Creating and controlling your personal brand for potential employers is imperative these days. Social networks and the web have made it easier than ever for recruiters to do a quick search on job candidates, to either disqualify you or invite you to interview for an opening.
As you incorporate the following suggestions into your self-marketing routine, be sure you align all your activities and communications with your personal brand and carry a consistent message throughout your efforts, both online and real-life.
Here are the top 10 best-practices to put you on the road to “digital distinction”:
Monitor what people are finding out about you online.
1. Make self-Googling a routine practice.
Track how many results come up for you when you search your name and what they say about you. Is someone else with the same name in the top results?
Are the results about you accurate and consistent with what you want people to know about you? Is there anything unsavory about you that is likely to discredit you and jeopardize the impression you will make on decision-makers? If you find “dirt”, start working to bring positive, on-brand results to the forefront, pushing negative results down to the bottom where they’ll be less visible.
Your search results can literally change overnight. Whether you have reached online identity nirvana or have an online image problem, it’s wise to get into the routine of monitoring results at least once a week. As you incorporate the suggestions below, check to see how quickly your actions yield search results and where they land in your list of results. This will help you determine whether your efforts are on target.
2. Set up a Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts) account for “your name”.
This free service lets you know when people say something about you online. Once you set up an account, Google Alerts will send you an email whenever a search term you’ve provided (“your name” or whatever other words you want) is published on the Internet.
Build a Consistently Branded Web Presence.
3. Claim your name by purchasing the domain name "yourname.com" (example, “johnsmith.com”).
Your personal URL is the perfect address for your website and/or blog. But even if you don’t plan to launch a website or blog (see advice below) or don’t know what to do with your personal URL, secure it (or a viable option) before someone else does. At some point in the near future, a single Internet destination for all your career marketing documents will be the norm. Many registrars offer domain names for as little as $7 a year.
4. Create a brand-charged E-Signature for email communications.
Along with your contact information, include a personal brand tagline. Add links to your personal blog, website/career portfolio, and/or online social networking profile (see advice below). Make it easy for people to get to accurate online information about you.
5. Join and participate in online social/business networking groups.
Choose appropriate sites whose members are people you need to get in front of and connect with (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, ZoomInfo, Ecademy, and many others). Your online profile is a powerful opportunity for personal branding, attracting your target market, networking, and sending the right message about yourself.
Tips for building a branded LinkedIn profile:
- Add a branded tagline right under your name.
- Edit your public profile URL to include your name (example: “http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnsmith”)
- Lead the summary with a brand statement.
- Working from your branded resume, copy and paste chunks of information into the appropriate places in your profile.
Start connecting with people who can help you gain access to current job openings and the hidden job market. Be sure to set your profile as “public” so it will appear in search results. Even if you do nothing more than post your branded profile, you’ll be taking advantage of the groups’ already strong web presence to build top-ranking, accurate search results for yourself.
6. Get involved in blogging.
Search engines love blogs because the content is relevant and constantly updated. Comment and guest blog on relevant blogs and/or consider starting your own blog. Blogging is a great way to share your expertise, build community, and position yourself as a niche expert. It is probably the best way to build credibility and will exponentially increase your search results and visibility.
In any blogging activities, offer useful information. Avoid blatant self-promotion and negative or off-color remarks. Remember that anything you post will become part of the blogosphere. Don’t write anything you may regret later. As a guest blogger, be sure to post an on-brand profile of yourself.
Starting and keeping up with your own blog is a commitment. A successful blog requires the investment of at least several posts each month, but 3-5 posts per week works the best. If you go with your own blog, regularly refer to other relevant blogs in your posts and link to them. Continue to build visibility and support your brand by commenting on other blogs too.
7. Launch your own website and online career portfolio.
Establish a single destination for all your career and achievement activity. Working from your branded resume and other career marketing documents (cover letter, achievement summary, case studies summary, career biography, reference dossier, etc.), create a vivid comprehensive package illuminating your career history, strengths, passions, brand attributes, and value proposition. Hiring decision makers can easily gain access to everything they need to know about you in one place, with one click.
8. Write reviews of relevant books for online booksellers.
Set up an account and personal profile with top booksellers (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.). Review books that are relevant to your field and areas of expertise. Your reviews and profile will rank high in your search results. Your reviews will also be picked up and published on many other bookseller sites, greatly increasing your search results.
9. Join and participate in professional associations.
Get involved in the associations’ networking opportunities. Contribute to online discussion forums, write blog posts and articles, present tele-seminars and/or webinars. Basically, get involved with projects that will receive online press.
10. Share your expertise on online forums.
Yahoo! Answers (http://answers.yahoo.com/), Yahoo Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/), Google Groups (http://groups.google.com/), LinkedIn Q&A (http://www.linkedin.com/answers?trk=hb_tab_ayn), Wiki Answers (http://wiki.answers.com/) and so many others are great places to increase online visibility, while building community, making networking connections, and positioning yourself as an expert.