You: The Brand
The definition of a brand according to the American Marketing Association is:
“A name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller/group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competition”
In this case, for all intents and purposes, the brand is you. You are the image, symbol and design you set forth in life and in career to differentiate you from all others. So, whether you are just starting out in your career or considering a re-branding, here are five easy steps to building a successful professional brand.
1) LinkedIn All Star? Nah, be a Rock Star:
When filling out your LinkedIn profile, make sure you fill out all relevant education, awards, and employment information with easy-to-read (no acronyms or buzz words) and factual information (just because you were a judge in a chili cook-off does not give you previous judicial employment experience). Be sure to update your LinkedIn profile often and not just when you are looking for work. This can be as simple as updating your profile picture (only professional headshots here. LinkedIn is professional, Facebook/Instagram is social) or adding new skills that your connections can endorse for you.
LinkedIn is a great way to build your professional tribe. When connecting with people on LinkedIn, think strategically and ethically. Ask yourself what field of work you could see yourself in and reach out to people that are already established in that field. First, send a message to your desired connection and explain who you are and why you wish to connect with them. If you are looking for a mentor in a particular field, ask if they would be interested in meeting for coffee (on you) or just answering a few questions about their job (Think: labour questionnaire). If their response is positive, send the connection request and follow-up about coffee or send your questions via email. Never send or accept a connection request without doing your homework first. People can see if you were looking at their page, so view only with intent.
2) You Better (Net) Work:
Networking is a big step in making your employment dreams a reality but it doesn’t come naturally for most people. The first step to networking is doing an environmental scan of your industry’s associations and social functions. If only there were a place to find these types of events…oh, yeah, there is: Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It is up to you to show some initiative and research your industry. After you locate them, join all associations and memberships in your field. Be sure to stay up-to-date on all events, and put them in your calendar. This is the quickest way to becoming an insider as opposed to an outsider.
Before you attend a networking function, you need to prepare your pitch/elevator pitch/introduction and bring your business cards. Your pitch is basically who you are and what you bring to the table as far as education, experience, and future career goals. It’s not bragging just a brief, pleasant, and impassioned way to let everyone know you are worth getting to know.
Next, you need business cards. Business cards are an investment because they will end up in the hands of people who will open doors of opportunity for you. Vista print (www.vistaprint.com) or Moo Cards (www.moo.com) are user-friendly and have great templates. If you are really on your game, design your own original business card.
Once you are at a networking function, be brave yet relaxed, and speak to people. The trick here is to ask guests questions about themselves. Find out who they are, what they do, and really listen. Listen to how they got their job, why they like their job, what education they have, and what piece of advice they would share with someone just starting out or starting over.
3) Oh, My Blog!
Start a blog about something you are passionate about. Failing that, start a book review blog. Why are blogs so important? It gets your voice out there, showcases your communication skills, and gives valuable experience with social media and content creation. Blogging is a valued skill set in today’s business world, as is social media management. The great news is, young people are very savvy with new technology and quicker to adapt to new forms of communication. So, get out there, teach yourself how to blog, and explore all forms of social media.
4) Keep it Real on Social Media
Everyone is online and so are their issues. Pro Tip: Leave the drama for your mama and never post it on social media. We all have bad days, drunk days, and FML days. It’s important to remember it’s not so much what you say but how you say it. The reasoning here is that employers will creep you on social media to see what kind of person you are and if you will fit their organizational culture. This reality might sting a little, but it helps employers find the right employees. At the end of the day, there are no bad jobs, just bad fit for jobs. It’s okay to find yourself a bad fit for a job, too. It will save you and employers a lot of time and heartaches.
5) Work on Your Skillz
We live in an age where if you don’t know everything about everything, you can Google it and in 0.0003 of a second you will know everything about everything. So, use it! In fields like marketing, there is a big state of flux. There are so many opportunities to learn high-level overviews of all aspects and then go deep with one you are passionate about. Marketing has far broader of a scope with the integration of analytics and social media. It’s true that you can get degrees and diplomas in various segments of marketing, but you can also homeschool yourself on Google Analytics, Google Ad-Sense, web development, and social media tools. Find out what aspects of your desired profession interests you and get to work. Read the latest book on it, research job market trends, and ask questions. Ultimately, success is finding how to get paid for doing something you enjoy doing.
Always remember brands, like people, are designed to leave strong, favorable, and unique impressions that are enduring. Be sure to always be your unique self, be strong, and leave favorable impressions with everyone who crosses your path because only the best brands stand the test of time.