Pop quiz: If you could choose one emoji that represented you (like, if one emoji from you had to sign every email) which emoji would it be?
Part two of that question: How closely does that emoji speak to your personal brand?
We’ll come back to all that in less than six minutes.
There’s a student in my Career Connections class who literally put the most exciting thing she does on the very bottom on page two of her resume. (Don’t worry – we’ve since moved it up.) BUT – it got me thinking that that’s what a lot of us do. We’re up to cool things, and we’re not talking about them to the degree to which we should. It’s like we’re afraid of our own personal brands. (I think we are afraid of our power, but that’s an entirely different conversation.)
Tips for Building a Personal Brand That Can Boost Your Career
You don’t have to be Dwyane Wade to build a personal brand. You can be you. And you can do it for free via how you choose to use your digital presence strategy.
Digital presence strategy
It’s not as scary as it sounds. It’s manageable, I promise. It is a strategy through which is, I think, a mistake people make today. Your digital presence is a strong opportunity to implement some strong strategy.
First, here are three easy tactics to start looking at ‘the big picture of your digital presence.
Google yourself. You’ll yield good stuff – and things to change.
First, you’ll most likely run into links where you’ve been mentioned online. This is all content to save and share on your channels if it’s relatively current versus that picture of a clipping from high school track. Also, this is a good gut check for you to understand better who is talking about you. Is your alma matter plugging every project you’ve done the last five years? Maybe it’s time to lean heavier into them or maybe it’s just time to say thanks.
Second, you’ll probably run into things you want to get rid of. Example: There was a rogue Twitter handle claiming to be me and sharing content as me which I’d never share. Found it when I challenged my class last semester to Google themselves, and I did the same. The teacher is once again the student.
Googling yourself is also the beginning of the ‘private vs. public’ conversation you should have internally – what are you comfortable sharing publicly? What do you want to keep sacred and private? If you Googled yourself and a photo from a family event popped up, and you hated that the world could see that, you just got your first spiritual ping that you want some things private. And that’s totally understandable.
This is also a good time to take down any photos you don’t want up there. Or perhaps get clearer on what’s set to private and what’s open for public consumption.
Complete your information online
If you’re doing social media, do it. Don’t start an account, and then abandon ship. I call a person who does that (especially on LinkedIn) a “Professional Casper” – Casper, as in the Friendly Ghost. You’ve created an account, worked for about two weeks to build up to 23 followers, and then you just stopped. Now, you’re a ghost with no photo, slim information, and lousy followership. If that’s the case, just remove it. Or if you joined Twitter to watch other accounts like sports news or business news, then do that, but don’t share your handles with anyone or suggest that your mentee follow you for that one time you post an article by Fast Company. My biggest concern is when I see a Professional Casper on LinkedIn; I’m searching for Drew Chin, and I don’t know which Drew Chin it is because you have no picture, no current job information. (Side note: Drew Chin is a dear friend who is very good at LinkedIn; he just so happens to be my example because I looked at him when I gave this presentation, and I used him as the example in that real-life moment.)
As far as I’m concerned, it’s like buying the land, but not building the house. You’ve staked your claim digitally, but you’ve done nothing about it. Don’t be a Professional Casper.
This is a good place to pause and address the question of what you share online personally and professionally which is different than public versus private. The line between personal and professional life is getting blurry, so my best advice which I give to clients is this – find 2-3 through-lines or middle paths that run through your personal and professional life. Where do both worlds intersect? Maybe that’s art, maybe that’s music, maybe that’s creativity, maybe that’s the business of business – which is me. Share content that addresses those middle paths. You don’t have to publicly share that you only post about xx topic or xx topic. It’s more of an internal gut check.
If that’s tricky, here’s another way to think about it – what do you want people to feel when they see your content? Is it motivation? Is it travel, new places, adventure? It is your willingness to be fearless or try new things? Then, lean into that. You can share that article from Self on fearlessness and then a couple of days later share a PPT slide from a presentation you gave fearlessly for the first time to a major client.
