Building Your Professional Brand

Chances are you’re already a pro at self-marketing – you may just not know it. Each Facebook update, blog post, tweet and photo you’ve shared on the Internet already exists in a loosely linked network of social media. By harnessing these networking sites and honing the content, you can leverage your online presence to build a professional brand image that will make it easy for potential employers to find your resume and learn more about you.

If you’re facing graduation in the near future, the first step is to begin researching companies that are hiring within your field of expertise. Focus on five different companies that interest you and write a general resume. Make sure that your skills are relevant to each company.

Next, put your resume aside. You’ll be using it as a reference, but you’re not quite ready to post it yet.

The second major step is to join LinkedIn. Begin adding professors, employers, neighbors and fellow students. The more connections you have, the more opportunities you will have to share your skills with others. Search for employees of the companies you are interested in, taking note of their profile pictures, their Web links, their resumes and their connections. Now is also the time to identify required skill sets you may lack. This may require you to take a course in Photoshop, Web development or social media.

Now you’re ready to begin developing your professional brand image. Remember, you want to be seen as a “good fit” for the company, but you also must stand out. Striking this balance takes creativity and time. Obtaining the right photo is a good start. Make sure it is a clear, hi-resolution photo with a simple background. Do not use artistic filters (sorry Instagram!) – unless you are applying for a job that would consider it a skill. List your hobbies and recreational activities to give employers a sense of your life outside of work and a glimpse into your personality.

The next step is to revamp your Facebook, Twitter and e-mail accounts to reflect two things: consistency and professionalism. Make yourself easily identifiable to employers by using the same photo in all accounts. To ensure you have the appropriate blocks on your Facebook, copy the URL of your account, log out and then post the URL back into your browser.  Tweak the security settings as needed so that employers will only be able to see the things you would like them to see.

Your Facebook cover photo to is a good way to publicize your personality, interests and passions. Reference the skills each company is looking for and consider whether your photos are in alignment with the overall attitude of the company and your professional brand image.

If you’re having trouble setting guidelines of your professional image, begin by highlighting the adjectives used in your resume. A position that advertises for a creative thinker will demand a different image than one that seeks someone who is business-minded.

If you are still using your university e-mail or the one from seventh grade, it’s time to move on to a more professional e-mail address. I would suggest Gmail as it allows you to participate in yet another social media outlet (Google+). Be sure to set your photo, build your profile and create a signature that includes your full name and phone number.

Now you’re ready to post your resume!

But the work has just begun. Don’t expect employers to come to you. Send your resume to the HR departments in the companies that interest you and remember to check back for Career updates.

If you don’t receive a direct response from the company, reach out to professionals in your field via LinkedIn and begin leveraging the extensive social media network you’ve created.

Barbara Jolie is a full time freelance writer and blogger in the Houston area. She enjoys writing about education and the advantages of online classes for all students. If you have any questions email Barbara at barbara.jolie876@gmail.com.

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