and fill out your profile. Make sure that you use the same picture you have been using for everything else and don't start friending people like you would on Facebook. If you are unfamiliar with LinkedIn, check this short video for some tips - http://revver.com/video/994363/linkedin-profile-tutorial/. When filling out this profile, make sure you include your twitter and facebook accounts. This is one place where making those easy to remember links comes in handy. REMEMBER...if you link to Facebook on your LinkedIn page, make sure it is 100% appropriate first.
7. Resume/Cover Letter
Your resume is basically a snapshot of your achievements over the past few years and should be absolutely perfect before you hand it to someone. Check your university's career services page for tips on how to start building a resume or e-mail me at Mitch.Brummer@gmail.com. I will provide editing/critique's on completed resumes and help getting started if you are feeling overwhelmed. More to come on Resumes later...
Cover Letters typically follow a very rigid structure in their organization. Check this website for help with cover letters - http://jobstar.org/tools/resume/cletters.php.
With both of these documents, MAKE SURE THEY ARE PERFECT. Potential employers get stacks of these every day and one quick and easy way to get yours thrown in the trash is to have an error. On the flip side, if you can make yours unique, all the better for you.
8. Dress the part
While this last one may seem obvious, the biggest part of your personal brand is YOU. You can have the flashiest websites and a flawless resume but when it comes right down to it, how you come across in person is really what matters. That being said, invest in some nice clothing for interviews. Don't break the bank but one nice set is important (Guys, look at Jos. A Banks, they always have great deals). If there is any confusion at all as to the appropriate interview attire, check this site - http://www.quintcareers.com/dress_for_success.html. While business casual is becoming more popular in the work place, interview attire is still conservative and formal. Also, don't be the one who forgets a button or has scuffed shoes. Take the extra time because if you can't even dress yourself, who is going to give you any more responsibility?
Following these 8 suggestions will get you started on the road to success with your personal brand. Remember, doing these thing IS your job right now, don't neglect your responsibilities. In a time where competition is skyrocketing, don't do anything that would submarine your job search! Also, realize that ignoring your personal brand is not an option either. Don't leave what shows up on your Google search to chance. Take the initiative and the payoff will be huge.
If you have any questions please comment or email me. Again, I am offering free resume critiques so send them to Mitch.Brummer@gmail.com for help!
Job Article of the Day: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/business/20090726_Personal_Finance__Age-based_way_to_get_to_your_goal.html
Song of the Day:
Knights of Cydonia - Muse