If you don’t manage your professional brand, someone else will do it for you.
As professionals, we use many symbols to express our professional identity, better known as our personal brand. The most successful professionals carefully manage their brand across many different channels throughout their careers.
Whether you’re new to the workforce or a seasoned professional, take time to monitor and manage your personal brand to increase your career success. Here’s a checklist to help you accomplish just that.
Before you can evaluate your current brand, consider what you’d like your brand to represent. How do you want to be viewed by your industry peers? What are you great at and passionate about – in other words, how do you provide value to your current employer? What are your long-term career goals and what will it take to get you there? By asking yourself these questions and trying a few job-goal exercises, you will be able to clarify what you’d like your personal brand to represent and what changes you’ll need to make in your current brand to achieve this.
Experts agree that your appearance plays a role in your professional advancement. Your grooming, clothing, and hairstyle all affect your personal brand. Invest in a professional haircut, updated clothes and personal grooming services to lend to a professional look. Remember, clothes have an expiration date. Remove any items from your professional wardrobe that are more than five years old, with the exception of a few classic investment pieces that were made to last you a lifetime. Fit is a huge factor. You’re better off picking up a suit at a discount retailer and then paying to have it altered rather than splurging on an expensive suit that doesn’t fit you quite right.
If you’re looking to advance your career, take some cues from the next level of management. How does your boss and her peers dress for a regular work day? While you don’t want to looked overdressed in your current your position, it’s important to start doing little things to step up your attire so that you come off looking polished and ready for the next challenge. Additionally, be careful what you wear during company outings and other more relaxed settings, such as a summer picnic or casual Friday dress code.
Most people don’t update their resume until they need to use it. However, that’s the worst time to re-write your resume because emotions tend to run higher, making it difficult to remain an objective writer. In addition, you might not have access to all the necessary information to write a truly compelling document. Do yourself a favor and keep a running list of your professional accomplishments and contributions in what I call a brag sheet. That way, you’re always prepared when a great opportunity comes up. Also upload your updated resume to career sites you’ve previously used so recruiters don’t send you inappropriate job leads.
In today’s marketplace, it’s essential for every professional to actively manage their online presence. Start by Googling your name so you have a baseline for your online brand. Remember, if you can find it online, so can prospective employers and valuable networking contacts. Make sure your name is consistently represented across every professional profile (and on your resume), and increase the security settings on your personal accounts that shouldn’t be associated with your professional brand. Take the time to flesh out at least one professional profile on sites like LinkedIn, GitHub, or About.Me, depending upon your line of work. If you work in a creative field, consider creating a personal site that has a mobile-responsive design so you can share your portfolio from any device.
While a photo on your resume is still considered taboo, recruiters have come to expect an image on your online professional profiles. In fact, your LinkedIn profile is 40 percent more likely to get clicked on if it contains a photo. However, choose your picture strategically. Use a head shot that is professional, friendly, and in alignment with your personal brand. Your selfie is not going to score you any points with prospective employers. And while you may have a great family or an adorable dog, neither of these images belongs in your profile picture.
Between Instagram and Facebook, there may be myriad photos you do not wish your professional network or future employer to see. Take the time to safeguard your social media accounts and un-tag yourself from, or delete any, photos that are inappropriate or paint you in a negative light.
Make sure your brand is consistent across all these channels. Your goal is to make sure that the version of you who people meet online and on paper is the same person they will meet face-to-face at networking events or in the interview room.