Even the most savvy job-hunters are likely to make some mistakes as they start to build and manage their personal brands. Here are some of the most common ways that students fail to successfully portray themselves online – and how you can avoid these branding faux pas.
Your brand has to be managed. It exists, whether you work at it or not. As a result, many students are left with online personas that really don’t accurately or adequately demonstrate who they are, and in some cases offer up a damaging view. Don’t just let it happen! Look yourself up, and then work to remove some of what you see from search results, while adding in others, deliberately.
Your message is inconsistent
Your resume says you’re professional, conscientious, and interested in volunteer opportunities. Unfortunately, your Twitter feed says otherwise. Remember that interested parties are going to receive both of those messages, so you need to be consistent. Anything out of line with the message you’re trying to send to the public should be hidden from public view, edited to alter content, or deleted altogether.
If employers can’t find information about you on the web, you’re a ghost. Ideally, your conversations with them, references, and resume would be all that matters. But in the real world, you won’t even get a chance to have those conversations if you don’t have a web presence. Start with LinkedIn if you’re truly a blank slate. Further brand yourself by developing a personal website. You don’t have to be a designer or developer to do this – plenty of free templates are out there to help you convey the image you want.
You’re not taking a stance
Your brand should make some professional promises. Work to paint yourself as a candidate who has goals, is motivated by professional achievement, and cares about professionalism. Highlight your experiences at work. “Like” professional organizations, and join them where necessary, to make sure that potential employers are able to see your involvement.
You’re rubbing employers the wrong way
If your brand is offensive – tasteless, crass, or overly opinionated – you can expect employers to immediately pass. The first place to look for potentially offensive material is on Facebook and Twitter, because they’re places that most people feel safe posting jokes or sharing memes or videos that could easily be construed (even if they’re actually pretty funny) as insulting. Try to think objectively as you scroll through what might be years of your postings – is there anything you’d like to remove? Is it safer, and easier, to make everything private?
Remember, a well managed personal brand can be your ticket to a job, so take some time to develop a strategy, review what’s out there and make a change to convey the right message.