Here’s the unfortunate reality of life in the digital age: whether you intend it or not, you have a brand.
Your digital footprint has been expanding for years, whether you’ve tried to form it or not. That footprint is the basis for your “brand,” the configuration of web-based info that identifies you to the world. Here’s how to put it to work for you.
Learn your brand
If you’ve never tried this experiment, it’s time: Google yourself. Add some identifiers – hobbies, social media groups, even something as simple as the name of the city where you live. Inevitably, you’re going to find a series of links to information about yourself, including photos. Some of it isn’t going to be ideal – tweets that shouldn’t be public, internet commentary best kept between friends, perhaps a candid photo. But those are the building blocks of your brand, and they’re out there for the world – and for employers – to see. So, what to do about it?
Manage your brand
The first step in putting your brand to work for you is to take immediate steps to manage it. Start with social media and work out from there. Log into your accounts and change your privacy settings so that your political opinions, group selfies, and check-ins disappear from public view. Profile photos are okay to leave public, but make sure they won’t negatively inform a stranger’s perspective. A shot of you with the family dog? Totally fine. If you’re unsure, keep it private.
Attach your brand to other brands
With which organizations would you like strangers to associate your name? Remember to imagine yourself as a job applicant. Start with academics. Join alumni associations and University social groups, and subscribe to mailing lists for events that interest you. Like those same groups on Facebook. Got a hobby that you think makes a good impression? You want perspective employers to see it, so attach yourself to that brand through Instagram and LinkedIn. Perhaps most importantly, make sure that people can see your interest in the work you’d like to do.
Learning to manipulate your brand to your advantage opens up a whole new level of opportunity. It takes some time, so take charge now, and ensure that your new boss has a glowing opinion of you before you ever shake hands for the first time.