You already have a personal brand - but is it the one you want?

You may not realize it, but you already have a personal brand – previously the sole domain of corporations, today if you have a digital footprint you have a brand. The question is do you want to control/cultivate your brand so you’re perceived in the way you want to be perceived, or just let it be defined ad hoc.

If you want to cultivate your brand, you first need to think of yourself as a brand – and how you want people to perceive you.  Do you want to be perceived as an expert or knowledgeable in a certain field or area? Do you have a broad range of experience with a common theme? Have you had more than one career? What are your passions? Are you creative? These and other areas are all elements that can make up your brand.

Equally as important is to think about who your audience or “market” is – what “brands” are they interested in? If you’re a mid-level manager seeking to move into the executive ranks, what are companies/hiring managers looking for? And how does your brand fit with what they’re looking for.

And yes, this even applies in a social setting – whether you’re looking for friends, people who share similar interests, or a “significant other”, your online presence and brand plays a very important role in how you are perceived.

Back to business, your photo on LinkedIn, combined with your profile text, work history, hobbies, interests, groups you belong to all make up your brand. The photo is THE first thing people will see – as human beings, we are always drawn first to images, then text and that image creates a first impression (you only get one chance for a first impression!). And it makes a significant impression – here’s a little experiment you can try:

Try searching for someone you don’t know on Linkedin – perhaps choose a common name, or a company. Then go to several people’s profiles, ideally with different quality/types of images – and write down your initial reactions/thoughts about that person WITHOUT looking at their profile (Warning: this may be an uncomfortable experience and may expose you to realize you have certain biases). There are no right or wrong answers here – do this for several different images, ideally for both males and females. For example, a profile picture of someone outside wearing sunglasses or squinting in the sunlight vs. someone’s headshot professionally done will likely evoke different initial reactions.

You may also find that the person with a professionally done headshot will also have a well thought out, articulate profile summary – the 2 generally go hand in hand.

Personal branding is becoming increasingly important in today’s digital centric world – you can take charge of your personal brand to give you the best opportunity for success. Get assistance from photographers who understand this, career coaches, personal branding coaches, or mentors who understand this and are willing to help.