Just recently I spent half of the weekend hiding my old “Facebook” posts – you wouldn’t believe the nonsense you post when you’re eighteen.
And if you think I’m the only one, believing you were as smart, fun and witty then as you are now and you were a master of language and visuals, I challenge you to review your posts over the last five years, without shrivelling or the slightest bit of shame.
You may think: “So what? Why should anyone care about the things I wrote half a decade or even a week ago?” In fact, until recently, there was no need to worry about your image online and personal branding was just for prominent people, politicians or big company executives. Social media has changed that – personal branding has become vital not only when seeking to acquire your dream job, but whilst climbing the career ladder at your current job.
Your portfolio, publically available content, media articles, posts, pictures on social media, other people’s opinions regarding your job or personal life – personal branding is all that and much more. Does that mean that when seeking to create your own brand, you must become internet famous, update your social networking accounts at least four times a day and have a strong opinion regarding certain issues?
Certainly not. There is a substantial difference between being internet famous and the creation of your personal brand. Personal branding helps you become prominent in your field of work, therefore, if you are not the master of everything, you mustn’t discuss everything. Define the area you want to position yourself in (one which you feel confident in) and, hence, find a unique approach, which sets you apart from other experts.
And while being active on social media is necessary, you must first start with a grand cleaning of your social media accounts: remove inappropriate and other potentially offensive content, update your information and consider carefully how much of your personal life you want to expose.
Have you cleaned up your social media accounts, contemplated what you are going to say and defined your angle? Are you now ready to conquer the world in a month, whilst creating a strong personal brand and becoming the leading expert in your field? I’m going to disappoint you. To create a strong personal brand, you may need a year, maybe a few or maybe even a decade. And the work doesn’t stop there. Like any other brand, personal brands rely on reputation, therefore it is important to not only create the brand image you want, but likewise to maintain it.
It matters not only what you speak, but who speaks for you – your work, completed projects or a wide range of connections, which are all essential when starting to form your long-term brand. Therefore don’t run away from a colleagues helpful hand (even if it’s five o’clock on a Friday), don’t drop half finished projects on ex-colleagues and make an exception by answering an urgent phone call during your lunch break – all these good deeds will be relevant to your personal brand as well.
And, most importantly, when building your image, don’t overdo it. One of the biggest mistakes others make is polishing and over-perfecting their personality. Flawless and infallible people often receive backlash and force a sense of rejection, while the inability to lightly ridicule onself can result in even more sneering, which to control becomes even more difficult.
Grow thick skin. Personal branding requires bolder thoughts and ideas. Accept the idea that your expert insights may be unlikeable to some and the feedback received may often lack facts and argumentation. Don’t get upset reading a grey comment and, when receiving constructive feedback, use it to further improve your personal brand. After all, those who don’t take risks, don’t drink… sparkling campagne, made in one region of Northeast France.