Social Media and Your Personal Brand

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It is hard to imagine life before the internet came along. To the current generation that has recently entered – or is planning to enter – the work world, they have never known a world without it. They have seen it evolve to some degree, but it has always been there. To them, Myspace is ancient history.

When I graduated from college and was looking for my first career job, it was an internet-free zone.  I used newspaper ads and recruiters with whom I communicated solely through phone calls and face-to-face meetings. Email wasn’t even common enough to use.

Contrasting that with the job search today makes it seem like a hundred years ago instead of twenty-five. Today, there are online job postings and the ability to submit a resume online for thousands of recruiters to find.

When I did my initial job search, it was difficult to brand myself. It was done one resume and cover letter at a time. If the resume caught the employer’s attention, I was called in for an interview or two.  If they were still interested, they would check my references.

While all three of those items still exist in the hiring process of most organizations, there a many more ways that an individual can brand himself and many more ways that the organization can check out the candidate’s brand.

Related post: Why Your Legacy Matters

Online branding

A resume, in most cases should be no longer than a couple of pages. This requires most people to summarize. However, on LinkedIn, more detail can be supplied, including additional experience, references, and publications.

Publications you say? In the dark ages of 1989, one had to submit writings to a magazine or a book publisher. If the writer was unknown, submitting a piece had low odds of being read, and even greater odds at being published. It was a difficult way to brand one’s self.

Today, a blog can be started in a matter of minutes. A job candidate can write a weekly blog touting their expertise, creating an instant brand for herself. That blog can be promoted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and countless other social media networks.

Negative branding

When I was in college, I will admit that my friends and I did our share of partying. We tailgated at the football games and went to the occasional “kegger” at a fraternity house or someone’s apartment. I won’t name names, but there was the occasional partier that ended up in a compromising situation. Maybe they passed out on the bathroom floor or in someone’s front yard. However they ended up, everyone would get a good laugh out of it and eventually help them to bed…or not.

It was rare to have a camera laying around. Even if a camera was handy and someone took embarrassing pictures of you, the most they could do was print copies.

Today, virtually every college student has a camera in their pocket. Worse yet, they have access to a world-wide distribution network to send the picture to every recruiter in the world.

Whether it’s done out of malice or just having a little fun with your best friend, it places a negative brand on the individual (the subject and the poster). Their perceived poor judgment could prevent them both from getting a job.

An individual can do it to himself just as easily. Perhaps an individual has some controversial opinions about politics, religion, a minority, or the opposite sex. If she Tweets about it and an employer sees it, that employer may back off for fear that the person’s opinions will interfere with her job. Sure there is freedom of speech, but it’s a grey area when it comes to hiring decisions. The person who didn’t broadcast those decisions may be deemed a “better candidate”.

The internet has evolved – and continues to evolve – to be a powerful tool for finding a job. The ability to create your personal brand presents an excellent opportunity to distinguish your experience, capabilities and knowledge for prospective employers.

It is a double-edged sword though. One picture on Instagram showing you falling down drunk or a rant on Twitter of some extreme views can negate all of your positive efforts.

For more information, check out Career Management for Mentors

If you would like to learn more about mentoring between Millennials and Baby Boomers, get Lew and Jeff’s book The Reluctant Mentor on Amazon.

I welcome your questions and comments.

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