by Alan Royal
May 27 2016
This year, like none other, digital commerce is becoming the lived reality for all. When visiting assisted living facilities, it is not uncommon to find residents with their tablet computer at hand. When meeting someone for the first time, a colleague, potential employer, friend, etc., your name will likely be googled. As such regardless of personal preference, establishing your personal brand is essential to remain relevant in the emerging digital age.
The question at hand is: Are you ready to establish and objectify your own personal brand to maximize relevance, regardless of your current employment status? If your answer is no, the Googles of the world will define your brand for you. When someone searches your name, they will likely find links to social media sites, press releases, and sometimes even your organizational web site.
Personal Brand Creation
As an individual you have your own unique experiences, hopes, desires, successes, failures, lifestyle preferences, and optimal career goals. These considerations, and others, become part of your self-branding process. There is simply no “absolute correct” or “incorrect” personal brand, but it should be reflective of how you wish others to initially experience you virtually. Speaking metaphorically, once having self-assessed yourself regarding the topics above, you should understand your personal narrative of “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
Ideally, one approaches self-branding dualistically, with both a personal website and individual LinkedIn. At this point, for myself, I sought the services of a BlueSteps career coach to assist me in making my desired online personal branding. (My website and LinkedIn profile now rank first and second on Google.) Activities included the design of my personal website and profile to highlight my brand in the best possible manner and assistance in creating my LinkedIn profile.
Upon completion of your website and LinkedIn profile, you are now a self-branded, digitally present entity. Search engine crawlers will find your website and profile, which will be discoverable when your name is googled.
Executing Your Brand Identity in the Virtual World
The value associated with virtual networking is the commoditization of your time for maximum value. Tradition would suggest attending conferences, where physical interaction and business card exchanges occur, is the optimal manner to network. While certainly viable, especially when in your own city, digital networking simply provides far broader, self-defined exposure, exponentially faster, to more targeted individuals, than conference attendance. Your profile should be the primary site where individuals connect with you. Then they can visit your website for in more detail.
If you are a major user of social media, announce your LinkedIn connection availability on the likes of Twitter and Facebook. The optimal time to create a professional network is when you don’t need one. In essence, if you are currently happily employed, now is the perfect time to work on constantly building your virtual network. Waiting to network until potential layoffs at your organization are anticipated is sub-optimal. When networking is “purpose based,” rather than pure “professional networking,” your initial brand credibility is more difficult to achieve
Commence your network building through noting everyone you know, or have known, in the past that will recognize you. For each of these individuals, look them up on LinkedIn and send “connection” requests with customized notes. Most individuals can, if they contemplate hard enough, connect with at least an initial hundred individuals known to them. From these initial members, LinkedIn will provide suggestions of others you can connect with, based upon commonality of shared connections across your network. Also, many of your connections will have “open networks,” meaning that you can search their connections' contact information. This allows you to then send connection requests to their connections you do not already know.
Adding Value to Your Connections and Yourself
As a basis to expand your virtual network, share your insights, interact with your network, and make yourself known and relevant to your current group of connections. If you hear something interesting on the radio, look it up on the internet and do a quick share with your connections. Also, in the conduct of your business, if you come upon a unique experience, share some details from the experience insights through a post. When you receive connection requests, or request connections, always welcome new members to your group through a brief introduction. Over time, as you expand your network, and contribute without asking anything in return, your network will be there for you when you need them. Your hundreds of connections will share your employment needs with their hundreds of connections, and before you can imagine, you are being contacted by hiring managers for initial discussions.
By maintaining, contributing to, and remaining visible to your own virtual network, via your personal brand, you will be prepared and ready for the emergent digitized society we find ourselves immersed in.
The Executive Search Network
Even if you are happily employed, identify search firms which specialize in your area of expertise and make yourself known to them. BlueSteps makes this easy to do by allowing you to search through their International Executive Search Firm Directory by industry, function, location and more factors that the firms specialize in. Over time these search firms will likely conduct searches in your area of expertise, so it’s helpful for both parties to connect now. This process represents a long-term strategic networking strategy. I have been identified for searches years after making my virtual presence known to a firm. With the right personal branding strategy, you too can expect the occasional opportunistic call from a search firm, which might provide an opportunity to advance your career.