Build a Personal Brand Online and Boost Job Prospects
Let’s talk about how to build a personal brand online. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
If you think branding is just something big corporations should consider when selling products, think again. Branding isn’t just for companies and big-name product lines. We each have a personal brand. We’re all creating or destroying our own brands all the time. Let me explain.
I once received a social media connection invitation from a college student I met while judging presentations on campus. I told the student to connect with me online after the event because I could offer job search help and connect the student to great employers. When the invitation arrived, I immediately recognized the name and clicked on the profile. What I saw shocked me. The student’s profile photo wasn’t just suggestive; it was incredibly inappropriate. I was taken aback.
This student had appeared very professional at the face-to-face event, communicated competently in person, and presented flawlessly. Why the disconnect? Why did this student make such a horrible judgment call about social media presence, branding himself as completely unprofessional while looking for a job as a college senior?
I rejected the invitation to connect. Why? Why does it matter if a student posts inappropriate things online, and I am connected to the student? Because people often peruse my connections before deciding whether or not they should connect with me. I can’t afford for any aspect of my online presence to be considered inappropriate. And neither can you, whether you’re looking for a job right now or not.
Common Reasons for Branding Blunders
There are likely a few explanations for errors in branding judgment like the student in this example. First of all, it’s easy for us all to forget a basic online branding and networking principle I learned from branding guru Samantha Hartley: As offline, so online.
If we wouldn’t flaunt sexuality at a career fair, we shouldn’t flaunt it on social media profiles either. If we wouldn’t criticize someone’s political leanings at a workplace networking event hosted at a coffeehouse, we shouldn’t do it on LinkedIn either. Remember, about 90% of employers admit to considering applicants’ social media presence during the hiring process.
Secondly, we all forget how much branding matters. We’re constantly branding ourselves since branding is, after all, about how others see us. It’s the impressions others have of us. It’s our reputation, whether personally, professionally, or both. If you don’t like the term “brand,” swap it for “reputation.”
Wouldn’t you agree we’re constantly saying and doing things which either build or destroy our reputation? Absolutely. As a job seeker, you have to consider that by posting rude, inappropriate, whiny, or heavily opinionated content online, you may be alienating current or potential connections. Some of those connections may help you find future jobs, but not if their impression of you isn’t positive.
And lastly, because we live in an increasingly digital world, we struggle to find balance between the urge to be real or genuine and the desire to present ourselves positively, hiding flaws or mistakes. Most people only post what they want others to see. The problem comes when we decide to throw it all out there online, negating discernment, discretion, and sound decision-making.
3 Ways to Build an Honest, Balanced Online Presence
Maybe you’re worried that if you are too cautious about social media posting and interactions, you aren’t being real. You’re concerned that you’d be misrepresenting who you are. Let me reassure you: there is nothing fake about making wise decisions about which information to post or what not to online. That’s wisdom at work!
Using discretion when posting online simply demonstrates better critical-thinking, decision-making, and communication skills. Employers want to hire people who demonstrate great soft skills. Think about the long game regarding relationships and career success.
Here are a few quick ways to check your online brand and maintain a more balanced presence online to ensure greater job search success.
1. Reflect on who you are.
We do choose what we post, but our posts reflect who we are. Our online presence is generally a reflection of our personalities, beliefs, and lifestyles. If you’re concerned your online presence may offend others or come across in a negative light, the root solution is to be the best version of yourself in real life. When you’re the best version of yourself daily, you naturally come across as healthier, well-rounded, positive, and appropriate online… without trying so hard.
2. Respond; don’t react.
Just because your best friend posts a hilarious but inappropriate meme doesn’t mean you have to click “like.” If your family member rants about politics, and you completely disagree, you don’t have to comment. Pausing before you click, type, and post can save your own brand or reputation. It helps you practice greater discretion.
Employers can see your online activity, and if you’re looking for a job, you want them to feel confident about hiring you. After all, you will represent the employer’s brand if you’re hired. Employers can’t afford to take chances on people who have no boundaries, who deal poorly with conflict, and who exhibit inappropriate or unhealthy behavior online.
3. Review your own digital footprint.
Google yourself. Look at the public version of your social profiles. Ask a mentor or colleague to review your social profiles in the eyes of a recruiter or hiring manager. Ask them to notify you of errors, questionable content, or other red flags for branding.
Sometimes we can’t see our own blunders and need another pair of objective eyes to review our personal branding efforts. What you discover during this review process might feel surprising or embarrassing, but forge ahead.
Cleaning up your online presence is essential to getting a fresh start with building a reputation which feels respectable and more balanced.
Ultimately, as a job seeker, you can’t afford your online presence to deter employers from hiring you or connections from recommending you. Becoming more mindful about how you can build a personal brand online will ensure employers see what you want them to see: a positive, healthy, balanced, goal-oriented candidate who would prove an asset to their organization.
Taking your reputation seriously will put you on the road to greater career success.