Brag About Yourself
This gets a bad rap, and women especially struggle to share accomplishments, wins, personal victories, etc. Women think a lot of times, too, ‘I just shared something a couple of days ago or last week’, and so they hesitate to share the fact that a board they chair just raised xx number of dollars. Keeping that to yourself doesn’t grow your personal brand AND certainly doesn’t inspire, encourage, or coach someone else. Also, keep in mind how quickly those feeds move AND the likelihood that the same person catches all your updates; it’s rare, really. Increase those chances they’ll see something though.
Share your accomplishments often, willingly, fearlessly.
On that note, too, don’t do what I like to call the ‘drop the mic’ share – “Here’s my win in one sentence, and that’s it.” Share a picture. Provide a link to that organization or company. Give your audience something to look at or somewhere else to go. When you ‘drop the mic’ and just leave the accomplishment out there, yes, someone can like it or share it, but it doesn’t keep them in your personal pipeline – give them a picture of that room before your presentation, share that link to the main homepage of the business that just gave your race team xx number of dollars to run that half.
My additional note here is this: Whatever and whenever you choose to share, make sure you do so consistently. Set yourself a goal to share something once a week or three times a month. Whatever feels right and authentic to you. Don’t go sharin’ something every day for eight days, and then drop off. Put some strategy and thought behind it, and drive it forward consistently in a way that fits you best. If right now, you’re sitting on three ‘wins’ you’d like to share, that’s great – space them out over the next ten days, and you have a month worth of content – and strategy.
When I talk about strategy a lot of time with clients, I’m referring a lot of times to LinkedIn. With 467 million users and two new LinkedIn users joining per second, it’s worth it to be there professionally.
Here are five quick tips to do LinkedIn well if you only have a couple of minutes to do so:
- A lot of people are more comfortable updating their LinkedIn profiles when they’re doing it privately versus publicly, so make sure to change that setting, so you feel open to updating big things, small things, whatever. Plus, it makes it easier than explaining to a co-worker that you don’t have a new title, you were just correcting a capitalization error you made two years ago when you earned the title.
- Download the LinkedIn app. It’s free. It’s easy to use. And everything you can do in front of the computer on LinkedIn, you can do on the app. PLUS, it’s easy to have coffee with someone, and then connect with them right here and right here via LinkedIn.
- Again, don’t be a Professional Casper on LinkedIn. Update your page with a professional headshot. On this note, too, use a professional picture, but also use a picture that mirrors the way you show up. If you’re a little left of center, but your LinkedIn is stuffy and conservative because someone told you it’s Linkedin and you HAVE to do it that way, well then I don’t know who to believe – the person in front of me or the person on LinkedIn. Which one are you?!
- Have a connection strategy. Tell yourself to connect with five, new people every week for a month, and see what happens. If you’ve mastered five, then push it to ten. The point is to stay active and relevant on LinkedIn, and a good way to do that is to connect with new people. Get to that 500+ person count, and if you’re already there, keep building. You never know who knows whom.
- Share something you’ve done recently. So, treat this as one of those email chain letters – you’ve read this, and you now have five days to share something on LinkedIn. Share a win – include a picture or a link. Also, don’t limit yourself to sharing just Monday to Friday, 9-5p. LinkedIn is showing traction and success off-hours and on the weekends – especially with the accessibility of the app.
Much of this work begets bigger work you’ll want to do for your personal brand just in general. This might be the opportunity to ask yourself these three strategic questions about how you brand yourself:
- What are your strengths? Are they clear to those you work with daily, those who view your LinkedIn page in just thirty seconds or less? Are they clear to you?
- What are your 1-3 biggest, recent wins? Again, are they clear to those you work with daily, those who view your LinkedIn page in just thirty seconds or less? Are they clear to you?
- If people had one word to describe you or the way you work, contribute, make an impact – your brand – what is that one word you want them to think of immediately?
Now, let’s talk again about the emoji you selected at the beginning of this exercise. Chances are you chose an emoji that in one way or another captures the spirit or essence of how you see yourself – your personal brand. Did you select one that’s creative, that’s fun, or that’s sassy and takes no guff from anyone? Whatever emoji you selected, write down the first three words that come to mind when you see it for yourself.
And right there you have the beginning of your brand presence. Now, it’s time to take that spirit online with #fearlessness, #confidence, and #strategy.
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