Most businesses have a “brand” to protect, but did you know that people have brands, too? Your personal brand is the way other people identify you, quantify you, and see you and it’s your responsibility to keep it in tact.
But in an age where email and social media dominate the mediums of communication, what can you really do about your brand when you’re looking for a new job?
Actually, a lot! Your personal brand is the best tool you have in your arsenal when it comes to finding a new job and attracting attention from the right kinds of people. Here are a few lessons for maintaining your online brand between jobs so you can find the position you were meant for.
Start by Taking Inventory
Around 57% of Americans admit to “Googling” themselves. The most startling thing about this statistic is that 43% of Americans aren’t looking themselves up! In order to hone your online brand, you have to have a baseline which means knowing exactly what’s connected to your name. Whether it’s a research article you wrote in grad school or a mug shot from Vegas, you can’t change what you don’t know.
Edit What You Can
Once you know where to start, clean up everything you have access to that an HR manager might be able to see. This includes the obvious: removing unprofessional Facebook photos and updating your LinkedIn resume as well as the not-so-obvious such as deleting offensive Tweets and removing blog comments that may not seem appropriate. Unfortunately, one negative online “find” by a hiring manager can do more damage than 100 positive finds can do good. And you better believe if you can access the information, a highly trained HR professional can too.
Cultivate the Brand You Want
Once you’ve cleaned up your profiles, it’s time to fine tune them. Let’s say you’re after a position in the journalism field…doesn’t it make sense that your online brand would reflect that interest? Avoid being bland by Tweeting or sharing Facebook links to articles you find interesting, and make an effort to connect with industry pros using every social media outlet available. In the same way Apple’s brand conveys a cool, modern vibe, you want your own brand to convey something about who you are, too whether it’s assertive, informed, or outgoing.
Fill in Any Gaps
What’s not part of your online personal brand can say as much about you as what is. For example, if your goal is to find a job in marketing and you don’t have any social media profiles aside from Facebook a hiring manager may think twice about whether you’re qualified. After you’ve adjusted your privacy settings and corrected any red flags, be sure there’s enough information about you out there that your personal brand feels intentional. You have more control over what appears online than you think, and if you don’t take advantage you may come across as un-savvy or worse, lazy.
Managing your personal brand doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does take consistency. What appears online can change in a matter of minutes and it’s your job as a prospective job seeker to actively stay on top of your online reputation. Think of it as a sort of digital resume and treat your online brand with due respect.