I know many people view the term “personal branding” as nonsense – pretentious hogwash and marketing balderdash. They feel that we didn’t need a personal brand in the 1990′s so we don’t need one now.
Life would be much simpler for all of us if that view was correct. But, unfortunately, it is wrong.
We lived in a much smaller world during the 20th Century.
The Internet and Google Have Changed the “Game”!
A personal brand is critical to the success of a 21st Century job search, and the longer a job seeker ignores defining and disseminating their personal brand, the longer and more difficult their job hunt could be.
In the 1990′s and before, most of us didn’t have (or need) a personal brand. Unless we were actors, authors, politicians, musicians — think: James Earl Jones, Truman Capote, Bill Clinton, Cher — a personal brand was irrelevant and unnecessary.
We were known by the people who needed to know us, so differentiating ourselves from the rest of the world was not necessary. Life was simple.
Your Personal Brand = Your Professional Reputation
Think of your “personal brand” as what we’ve long taken for granted – our professional reputations. Our professional reputation is much more visible to the whole world now because of our blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other online visibility, including email. That visibility makes a personal brand/online reputation much more important, too.
Rather than the local reputation we had in the 1990′s and earlier, this reputation must be visible, world-wide. Recruiters search for qualified job candidates, and “vetting” the candidate’s online reputation is very definitely part of the process now for the vast majority of employers.
4 Important Reasons YOU Need a Visible Personal Brand
Many reasons exist for having a personal brand. These are 4 that pop immediately to mind:
1. To have the right keywords associated with your name.
No recruiter is searching for an “experienced marketing professional” using that term. That would be a total waste of time.
Instead, they search using the keywords specifically associated with the job they are trying to fill — like “B2B marketing manager” or “social media marketing analyst” or whatever terms can find the people with the skills and experience they are seeking.
2. To avoid mistaken identity online.
Recruiters and potential employers (also bankers, credit card companies, etc.) need to be able to differentiate you from others who might have the same name that you have but who may have done (or been publicly accused of doing) “bad things.”
You may lead a blameless, “perfect” life, but you could still be negatively impacted by something unsavory done by someone else with the same name you have. They may owe back property taxes, been accused of hitting someone with their car while driving drunk, been convicted of a felony, or any of a million other things that are now “public record” and easily found in a search on the Internet.
If you don’t have a visible “personal brand,” something done by someone else could reflect on you, causing an employer to decide not to consider you for a job.
3. To avoid having someone else define your brand for you.
Whether they intend to or not, someone else may define your personal brand if you don’t. They hand your resume to their boss with the comment, “She’s great at customer service.” Probably you are great at customer service, but maybe you’d rather find your next job in sales. Or you are quoted in a blog post, referencing your extensive experience in sales when you’d really like to move into marketing for your next job.
In the two examples above, you would have prepared the person handing over your resume to describe you as someone who is great at customer service but accomplishing some amazing things in the sales aspects of that job and interested in moving your career more in that direction. Or the quote in the blog could link to your blog which is full of thoughtful articles about marketing and how marketing and sales work together to achieve important goals, defining yourself as a sales and marketing professional.
4. To demonstrate your understanding of how the world works right now.
Being “invisible” is almost as bad as having a bad reputation. If you are invisible, either you don’t understand how the online world works or you don’t want to participate. For most organizations these days, that marks you as out-of-date or out-of-sync with society.
Invisibility means you demonstrably don’t “get it” when it comes to operating in society today — few organizations are untouched by the Internet now.
Marketing Your Personal Brand
I think the best part of personal branding is the thought, time, and attention needed to define and develop a personal brand. Most of us haven’t put that much thought into our careers in the past. We just jumped from opportunity to opportunity without much plan or analysis.
Once you have defined your personal brand, you market it by making it visible and living up to it. This involves any or all of the following:
- Knowing – and feeling – your personal brand – not as a role you “put on” like a coat but as who you are now, reflecting your interests and abilities.
- Demonstrating your personal brand in your activities, certainly in your job but also in your personal life.
- Developing a LinkedIn Profile that describes – and demonstrates – your personal brand.
- Participating in other social network activity that is appropriate for your brand – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, a blog, or whatever else fits your personal brand.
- Being able to articulate your personal brand when asked.
Being “generic” — and I-can-do-anything brand — is as useless as being invisible.
Changing Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand is not set in concrete. It can change over time as your professional goals change, so don’t feel “boxed in” by your personal brand. As you grow in your profession or if you change professions, simply adjust your personal brand to your new goals.
Bottom Line: You Are Your Personal Brand
Privacy isn’t “over” hopefully, but anonymity is. And your personal brand is your professional reputation – how the world (including the World Wide Web) sees you and understands who you are, deflecting mistaken identity and protecting your reputation.
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About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org and is a columnist on HuffingtonPost and LinkedIn. Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.