What do you do for a living? What are your passions? What are you best at? What makes you different? What do you want out of your career?
Professionally speaking, who are you?
The answers to these questions make up your personal brand—or, in other words, the constant signal to colleagues, managers, and potential employers of what you’re all about. It’s shaped and strengthened by your choices and achievements and is shown off most powerfully in today’s world with your online presence: a personal website or portfolio, social media profiles, content you publish across the web, your email signature, and the voice you use online.
Of course, a bulletproof brand isn’t built in a day—it takes time and regular maintenance to make sure that your brand is in tip-top shape. If you’re not sure what your personal brand really is, start with this step-by-step workbook. Then, once you’ve got a pretty good idea, make these daily, weekly, and monthly tasks part of your routine to make sure you’re always showing off the best version of your professional self.
If you’re like almost every other man, woman, and child in the country, you already engage on social media throughout the day. So you can carve out at least five or so minutes—your morning commute or while you’re waiting in line for lunch are great opportunities—for some career-boosting activity.
Why? Consistent online activity keeps your channels fresh, so that whenever a prospective employer or industry peer gives your profiles a visit, they’ll see that you’re engaged. The more you proactively interact online, the more connections you’ll establish and the better known you’ll be in your field. Even just liking an interesting industry article on Facebook, congratulating someone on his promotion on LinkedIn, or jotting a quick reply to a relevant tweet keeps your hat in the ring. Keep a few social media apps on your smartphone’s home screen as a handy visual reminder.
You may not have time to write a blog post, design a graphic, or take a stunning photo every day, but you can play curator of your online space by plucking out high-quality content others are creating and adding your own thoughts. Stock your digital real estate—your Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, personal website, or other touchpoints you favor—with relevant articles, stunning imagery, great videos, or whatever type of content fits within your profession and industry.
Social media scheduling tools like Buffer let you stock up content to mete out at time intervals of your choice, so you don’t even have to do this daily if that doesn’t fit with your lifestyle. Instead, move it to your weekly roster and stock up on stuff that can trickle out each day of the week.
No matter what industry you’re in, expressing your viewpoint and ideas goes a long way in substantiating your personal brand. Whether you talk about projects you’re working on or offer opinions on the latest happenings in your industry, writing showcases your personality and your expertise, which builds up your status as a thought leader.
Maintain a blog on your personal website, publish posts to a collection on Medium, or—if you’re feeling really confident—reach out to publications in your industry about being a contributor. Use a habit-tracking app like Daily Goals or Commit to hold yourself accountable to posting at least once a week. And remember—these articles don’t have to be long, so long as they’re thoughtful.
If writing is really not your thing, think of other ways you can regularly share your ideas, engage your network, and build some thought leadership. Could you make sure to write some new code every week that gets published to GitHub? Send out a weekly newsletter to your network? Reach out to industry podcasts about being a guest?
P.S. When you do create this content—whatever it might look like!—it’s a great opportunity to bulk up your other social feeds by sharing it. If you use Squarespace to power your blog, you can sync your social media profiles to automatically publish your posts when they go live.
Admit it: You’ve Googled a colleague or two before. You’ve probably even Googled yourself before. But this shouldn’t just be something you do every once in a while when you’re curious—you should check your search results on the reg. Why? Because people will Google you when they want to learn more about you, and you want to make sure what they see is giving the right impression.
Get in the habit of searching your name online every month or so. (Pro tip: Make sure you log out of your browser or go incognito in Chrome so your search results aren’t affected by your search history.) If you see anything unflattering—didn’t notice your college buddy snapping photos at that house party last weekend?—try to ask the owner to take down the content stat. If that’s a no-go, posting your own new, flattering, SEO-friendly content (more on that here) will push down those negative search results over time.
Conduct an Audit
Things change. People change. If you think back on your last few months or years, there are probably a slew of subtle—and not so subtle—ways you’re different. Maybe you’ve started regularly using a new social media channel, like Periscope. Maybe you got a new professional headshot. Maybe you’ve pivoted toward a different concentration within your industry. Maybe your vocabulary has evolved slightly.
Set a calendar reminder to do a check-up on your personal brand every month to ensure it’s still an accurate reflection of what you’re doing and what you want. On your personal website, tweak your bio, upload fresh images, and add any new links to your work—all super easy to do even without any coding skills if you use a tool like Squarespace.
Browse through the last few pages of your social media profiles to make sure your voice reflects what you want to put out there right now and the content you’re sharing fits with what you’re currently focusing on. (Need help nailing down a specific tone and language? Check out this handy four-step guide to establishing a brand voice.) Are there any recent projects you should add to your LinkedIn profile? Any guest blog posts you’ve written that you should tweet?
Phew. Sound like a lot of work? Well, I won’t lie, it is. But ultimately, it’ll surely pay off—in the form of a widened professional network, respect in the eyes of your industry peers, and (hopefully) job offers that are perfectly in line with what you want to do and who you want to be known for.