We live in an era of career self-management. It’s easy to slip into the comfort zone and become complacent. If you want to stay competitive in today’s marketplace, you need to protect yourself with some critical tools. These might include a solid resume, cover letter, bio, blog and references. If I could only recommend just three things you can’t do without as a professional, I would choose these.
Whether you realize it or whether you even like it, YOU are a brand. Your goal is to create, build, promote and protect your brand. If you don’t, I assure you that your competition will. Your brand creates an image or mental picture for someone when they think about you. Your brand is what comes to mind when someone sees or hears your name, product, service or logo. Your brand your public image. Your brand is being developed anytime someone has an interaction with you in some way. You are the CEO of YOU, Inc. YOU are running your life like you own a company. Most people don’t get this. Ask yourself, “What messages am I sending about how I am running my company?” More than ever, your online reputation IS your reputation.
In my 23 years as a Career Counselor, I’ve worked hard to create my unique brand of career counseling. When people say, “I need to make a job change!” I want them to think; contact “Dr. Tom.” “I need to have my resume critiqued;” contact “Dr. Tom.” “I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up;” contact “Dr. Tom.” “I need to have my taxes prepared;” DON’T contact “Dr. Tom.” I do career counseling. I don’t do taxes, websites, personal training, photography, insurance, or plumbing. And I certainly don’t do HAIR! (You only need to see my LinkedIn Profile picture to see why.) Ask yourself, “What things do I do way better than other people?” Ask yourself, “In what area do I want to be known as a SME – Subject Matter Expert?”
Ask yourself, “Do I like the brand I have now or do I want to make a change?” Don’t waste time creating a brand that is not you! If you don’t manage your brand, no one else will. You run the risk that your reputation will be determined by chance rather than by choice. Make no mistake about it; what you do all day long plays a major role in branding. Ask yourself, “Am I proud when I say what I do?” My advice: Define your brand, share it and live it out!
I suggest you focus your energies in two ways to build you brand. The first way is through real networking. The second way is by social networking. This is what I would call a High Touch High Tech approach to pushing your professional reputation forward. -The question you need to ask yourself is, “Who do I know, who knows me, and do they know what I want? Your goal is to create TOMA (Top Of Mind Awareness) which is a slow build. Brand management never stops. Each morning hold yourself accountable by saying, “What am I going to do TODAY to build my brand?”
Your Business Card
The second thing you can’t do without is your business card. If I said, to a group of professionals, “How many of you can go six months without using a business card?” most would not be able to do it. An outstanding card gives an outstanding first impression. A lame card sends the message, “I’m not serious.” A business card is what we refer to in marketing as a “Leave Behind.” You paid for both sides so use the front and back. It should have a photo of you since we remember 80% of what we see and 20% of what we hear. Get a business card holder and never ever leave the house without it. I have landed clients while hiking in the Adirondacks and on Cape Cod because I had one on me. My advice: Invest the time and money in an exceptional card. Don’t do it on the cheap.
Your LinkedIn.com Profile
The third thing you need is LinkedIn – the world’s largest professional networking site! LinkedIn is not a fad! It is commonly referred to as the “Facebook for Professionals.” I could run Careers In Transition without a website, but I could not without LinkedIn. Why? Because LinkedIn IS my website and my electronic Rolodex and my resume and my list of references. If someone wants to hire you, they will search for you online. Make it easy for them to find you. Don’t hide!!! Ask yourself, “What comes up when I Google my name?” LinkedIn is your professional Internet image and the way to build your online reputation. LinkedIn is the way you manage your “Circle of Influence.” You simply can not be successful without a “Circle of Influence.” It’s the High Tech part of building your brand and your empire. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “I have LinkedIn, but I don’t really do much with it.” Ask people who are regular users of LinkedIn for tips and advice on how to maximize its potential. If you are not leveraging LinkedIn, I guarantee your competition is. Remember, LinkedIn is totally free. You can either ride the wave of social media or get crushed by it. If you are serious about advancing your career today, you must be on LinkedIn!!! Take this virtual network to the next level by meeting your Connections for coffee and requesting their help in your job search. My advice: Spend 10 minutes on LinkedIn each weekday, and have fun with it. Get LinkedIn or get left behind!