The Basics of Building a Personal Brand

What better way to start my personal blog, than to talk about personal branding?

Although Jay Nine Inc. mainly does consultations for service and web based businesses, we are also contracted to help professionals and job seekers build their personal brand. This could be someone looking to make a company change, or an executive/key member looking to grow their network and influence.

One of things we insist upon with these clients is the importance of establishing a personal brand, and having content on the web where people can find out about you. In today’s day and age, it’s time to talk about what you’re doing to represent you online.

Here’s something I’d like you to do:

  • Do a Google search on your name (and location if you have a common name, another personal qualifier if you have an even more common name) and see what comes up
  • Do a Google search on your email and see what comes up

What does your personal brand say about you? Are you happy with it?

If the answer isn’t an immediate yes, let me give you some guidance on establishing your personal brand:

Clean Up Your Social Networks

I know you think this is obvious, but I’ve sifted through thousands and thousands of profiles in my professional career—and I bet yours needs work.  This goes beyond making everything “private.” In fact, I actually encourage most job seekers not to make everything private—only the truly private things.

Here are some things I see a lot:

  • Endless complaining in status updates. This is really unprofessional, and shows that you’re a “whiner” not a “doer.” Do you like working with people who complain about everything? Neither does anyone else.
  • Slutty pictures. This goes for both women and men. In fact, I’ve seen more shirtless drunk men pictures than I have scantily clad women when doing job searching and professional prospecting.
  • Party picturesThere’s a big difference between having a picture of you and some friends at a party or business mixer, and having a picture of you (or your friends) in a state of falling down drunk. Look at each one of your pictures and imagine this picture is blown up and behind you in a consulting or job interview.
  • Lame job descriptions for being unemployed. Identify yourself as a professional in the industry you’re looking for a job in. Being “unemployed” or another immature writing of “unemployed” will not get you anywhere. The purpose of your personal brand is to demonstrate your expertise. “Experts” are never “unemployed” or “seeking new opportunities.”
  • tYpn Lyk Tis. [Translation: “Typing like this”] or any other variation of “text speak,” and illiterate speak. A few typos here and there and non-perfect grammar is forgivable in most cases. Your potential employers are not morons and know this is your person life, and you’re not necessarily going to type with 100% accurate grammar. With that being said, if what you’re writing doesn’t make any sense—it is a reflection of your communication skills.

At the end of the day, you need to look professional—relative to whatever field you’re in.

Note: My clients and I have trashed just as many applications that have no information online, as the ones who have stupid information online. When you’re going through 100 or more applications, the ones that can’t be “prescreened” are garbage. This includes applications from vendors. Meaning, if you’re a business professional selling to other business professionals—your sales pitch will be ignored if I can’t learn about you without calling you first.

Establish a Blog and Website

A personal blog and website is a wonderful, wonderful way to showcase your thoughts, ideas, concepts, and tell the world (and your employers who you are). It will also likely help you become a better writer, and thinker—while helping you further develop your thinking strategies.

Try and develop the blog around your unique selling point (USP). In business, we refer to a USP as “what you have that none of your competitors do.” Or, what makes you “unique.”

This blog shouldn’t be your resume, but should help people identify who you are as a person. It should be a way that people can find out what you’re passionate about, what your strengths are—and even what some of your weaknesses are.

You can start off with low cost alternatives to establish and build this website—but I highly recommend hiring an expert to help you. Not only will a good one build you a tailored website—they’ll also provide an outside opinion on your area of expertise.

Spiff Up Your LinkedIn

So many people are missing out on using LinkedIn for professional growth. LinkedIn is a powerhouse in business marketing and personal branding. It’s time for you to take another look at what your LinkedIn looks like.

Here are some things that will put you above 90% of other job seekers:

  1. Have a good profile picture

Get a professional headshot done for your LinkedIn profile. If you can’t have a professional headshot, have someone snap a picture of you in a suit or something else that’s professional. Don’t post the picture of you at a basketball game or (worse) at a bar. In the age of smartphones, there is no excuse for you to have a non-professional picture on LinkedIn.

  1. Write a great LinkedIn Summary

Write your summary from the first person, and again, talk about who you are, and what you do. Talk about what your goals are, and talk about why you are the best fit for whatever industry you’re in.

Also, as some food for thought, consider which person YOU would contact for an interview?

I’m looking for new experiences and a position as an admin assistant.”

“I’ve been a top performing admin assistant for years, ensuring that my bosses see more down time and a better organized office.”

Be confident in who you are and what you offer when you’re writing your summary. Use text and stories to tell people about what you bring to the table, and spend some time getting it right. I wrote an article for my company that gives you more insight on writing a LinkedIn summary.

  1. Complete Your Profile

It’s important you have a “complete” profile. It helps you rank higher in LinkedIn’s internal search feature, and it provides potential employers with a lot more access to your work, work history, and who you are as a person.

  1. Add As Many Connections as Possible

Your LinkedIn “network” is based on how many connections you have. Use their tools to add your colleagues, classmates, friends, family and so on. Now, here’s the part where most other guides miss the boat—start interacting with them as soon as they accept your connection! It astounds me how many people’s friends don’t know what they do for a living. “Oh he does something with computers,” people will say about someone who does graphic design work.

Studies show that between 60 – 80% of jobs are found through personal relationships. Freelancer, independent contractor or business professional, and they will likely tell you that referrals are their best source of new business. Most of my best and biggest clients are people that were referred to me, or people that I knew personally (compared to cold sales or direct advertising). LinkedIn helps build and expand this network.

Following these strategies will help you identify and build your personal brand. Remember, a personal branding campaign never ends. Until you die, you should be constantly growing yourself as a professional—and sharing your journey along the way.

PS. On Passwords and Giving Employers Full Access

For job seekers: there is a new trend arising that employers will ask you for your Facebook/LinkedIn username and password before giving you a job. I’d highly recommend you don’t even consider giving them that kind of information.

First, it’s becoming illegal in most states and hopefully will be illegal everywhere very soon. Secondly, do you really want to work for the person who wants to go through all of your personal messages, thoughts and similar before they hire you?

While it’s one thing for  present employers to have access to email and work related networks (for example, my employees provide us with access to their LinkedIn profiles, so we can coach them with sales and marketing efforts) it’s a completely different ballgame for someone to want to go through your personal information before hiring you.

Image Credit: Ryan Rancatore

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