Get the Job You Want With the Right Professional Image
Your professional image — your "personal brand" — combines all of your knowledge, talent, and experience into the public face of your professional persona. The most effective personal brand not only reflects the proper image, it also works across a variety of online forms as well as in person. But even the most carefully crafted personal brand can benefit from a little tweaking. Here ten ways to improve your professional image by improving your personal brand. (See also: How to Brag About Yourself)
1. Emphasize Your Distinctive Traits
Your personal brand relies on being able to highlight what sets you apart from others in your field. What are some things that only you can do? Do you have any specialized knowledge? What new ideas have you come up with? How have you added your own touch to projects you've been involved in? What kind of lasting impression or influence have you had on previous employers and colleagues?
This aspect of your personal brand is especially important for job seekers. An employer's number one question is, "What makes you the best one for the job?" Showing how your way of doing things has been successful in the past, and how your brand can benefit the employer in the future, is an effective way of answering that question.
2. Get a Website
A website can elevate your image and provide a home base for your brand. Paying for a "yourname.com" domain not only ensures you'll be at the top of the search results when people Google you, it also provides a more professional representation of your personal brand than a subdomain on a free hosting site.
For most people, a simple site containing a short personal bio, your education and professional experience, and your contact information should suffice. Single-page site building tools such as Strikingly work well for just this task, with the ability to populate the site with info from your Facebook profile and the inclusion of a personal-brand standard: a "What I Believe In" section. If you want something more substantial than splash pages, you can go with the myriad of website templates available on the web or hire a professional to create a unique site from scratch.
3. Blog the Talk
Blog posts allow you to discuss the areas of your expertise in more detail, provide insightful commentary or analysis of industry news and issues, and give additional opportunities to express your brand's personality. If you prefer a visual medium, you can upload short videos instead. To spread your brand even further, contact industry-related websites, blogs, and other publications to see if they are open to guest posts. (See also: How Do Bloggers Make Money?)
4. Get Passionate
It seems simple, but your brand should really be about doing something that you love. If you don't feel that your brand is a part of your very being, it'll be pretty difficult to sell it to anyone else. However, when your brand revolves around doing what you love, you project that passion and your brand feels authentic to others.
Employers know passionate workers perform at a higher level and companies are keen to work with other business owners who share a passion for their work, so having passion as the foundation of your brand benefits job hunters, promotion seekers, and the self-employed alike. (See also: Make Your Dream Career a Reality for Under $100)
5. Focus Group Your Friends
The best way to know if you're displaying the right image is to ask people who know you. Question friends and colleges about the impressions they have of you. If what they say doesn't match up with the brand you want to project, you'll need to figure out where you're going wrong and find ways to strengthen your weaker areas.
6. Dress the Part
When you visualize yourself at the top of your game, what are you wearing? Use that ideal representation of yourself as the basis for your professional wardrobe. Take it a step further by developing a signature style move that makes people think of you whenever they encounter it. Whether it's an affinity for chartreuse gemstones or your partiality for the Trinity knot in your ties, playing up your unique fashion sense helps you craft and solidify your brand's image. Don't forget to include it in your social media profile pictures. (See also: The Only 16 Pieces a Man's Wardrobe Needs)
7. Optimize Your Social Media Profiles
LinkedIn and other professional networking profiles are a huge part of a successful brand, so make sure yours are completely filled out and up-to-date. Think of an eye-catching headline that succinctly describes your brand, such as "Passionate personal finance consultant for working-class families." Use the site's groups and other networking features to connect with other professionals and organizations and bolster your standing as a player in your field. (See also: How to Get Your LinkedIn Profile Noticed)
As for more socially-oriented sites such as Facebook and Twitter, fill out all the profile information that's relevant to your professional interests and hide everything else. Keep your pages fresh by making a few relevant posts every day, maybe passing along a particularly valuable article or pointing to your newest blog post or video. Use image-focused social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest to share pictures and videos that relate to the image you want to project.
8. Create Business Cards
Although they're not quite a big deal as Patrick Bateman would have us believe, business cards are still an important part of your personal brand. Even in the smartphone age, business cards are the best way to provide all of your vital information in face-to-face situations. To make your business cards better represent your brand, include your picture, a unique logo, or a short quote or tag line on the back of the card.
9. Show Off Your Accomplishments
A collection of your greatest hits tells potential employers or clients exactly what they'll be getting when they hire you and bolsters your image as you grow in your career. A physical portfolio that showcases your best graphic designs, articles, or grant proposals can provide a strong visual representation of your expertise and highlight your ability to deliver consistently. If you decide to have a website, you can include a digital version of your portfolio along with links to pieces you've published and projects you've worked on.
10. Demonstrate Consistency
This is the bit that ties your personal brand together. In the most general sense, all you need to do is perform in your own unique way time after time. This should be an easy task if your brand is a genuine representation of you.
More specifically, make sure the information you provide is consistent across all of your branding materials, from your resume to your YouTube profile. This means using your signature colors, a uniform font, similar language, and creating the same general "feel" across all of your branding materials. The most effective personal brand is a cohesive one, so even little things like having your Twitter background match your Facebook cover photo matter. Regular blog or video posts are also a handy tool for demonstrating your consistency.
Do you actively manage your brand? Manage it in comments below!