You Are Not Your Job: Take Control of Your Personal Brand
Let’s cut right to the chase; despite many company policies that prohibit the activity, any honest HR person will tell you that the very first thing they do is Google a candidate. If all Google returns is a bunch of stuff about your company, your personal brand is diluted, possibly even lost in the noise. The moral of the story is you are not your job. Your personal brand has to represent your thought leadership and be complimentary to your company brand, not hidden within it.
This isn’t a shocking revelation. Here’s the kicker: Everyone knows this but, for some reason, the majority of executives still haven’t taken steps to build their personal brand. Rather than taking control of the messaging to clearly define their personal brand, they passively allow Google to represent them.
If you want to distinguish yourself, you have to do more than just like a few things, follow industry leaders, and re-post content. When someone Googles you, they don’t want to see a bunch of links to other people’s ideas, they want to see how well you interpret and apply these ideas – They want to see how you think. YOU have to contribute thought leadership and take control of your brand message.
Below are several simple things you can do to demonstrate your thought leadership and build your personal brand:
- Create and actively manage your LinkedIn profile: Most business professionals have a LinkedIn account. But far too many fail to maintain it. The very first thing Google will oftentimes return is your LinkedIn page. So, be diligent and update your job status, achievements, awards, etc. In addition, don’t just re-post articles and join eye-catching groups. Publish your ideas. The LinkedIn Publishing platform is a powerful vehicle to bolster your brand.
- Build a personal website: One of the most powerful ways to define your brand is to create a simple website to serve as a platform for your views, ideas, philosophies, etc. Build a site and write a blog once a week, even once a month. This enables prospective employers (or anyone interested) to learn about you and your brand. With your website, when people Google you, they will see your ideas, your thoughts . . . whatever it is you want to advertise to the world. This can be a clear differentiator for you, especially if your competition doesn’t have this powerful branding tool.
- Guest lecture: Contact a local college or university and ask to be a guest lecturer. Schools are very welcoming of industry professionals to provide “real world” insights. One place to start is to contact your alma mater. Alternatively, online educational programs offer a great opportunity for guest lectures.
- Speak at trade and industry conferences: Seek out speaking engagements at industry conferences and present as you, not as a representative of your company. This is critical; it’s about you and your brand, not your company.
- Join industry groups: Look up and join industry groups, associations, etc. This illustrates not only an interest in your subject matter expertise, but also provides a platform to sharing and collaborating on ideas.
- Guest blog: Investigate popular websites and develop guest blog posts for them. Just as with your own blog, it’s important that you cross pollinate your ideas with other communities, especially if there are sites that are well reputed in your industry. For example, if you’re in IT, perhaps CIO.com or Wired.com would be places to consider.
- Write and publish articles: Develop insightful articles and try to get them published in industry business publications. Admittedly, this is the most difficult of the recommendations. However, because of this, it’s also one of the most powerful branding tools.
It’s a lot of work to try to do all of these things. So, be selective. Identify those that make the most sense for you and diligently pursue and develop them. Ultimately, it takes time to shape your brand. Avoid the worst-case scenario of finding yourself suddenly unemployed and trying to build your brand while job hunting. You’ll learn the hard way; it’s not something that can be achieved overnight.
Start taking control of your brand today!