Taking control of your personal brand.

16 February 2012

There can be little doubt that the prevalent economic climes have created a difficult environment for job hunting.  Many would argue that the supply of candidates outstrips contemporary demand, even at a senior level.  However, whilst fiscal growth remains an elusive trend, there is one condition that remains constant; the difficulty in attracting high calibre leaders.

As headcount decreases, the need to attract talent becomes even more pressing. In a market that might be crowded with candidates, there is no room for mediocrity- excellence is everything and ambitious applicants must stand out from the crowd.  Clearly your CV and/or application are keys to this.  However, in an increasingly competitive market, the best candidates are those who will see themselves and their skills as commodities worthy of ongoing marketing campaigns. 

In this digital age, the range of tools to do this is growing exponentially.  Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, Plurk, Meebo, Youtube; the list is endless.  But not all of it is relevant.  It is very easy to spend inordinate amounts of time interacting online, and to reap very little benefit from it.  As with most things in life, prioritisation and efficiency are the keys to success.

Prioritisation

This initially means careful selection of mediums through which to market yourself.  A measured amount of targeted activity, carefully thought out offers far better coverage than scatter gun, sporadic involvement in numerous forums. 

Regardless of your professional background or seniority, it is highly likely that Linkedin will be at the top of the list.  It is a ubiquitous professional networking tool, and there are few signs that its stranglehold will abate anytime soon.  But whilst most professionals have a linkedin profile, surprisingly few use it to its full potential.

Some questions to ask yourself;

  • Is my profile up to date? 
  • Do the details within it accurately reflect the breadth of my skills and experience? 
  • Is there a (flattering) photograph of me? 
  • Am I a member of the relevant groups?
  • Do I take time to contribute something relevant to said groups? 
  • Do I respond to requests to “link-in” in a timely manner? 
  • Do I seek out and “link-in” with people who might be interesting to me? 

Judicious assessment of the usefulness of other online tools is necessary.  Twitter can be a great medium through which to project your personal and professional views.  However, it takes an ongoing commitment and its “casual” style does not suit everyone. 

Facebook works very well for some sectors.  But it is most often used in a personal rather than professional capacity.  Do you really want to subject your professional contacts to the horror of your holiday snaps or the adorable shots of your first born?

Efficiency

Building your brand takes time and effort so it pays to be focussed.  Your aims are threefold;

  1. To communicate your skills and experience
  2. To demonstrate your professional knowledge to a diverse audience
  3. To remind everyone about the high esteem that your peers and competitors hold you in 

There is no quick way of doing this.  It takes consolidated endeavour to attract and retain the right audience to your online profile.  You also have to keep creating and contributing content.  This might be through participation in online discussion, alerting people to media coverage of you or your organisation, developing thought leadership or through generating dialogue.

Dependent upon your professional background, this may not be “part of the day job.”  If it isn’t then it should perhaps be seen as necessary, extra-curricular activity that contributes towards career development and overall personal profile. 

It is worth noting that when applying for roles (particularly senior ones), due diligence will involve checking your online coverage.  Whilst most candidates have the wherewithal to ensure that embarrassing photographs don’t come to light, there are fewer individuals who have an online presence that enhances their candidature. 

In 2003, the Brand Futurist Martin Lindstrom wrote the book “BRANDchild” which predicted that everyone would become his or her own personal brand.  The following year saw the launch of Facebook.  Martin’s take on the phenomenon is “I have a homepage therefore I am” which perhaps helps persuade as to the drivers behind taking a proactive stance to your own marketing. 

There are no negative marks to be awarded for a lack of online presence. However, a competitive market is no time to be bashful about what you can offer a new employer.  Therefore, it stands to reason that if your digital profile doesn’t augment the recruiter’s opinion of your expertise and reputation, you are missing an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.  At the very least, the knowledge and relationships accrued through online activity can be astonishing. 

Clearly, online activity needs to be constructive and considered.  Most people have heard horrendous stories of the awful PR that an errant tweet can produce.  However, that should not be an excuse for inactivity.  Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon is quoted as saying; “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”  Taking control of your personal brand online offers you the chance to influence those conversations and in a competitive environment such as the present, is this an opportunity that you can afford to miss?  

 

 


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