Build Your Personal Brand Online


To land that job or promotion, you need to build your personal brand online and then back it up with content, experts say. Here’s how.

Becoming an adult means entering the workforce and, eventually, taking your career to the next level.

On the one hand, young workers in some fields have tremendous advantages. Take media: As newspapers jump to online-only status, they’re dumping older, higher-paid staffers for younger, digitally-savvy ones, who also demand a lot less salary-wise.

On the other, no one said getting a great job in any field amounts to a slam dunk.

To stay competitive in the workplace of today (and tomorrow), your job description is just the beginning, writes Dan Schawbel in his book Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.

Schawbel outlines 14 rules of the modern workplace that millennials should master, but here’s a hint: it all comes down to your personal brand online (and off):

Titles might be good for your ego, but in the grand scheme of things what really matters is what you’re known for, the projects you’re part of, how much people trust you, whom you know, who knows about you, and the aura you give off to people around you. Sure, what you do is important. But what others think you do can be just as important if not more so. If you build a strong reputation, the money and opportunities will find you.

Whether you’re looking for your first full-time gig or working your way up the ladder, here are five more tips for developing your career online thanks to Matt Ekstrom, chief revenue officer at HiringSolved, a Web app that helps employers track job candidates.

1. Get to know LinkedIn 

If you spend all your time on Facebook or Pinterest, and none of it on LinkedIn, you’ve skipped the one online tool that matters. Here’s why: It gets you in the crosshairs of HR managers and hiring guns. That’s because LinkedIn makes much of its money by selling souped-up subscriptions to recruiters looking for ideal prospects.

LinkedIn also leverages the magic of networking, which to some extent resembles compound interest in the financial world. If you have only 100 first-level connections on LinkedIn, and each of them has 100 connections, and each of them 100, when you’re only three handshakes away from 100 x 100 x 100 people.

There’s lots more to say about optimizing your LinkedIn profile to stand out from the crowd, which we’ll cover in a future column. For now, suffice it to say that you need to jump on LinkedIn and grow your network there.

2. Use other social media to help, not hinder, your career

No matter how good your resume looks, advances in digital technology mean prospective employers will know something about you before you even send it in. At this point, every single one of us has a digital profile. Either a hiring manager can find out stuff you’d rather they skip (like photos of you from a regrettable party), or you can get proactive and put stuff out there you want them to see.

“I look at the Internet as a global talent pool,” Ekstrom says. “If you don’t have a website or profiles on key social networks, then you aren’t part of the global talent pool. Network with people who you can learn from and who can connect you to new opportunities.”

3. Manage your reputation

The foolish antics of your past, posted online or emailed in what you assumed was a private share of an off-color joke, can easily morph into the career nightmares of your present. As far back as 2009, 70 percent of hiring managers rejected an applicant because of information they gleaned online about the person, according to a study commissioned by Microsoft.

How do you clean up your online act?, for example, offers free and professional subscriptions (the latter runs $9.95 a month). These help you track where your information goes online, or who’s talking about you. The pro membership can also eliminate your personal information from the Internet. (Another bonus is that it limits telemarketing calls.)

4. Take control of your brand — “define yourself.”

Just as businesses treat their online presence as “branding,” so should you. “Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intent of being associated with your work and the industry you serve,” Ekstrom says. “If you don’t define your own brand, someone else will do it for you — and the results might not be flattering.”

Just as your favorite brand of shoes might connect to certain lifestyle traits, your personal brand should define how you stand out from the crowd. I’ve gone to great lengths, for example, to identify myself with quality, creativity, character and sterling results —and offer results to prove it.

What do you stand for? What makes you stand out? Figure this out and broadcast it via your LinkedIn profile, a personal website, a Facebook page for your services — wherever and whenever you can.

5. Content is king, queen and the royal court

I once coached a young writer who wanted to become a movie critic — badly. He wrote freelance copy for a DVD website that paid him poorly, and the assignments he took were second-rate. But once he gained clarity on what he longed to do, I told him, “Don’t wish for the day. That day is here, and I dub thee movie critic.”

Here’s what we did: I told him to approach the website and propose a column of reviews for indie films released on DVD and submit some prototypes. We were both shocked when the head of the website designed a slick logo and gave him the column, with his name on it and a nifty title to boot. His pay still wasn’t great, but he could define himself by way of content. And on that day, he took one big step out of the land of wannabes, and into making his dream a reality.

The content you put out on the web shows employers and potential business partners more than just how serious you are. Even if you’re not in a creative field, you can write or publish videos about your area of expertise. Once you’ve done that, you’re real: You provide the information or service in your field as opposed to just daydreaming about it.

Earl Nightingale, a pioneer in motivational literature, once noted, “We become what we think about.” When you think about being the guy or gal who can’t get a break, that’s what will most likely happen and keep happening. And when you think about role-playing the job you want — and take actions to create killer content in that space — reality has a way of catching up to your dreams.

How are you building your personal brand online to aide your job search or further your career?


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