*Sponsored series. See Disclosures Below.
While some of us (and many generations before us) held the same job for many years, that employment model has been replaced with a mix of entrepreneurship, traditional full-time jobs, part-time jobs, freelancing and more. With this new, more transient model, everyone needs to manage their professional online brand and be the master of their “professional image”. Many potential or current employers will search the candidate’s name online before the first job interview. Many recruiters, conference organizers and employers also searches online. Impressions are made and lost well before the first face-to-face discussion. Here are four tips for making a good first impression, even before the first conversation.
1. DECIDE on your professional “story” and choose role models: Similar to creating a resume to highlight your job profile, an online professional profile can help highlight the parts of your professional history that YOU want to share. The first step is to decide what type of professional story do you want to share online. Then, find role models in your business area that you feel have done a great job of telling their story online. What type of headshot did they use? Do they have an “about” page on a website or do they just have professional social media profiles across different online platforms? How do they describe their story and how do they consistently carry their professional brand across online platforms. In 2006, I used Guy Kawasaki, BlogHer, Grace Davis and Charlene Li as my first social media role models. Then I met knowledge experts to help me understand skill new areas. A great example is how Kimberley Clayton Blaine helped me learn about video presence. Over the years, I add to my list of role models in order to see what innovative techniques other professional brands are using online.
The next step is prepare and practice telling your own professional story. What is your 20 second elevator pitch describing who you are, your past experience and the professional service you offer? What are the key professional terms that describe you? What are your top strengths? Look at the job description of either the job you have or the job you want and see what terms they use. Then put that all together to create your professional story.
2. AUDIT your online search profile: Because many people use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter for social interaction online, it is important to view ANY sharing of information online as something you are ok with sharing with your current or future employer. If you already have online social networking profiles, now is the time to audit your own social media footprint – and clean up anything that you don’t think is professional. Even if you can’t ever truly erase your past footprint – you can clean up your current one. Start by doing an online search of your name, because many employers start by doing the same. Then make sure all of your private social networks (such as your Facebook wall) are set up to only allow “friends” to view. Those privacy settings can change so it is important to always keep an eye on account settings. At the same time, keep communications with friends on a level that if an employer saw your language – that would still be ok. Operate as if no matter what privacy settings you use, nothing is truly “private” if shared online.
3. DESIGN your professional image: Now that you have your professional story, audited your current online profile and have an understanding of how your role models are presenting their professional brand online, it is time to craft your own online brand. The first step is to start with an official headshot, that depending on your industry, should reflect the image you want to portray. You can use anything from a professional headshot to a photo taken while on the job or at a speaking event. It is best to start with a high resolution photo and crop as needed for different situations. Next, update your resume to make sure it is not only current but uses “current” terminology to reflect your career or the types of jobs you are looking for. Then you can use parts of your resume to create your bio in different formats including long format, 75, 150 or even 300 words that can be used for different platforms. Your bio, headshot and resume should tell the “story” of what you want your professional image to be. This should all tie together with your professional story.
4. CREATE Professional Profiles Online: Next, decide on your professional niche and which social media platforms are a good fit to highlight your professional image. To support your professional image you need to not only share information and discussions, but also have a clear “story” to tell about who you are and your professional background.
A good place to start is setting up a profile or “about me” page. Many people buy the URLs for their name or use sites such as About.me to set up their professional landing page. Setting up a blog is a great way to not only have a landing page for your professional brand, but also share your voice on a regular basis. Also, currently blog posts have great SEO (search engine optimization) and that gives you more control of your online search profile. I have bought my name and have that URL forwarded to my website “about” page on TechMamas.com. But I am also thinking about building a website around my named URL and have that be my professional landing page. Decisions decisions!
When it comes to choosing an online professional social network, a good place to start is to set up a LinkedIn Profile utilizing all the features to tell your “story”. For example, include presentations or articles for people to read more about you- similar to what I added to my LinkedIn Profile (Beth Blecherman – but I also include my online brand name “TechMama”). When it comes to online brands, the current trend is to use your name, so that should be the goal for those setting up new profiles. There are many articles on how to set up LinkedIn profiles, they even have a series on the LinkedIn blog that gives tips such as ” More Than Just a Resume: Share Your Volunteer Aspirations on Your LinkedIn Profile”. The LinkedIn profile page also has a column on the right side that shows “Profile Strength”.
Along with LinkedIn there are many places to set up online “professional” profiles. But the key to the phrase is “professional”. For example, while I use @TechMama on Twitter as my main public platform along with my blog, I am also looking into creating a professional Facebook page. Here are several Facebook pages I am using as great examples of online community building: Samantha Ettus’s Working Mom Lifestyle , Simple Green Smoothies, Maria Smith and event pages such as Be Blogalicious. My other role models include Kimberley Clayton Blaine’s inspirations, Robert Scoble’s Tech and Guy Kawasaki’s sharing on Google +. I have seen those with a focus on fashion create beautiful Tumbler’s and those with a focus on crafts and design and more highlighted on Pinterest. There are also ways to expand your voice and build communities in each of these platforms. For example with LinkedIn, joining groups relevant to your profession and getting involved in discussions in these groups can be a great way to network online.
5. SETUP the right technology and tools: When looking for a job, networking or just keeping up on industry news it is important to have the right tools. When you get a response from a potential business partner or employer – it is vital to respond in a timely manner. I only use my smartphone or tablet to respond to quick requests or share information across social networks. If you are looking for a job or creating your online professional profiles on a website or across social networks, then using your smartphone may not be the right tool to use, especially if you need to draft a cover letter (which believe or not can still be important when applying for a job).
When I am updating my online professional profiles or my website, working on a project proposal or communicating online with a potential employer, I use my laptop, business software and my own mobile WiFi to answer respond quickly using the appropriate technology. If someone requests my resume, professional information or replies to a project proposal, I don’t want to keep them waiting!
And if you are overwhelmed by all of the different ways to create your professional brand online, just start with one step at time and take your time with the rest. The most important thing is to provide a way for potential employers to find you and your “story” online.
How do you manage your professional online brand? Please share!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite mobile hotspot as part of my sponsorship. My words are my own. I am happy to say that my AT&T Unite has enabled me to have WiFi wherever I need to share my professional story online. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family powered by Netgear.