May 27, 2012

Personal Branding and the Job Search

by Rachel

This past week, I had an opportunity to speak at the Harrisburg University Social Media Summit on a panel called, “Social Networking and the Job Search.” The discussion was focused on how job seekers can use social networks to optimize their search.

Here are some of my answers to questions that were asked by the moderator. I hope you find the content useful, even if you’re not on the search for a job.

What is personal branding? What does it mean in your job search? How can individuals use social media to project an optimal online image? 

Many think of a ‘brand’ as something like Tide, Starbucks or Mercedes - they associate a brand with a logo or specific corporate image. The digital era has allowed branding to become personal.

As it relates to a professional, creating a positive personal brand helps position you to land a great job (or can prevent a potential employer from disqualifying you). Someone who dresses professionally, articulates clearly, and possesses certain knowledge can make themselves stand out and become attractive to potential employers.

For job-seekers, it’s important to present yourself in a positive light. Envision what you want yourself to be in five years and start building an online reputation that matches this vision. Connect and build a community on your networks.

Once an individual has an optimal online image, how can you use social media to network your way into a job? 

Establish a LinkedIn profile and connect with people from past jobs. If you are doing any volunteer or community service work, be sure to list that on your profile in the current position area and be sure to ask for references.

Join groups involving the industries you would like to be a part of. Maybe you can start a blog to showcase your knowledge and experience in an area of study. Follow industry experts on Twitter – this is a great way to monitor the pulse of your field.

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social networks. Is this a social media tool that can be optimized for personal branding? If so, how?  

Pinterest is huge, which can be really good or really bad depending on how you’re being seen.  Be mindful of what you’re posting and re-pinning- ask yourself, “is it tasteful?” Create boards related to your industry and post images, infographics, and blogs in that area. This medium is dominated by women, which might be good to keep in mind depending on what you’re trying to do.

Recently there has been controversy over employers requesting social networking passwords from potential employers – what are your thoughts on this topic? Good, bad, will it happen anyway? 

This is a topic covered previously on our blog.  The privacy issues extend beyond just you. With access to the personal account, an employer could monitor not only your own personal postings, but also those of your friends and other contacts to whom your pages are linked.

Requiring social networking log-ins is technically in violation of the Stored Communications Act (1986), which protects Internet communications by limiting the government’s ability to force an ISP to hand over both content (actual communications) and non-content (such as logs and email ‘envelope’) information.

I advise anyone on the web to be conscious of the information they post – regardless of privacy settings. If it’s on the Internet, it’s likely accessible in some way. 

Can you share some tips for managing your online brand?

  • Have a strong professional photo and be consistent about using it across the web so people can identify you (this reinforces your brand).
  • Sign up for Google alerts to receive a notification when you are mentioned on the web.
  • Decide what you want your Google search engine results to reveal. If you're watching closely, there are certain things that rank at the top of the page. If you're not pleased with the top-ranking content, it's time to determine what you want your message to say and start formulating fresh content.
  • Establish a strong, consistent presence on relevant media. Don’t try to do it all.  For job-search purposes, use LinkedIn to establish credibility and use Twitter to follow and connect with key players in your industry. Keep your personal Facebook page G-rated. Finally, if you’re a strong writer… blog.

For those individuals who may feel overwhelmed about managing their online brand – can you provide some tips or technology tools to simplify the process?

Just like with social media, technology is only a means to end. You don’t need any fancy monitoring software or special code and you don’t have to be everywhere and do everything.

For more information on personal branding, visit our LinkedIn Group: Personal Brand Management.

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