One of the best lessons I gained from my college experience was not from a textbook or professor. No, this lesson was learned during those long pre-recruitment summer meetings and was handed down by my chapter’s recruitment advisor. She always talked about our personal brand and how to present ourselves on campus to represent who we wanted to be. This applied for representing ourselves beyond our sorority letters. This advisor was the one who encouraged us to think about how we were perceived by the world, right or wrong. She encouraged us to look presentable for class even when we had pulled all-nighters because you never know who you may run in to on campus to network with. And she encouraged us to remember that our “private” Facebook pages are never completely private. Her encouragement to monitor how I presented myself to the world in appearance, attitude, and across all channels, is what has led to my understanding of what makes up my personal brand.
Your personal brand is a concept that everyone recognizes, but few rarely devote time to cultivating. Like my college self, you may understand the importance of it but not want to go through the trouble of developing it. Many assume that it’s something that organically evolves and doesn’t need dedicated thought. You may say, “People who know me know who I am.” But the idea of a personal brand isn’t for your friends and family, it’s about being able to present yourself to the world and give people a clear understanding of who you are. Forbes contributor, Glenn Llopis, says it best. He defines personal brand as:
“A trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously molding and shaping it. Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and/or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve.”
Whether you are a blogger or business professional, having a defined brand applies to everyone. In my recent journey for a change in my career, I have started the process of honing my personal brand as well. Defining your personal brand is a process but a necessary one that can be easily started. The first step is to define your goal. Are you wanting to align your personal brand to present yourself well across social media channels, build a base of followers for your business, or demonstrate your candidacy for a new position? For me, my goal is to present a cohesive snapshot of my personality and abilities as an extension of my resume.
Once you have a defined goal, there are a few key areas to focus on to align your brand.
This is the easiest platform to refine. Take a moment and review your current social media presence while asking yourself, “If my employer saw this, what would they think? What would my grandma think?” Beyond the photos you upload and the posts you make, do the comments you made on that political article or the review you left on a business’s page reflect what you want them to? It’s those secondary connections to your name and personal brand that usually need the most attention. Remember, the Internet will always find a way to unearth your 3 AM tweets or list of Page Likes. If there’s content you want removed, take some time to clean your accounts up. Erase any content that you feel doesn’t align with how you want to be represented.
Then, look at your privacy settings. Even if the content is now in alignment with your personal brand, is it something that you want anyone to have access to or do you want to keep some privacy? For those whose goal may be to grow a business, you might want to allow public access to all of your content. For others like myself, you may want to keep some distance between your personal and professional life. If you notice that a lot of the content you removed came from others tagging you in posts or photos, add the settings that allow you to approve any tags from others before they are posted.
Here are good examples of personal brands shining through on social media channels; Reba Renee strives to share her love of hand lettering and inspirations while Gourmet Gab inspires everyone to Love food. Love self. Love life.
In the digital world we live in, having a personal website can be a differentiating factor in defining your brand. It’s a way to extend your resume into a medium that gives you more flexibility to elaborate on your personality and abilities. In a way, think of it as a modern cover letter. It can set up your skills and abilities for a position or just give an employer a chance to better understand who you are. A personal website allows you to establish your voice, personality and expertise all before you walk in the door for an interview.
“More and more often, job seekers who simply rely on a resume and/or cover letter (even a LinkedIn profile isn’t as helpful as it once was) are frequently outflanked by those who carry a robust online presence.” – Ken Sundheim
Aren’t a web developer? No worries, there are plenty of ways to set up a site without needing any creative ability. There are online services like Wix or Squarespace that give you templates for website to customize towards your specific needs. I recently used the Artificial Design Intelligence tool on Wix. This fabulous AI takes your information, reviews your online presence through social media links and develops a custom website based on what it determines you will like. Sounds creepy but the ADI tool was spot on with every selection it made for me; colors, design, fonts, etc. All I have to do was sit there and watch and viola! I had a website.
Google yourself. Type in your name in using quotes [i.e. “Kelly Helstern”] to only return searches that have your name in its entirety, and then review the results. Take a look at the results my name pulled, shown below. The top four include my LinkedIn profile, two Facebook reviews that are both over almost two years old, and a fundraising page for an Associate Board I’m a part of. [Shout out to Gilda’s Club Louisville!]
I even found an article from a Bowling Green paper from 2012 that I was quoted in about a rivalry sports game! I don’t even remember giving a quote but there it was in black and white.
And even more telling? The image results! For this example, I used my maiden name, Herberg, to see what was out there on me. And it turned up photos connected to my name that I’m not even in. Photos of friends on their vacations that I liked or commented on, yet somehow those pictures are out there with a link to my name. This just reinforced to me that everything out there with my name on it can be found by me and others. Even if it’s that random comment you made on a blog or Buzzfeed article. Your digital brand always hangs around!
So these are just a few areas to start with when establishing your personal brand. Hopefully this helps you see that though it may seem like an overwhelming process at first, it is DEFINITELY crucial! The old saying goes, “Always put your best foot forward,” and that includes your digital foot. 🙂