Collage by Barbara Smith

Are You Damaging Your Personal Brand Like You Damage Your Relationships?

Jul 21, 2017 · 4 min read

In today’s highly competitive job market — as in relationships — it’s the little things that make all the difference.

If you’ve ever wondered why you’re always a bridesmaid and never a bride, or always the “runner-up,” when it comes to jobs, it may be time to re- evaluate your personal brand.

Here are five tips on how to represent yourself well:

1. You don’t have to look young; you just have to look good. Lots of industries are obsessed with youth, but that doesn’t mean you need to be “young.” There’s value in experience, but you want to make sure that you look like you should have the job. Are the photos you choose to post on your online networking sites up-to-date? Are they an accurate representation of you and your brand? Does the reality that you are trying to convey online match the reality of who you really are? If you’re an older candidate, is your photo (relatively) new? Are you dressed in a manner that doesn’t scream old-fashioned or out-of-touch?

2. TMI hurts. Employers don’t need to know everything. While it’s easy to share every minutiae of your life across your online presences, it’s not useful to post everything. In fact, over-sharing could ultimately hurt you. Be selective and thoughtful about what you choose to share. Remember: potential employers are using backdoor ways to find who you are and what you are about. Make sure your professional online presence is relevant to the job that you are seeking, and avoid publicly sharing those photos from your spring break in Cabo (Unless you’re looking for a job where revealing your body is part of the job description.) The key is relevance.

3. Talk the talk. The way you talk about your skills and your experience matters. Don’t claim expertise that don’t actually have, but make sure to tout skills that may not be evident on your resume. These days, employers are searching on keywords, so make sure the terms you use to describe your skills and experience are synced up with the correct and contemporary terms that employers and recruiters use. Also, don’t use overly sexy, jargon terms to describe yourself. It’s a trap that many candidates fall into. The general rule is to be concise and current in talking about yourself and your work.

4. The company you keep matters. “Ego surf” to make sure you know how you are represented online. Professional associations, non-work-related affiliations, and articles written by or about you help employers gain a better understanding of who you are and what you stand for. Even if you haven’t yet done anything of note that would bring up search results with your name, there are a million other ways that you can be represented online. A fuller story about you provides comfort to hiring managers, so if you’ve been living off the grid for the past decade, it’s worthwhile to take some time to ensure that your online presence exists and that it’s accurate and presents a positive portrayal.

5. It’s important to stay in touch, but there’s a difference between contact and stalking. Make sure you’re staying in touch with past colleagues, send them the occasional note to check in, and share relevant information with them. Then be opportunistic when the moment arrives. If someone in your social network is promoted to a new job or acquires new business, etc., it may make sense to reach out again to seek help for your next move. If you reach out to people with whom you haven’t talked to in a while, don’t assume they remember you, give them context and have a reason to make contact: “The last time I saw you … / We know each other from … / I was introduced to you by …”. Remember: reach the people who count, don’t count the people you reach. If you’ve developed meaningful connections, it takes away the potentially awkward interactions that result from out-of-the-blue contact, just like running into an old flame after not talking to him or her in years.

Work — like love — can be complicated: Finding either takes a certain amount of desire and drive. Understanding and nurturing your brand can help in both realms, showcasing your best self.

Deborah Hankin currently serves as Vice President of Talent at SYPartners. Over the past decade, Deborah has hired top talent — and found true innovators — at all levels in design and marketing industries.

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