A generation ago, employees often stayed with one employer for the lion's share of their career. Today, most professionals will not work for several companies — but they will most likely change their entire profession.
And even in the unlikely case that you do find the employer of your dreams right off the bat — you still want to distinguish yourself by standing out from the crowd.
Enter personal branding.
By the way, I don't think personal branding came about thanks to the internet. It's been around for generations. Abe Lincoln certainly created a personal brand. So did Hitler. But, the internet certainly makes it easier for an average joe or jane to create a credible, spreadable personal brand.
But to do it right, I believe it takes intention.
When I speak to college classes, I warn them. What you put out into the world via Facebook, blogs, Twitter, MySpace, FourSquare and whatever comes next — stays out there. And it's incredibly findable.
Two relevant facts:
- No matter what we want to know, we Google it. (So imagine what the next generation of managers, business owners and reporters will do).
- Google never forgets anything.
So given those facts…how do you intentionally build your personal brand?
Decide what you're all about.
Note I did not say…create your brand. Just like with a company — a brand comes from your heart and soul. So dig deep and figure out who you are — that is relevant to the world. (We're many things, some private and some for public consumption — your brand is the world's view).
Determine what your personal brand looks like — off-line:
No matter who you are or what you do, odds are that you spend more time off the computer than on. So be sure that you can live the brand in your daily life, 24/7. How does it come to life (remember, this is from other's perspective).
If your brand is that you're a developer of others — how would a developer behave? Think of all the touchpoints you have with other people — meetings, networking, on the phone, in an employee review, etc. How does the developer brand come to life?
Evaluate your existing on-line presence:
Google yourself. Does your brand show up? Is it the most prevalent message? Scan through your old Facebook updates. Is your brand there? Are the other themes complimentary to your brand or do they feel off? What types of things are you retweeting? What do your recommendations say on LinkedIn?
Don't just look at the subject matter. Look at language, tone, replies to others, what you do and don't talk about, play, share with others and the online/social media tools you do and don't frequent.
Step back and be as objective as you can. If a stranger Googled you — what would they think and know about you? Does it align with your brand?
And don't forget your traditional old website. It may be the most content rich place for your brand to live. Do you own your own domain (like www.drewmclellan.com). If not — grab it quick if it's still available.
Decide where you need to be online:
Depending on your brand, your presence might be expected on a certain social media tool. Should you be writing guest blog posts for a specific site? Is tweeting resources a part of who you are/want to be perceived to be? If you're the developer of others…how does LinkedIn figure into your plans?
Don't overdo this. Most people do not have the time or patience to establish a deep presence on every social media site, so don't try. Be active where you want to invest the time and where it makes sense.
Off line, on line. Be your brand. Think about your choices. If your brand is about being the consummate, buttoned-up professional, should you be playing mafia wars or farming on a Facebook account that links you to your customers?
If your brand is about being very intellectual and deliberate — should you be firing off emotional responses to negative comments on your blog?
If your brand is about being gregarious and generous, should you be the wallflower at the networking event?
Like most things, if you did the prep work — it shouldn't be difficult to live your brand, once you've gotten in the habit of keeping it top of mind. If you find that you can't live your brand consistently or it feels fake — you probably have to go back to the drawing board and dig deeper.
Be consistent and be patient:
This isn't going to happen overnight. The more consistent you are, the quicker your brand will not only rise to the surface but stick. But it takes time to influence opinion and influence Google. Remember…we're living in the age of cynics. Don't try to be something you're not. Don't try to force it.
Your genuine brand will come from within. All we're trying to do is make sure that brand stays in the spotlight so you can do and be all that you're capable of.