Whether you’re currently in the hunt for a new opportunity, seeking a place on a local board or looking to grow your new business, having a personal brand that’s approachable and accessible through the digital realm is an essential. Let’s start with the 10 basics every young professional needs to master to be effective in the realm of personal branding.
1. Think like the CEO of You, Inc. Regardless of the business you happen to be in at the moment, your more important ‘business’ is the business of You, Inc. You need to think, act, plan and work like the CEO of your own organization. Always be working “on the business” to improve what you know, who you know, how you work and how you’re perceived. Taking command of your own brand is the first step in leaving a lasting, positive impression.
2. A master networking plan. No, you don’t need to write a 30-page document, but you need to have a plan for connecting with the people that matter to you in a way that is mutually beneficial. People can smell a self-serving glad-hander from three clicks away on the Internet. Focus on the value you bring to those around you and always look for networking opportunities.
3. Listen to the online conversation. Using tools like Google Alerts and Google Reader, you can ‘tune in’ to what the web is saying about your industry, your passion, your company and even you! Being full of knowledge in your industry can help to build your personal brand and position you as a resource in your area.
4. Be consistent in your communication. If you often hear comments like “We’ve never met, but I always see your comments on LinkedIn (or Twitter) and really like what you have to say” then you’re on the right track. Being consistent (and helpful) with your communication brands you as a positive resource that people will look to for advice.
5. Bring yourself to every interaction. One of the things that people consistently say about the most ‘well branded’ individuals is that they’re “the same wherever you see them” whether in a meeting, at the farmer’s market or in a crowd. What those individuals have figured out is how to bring themselves, and their passions, into everything they do. This behavior strengthens your personal connect by delivering exactly what people have come to expect of you.
6. Write and be read. There are few things that establish your preeminence as a trustworthy personal brand than having your name in print. I realize it’s a digital world, but the written word matters and no matter how you “always say” something that you might be known for, getting it down in writing puts you on another level entirely. Writing could mean everything from LinkedIn group postings to writing articles for the newspaper (like this one). Write something to publish.
7. Get a professional headshot. I’m amazed at the sheer number of social network profiles I come across on social networks that don’t include photos when the research and our own human experience tells us that we need to ‘put our best face forward.’
8. Take control of your Internet visibility. Have you Googled yourself lately? What does the Internet say about you? Being invisible is not the path to personal brand success. Find out where you’re listed and stay on top of how the Internet presents your brand. Not finding much? Why not start a blog or a small personal website. Google is the home page of You, Inc. Make sure you like what shows up about you.
9. Align with causes that suit your brand. A cause, such as a non-profit or local mission-centered group, will bring out the best in you if you can align your purpose, passion, brand and the cause of your choice so that everyone wins. The best CEOs of You, Inc. find organizations to align with that share their beliefs and allow them to engage in opportunities to make a meaningful impact on the community.
10. Be a trendsetter in your community or industry. No, this is not a license to purchase a new trendy wardrobe. Rather, the best personal brands are measured by the ideas that they’re attached to. It’s often said in the branding world that “If you don’t stand for something, then your customer won’t stand by you”. Focus on an idea, stand for something and stand out as personal brand.