What sets you apart in your industry? A resume just doesn't seem to be enough any more and unless you have a portfolio you can show, you are going to get Googled. And what they find is going to be used to determine the kind of person you are in your industry so it is imperative to create a personal professional brand to stand out above the rest.
But first, why G.I. Joe?
As a kid I loved G.I. Joe. I watched the cartoons after school and had dozens of the figurines and vehicles. It wasn't the fact that they were supposed to be a collection of “the best” from every nook and cranny of the collective military that made them so cool, but it was that each person was their own character with unique traits and personalities. They worked together as a large group of distinct individuals making up a dynamic team.
Duke was the stoic leader, Snake Eyes was silent and deadly, and Scarlet was better with a crossbow than most of the other Joes were with guns.
In contrast there were the Green Army Men. Plain green molded plastic with indistinguishable faces. There was the pointing guy, the rifle guy, the bazooka guy, but they all were the same color and your forces were measured in numbers. They were quite literally a dime a dozen. These are the millions of other people in your industry that you compete with every day. And if you aren't branding yourself, you are one of them.
Self Branding in 6 Steps— Yo Joe!
I have studied industry “gurus” and have found that many of them have certain personal self-marketing habits that get them recognized. I don't consider myself to be one of the "gurus" but I have mimicked a number of those traits with great results and I am still refining the process but so far, this is what I have discovered.
What you need to set yourself apart isn't skill. You do need industry skills but keep in mind that there are a million people doing what you do today and you have to compete with all of them.
The secret sauce to setting yourself apart is YOU.
You need to be known, not as a face in the crowd but as a voice in the industry or at least as a presence in the digital realm.
Many employers embrace the idea of building a powerful talent pool and use terms like “team dynamics” and “resource synergy” to explain how employees work together to create the “A-Team” of their business.
I am going to share with you some of the tips that have helped me brand myself. This isn't just about getting a new job. You may love what you do for the business you’re doing it for. It is about standing out among your peers and possibly increasing your future earning potential.
It isn't hard, and it will help you become the unique professional personality that you are. If you build it and work on it over time, It will set you apart from the millions of others and put you on the path to becoming one of the G.I. Joes of your industry.
Step 1) Find Your Code Name
First, I have a confession.
My name is Christopher Wade Cantley and among friends I go by “Chris”. A Google search for “Chris Cantley” brings up all sorts of stuff. As unique of a name as I thought it was, it turns out that what came up in Google was a digital designer in New York, a guy that works on movies in LA, and a 29 year old guy in Connecticut who was arrested for meeting a 13 year old girl he chatted with online. Google brought back 113,000 results. Nearly all of those aren't me (especially the last guy).
So I needed something Unique. I needed a Code Name or the equivalent of a pen name but still legally usable.
A search for “Wade Cantley” brought up far fewer results (still about 61,000) and they were not very specific to the search term. And it wasn't a part of any top ranking domain name so that was a good place to start.
For you, it might be your full name or even a nickname but Google is a good place to begin to figure out what you would be competing against. The end goal is to dominate the search results for the name you choose.
Next hit your favorite domain name registrar. For me this is GoDaddy.com. Start searching for a domain name that is right for you and try to avoid any name that already has a “.com” purchased. If someone else has your ideal domain name as a “.com” then that is someone you have to compete with in search engines and they probably have a head start.
Remember that whatever you choose you are going to use that on EVERYTHING. Resumes, websites.. it is how people will know you professionally.
Snatch up that perfect domain name. We will come back to this in a bit.
Step 2) Your Tactical Battle Platform!
Everyone has a blog but this is a little different. This is where you should be keeping all your posts about your profession. This is a blog with a very tactical purpose.
Did you conquer a problem?
Write a post about it.
Did you run into a problem that defeated you?
Write a post about it, put “to be continued…”, and then write another when you conquer it.
How will this help you?
- It may help you out down the road should you run into the same problem again.
- It will provide content that relates to your industry and boost your search engine signal.
- It will show employers and peers that you can solve problems and are actively sharing with the industry’s community.
- You will be perceived as a social leader and expert.
- You may end up helping some poor soul who was stuck on the same problem as you.
But where to blog?
There are lots of blogs platforms out there and while I have found WordPress to be particularly fantastic for my needs there are lots of platforms available. Do a search and start playing around and you will find the right one for you.
Once you setup your blog, you want to point your domain name to it. Every blog is a little different and you might have to hunt around for how to do it, but millions of people have figured it out and there are ample instructions and tutorials. Your chosen blog platform will likely have instructions to help you out.
Last note. Don’t blog about your employer. Be specific about problems but don’t post work related details. Yes, you probably tackled that issue at work, but generalize about how you tackled the problem. If you show code, rewrite it so that there isn't anything about who you work for in it.
Step 3) Social Network
If you are reading this, you probably have a LinkedIn account. This is the first stop to creating a professional social media personality. If you have not filled it out to the max, if you have not connected with professionals in you industry as well as friends, family and coworkers, then get cracking! Cross linking is incredibly important content for search engines. I am not a SEO insider, but nearly every search engine tips-&-tricks guide will tell you that it’s not just what you know (content) but who you know (everyone you link to and who links to you).
Next, create your Professional FaceBook (PFB) page. This should be a completely different account with its own login and use the same name that you used for your domain name. Unlike a personal FB page where everything is private, this PFB page should be completely public. You want everyone and anyone to see this page, especially search engines.
This is a great place to connect to the more personal aspects of your professional profile. Pictures of people you connected with at conferences, even posts about your profession-related hobbies. Add anything that will continue to color your professional profile.
Next, get a twitter account. This is the same game as FB and LinkedIn. Make the profile name the same as your chosen domain name. Follow people in your industry. Post links and updates in your professional life. Remember, even if you don’t have any followers right now, someday you may and at the very least it will help with SEO.
Lastly, I can’t stress this enough. These are public posts and anything beyond “this is where I work right now” should be left out. Don’t share anything about the people you work with, or the details of a given project. It protects the company you work for and it protects you.
Step 4) The Armory
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t get any kickbacks or advertising bucks for promoting these sites. These are simply the tools I have used to help me create SEO punch and have been very helpful. They are also free.
- Quora is a place where people ask questions and you get to put in your 2-cents. Being the person that has the answers not only helps someone else but helps you by connecting your assorted sites to rich content and you might be surprised at how many questions pertain to your knowledge base. Create an account that is identical to your domain name and start looking for questions to answer.
- re.vu This site is great for putting your resume into an infographic. It lets you use profile pictures, background images and customize some styling. Extra points if you can keep it consistent with your blog.
- brandyourself Use this site to help tie together the links across your various content sources and monitor your search engine placement over time. While there is a paid version, the free is more than enough to get the job done and at the very least it will allow you to monitor your primary search term which should also be your domain name.
Step 5) Connect It All Together.
On your blog, you need to put links to your LinkedIn, Quora, Re.vu, FaceBook, Twitter and any other professional account you have setup. This can be in the footer, header navigation or anywhere else. On all of your accounts you need to put links to everything else. This creates a web of content that makes it easy for someone interested in you to not only find you but find all the other sites and content that make up your professional brand.
You should also have some consistency across all the sites. Starting with the same account name as your domain name and followed by the same portrait image and possibly background image for the sites that allow it. There should be no question that your professional FB account is related to your blog and every other site you have setup.
Step 6) Get Out Into Your Community
Join local knowledge groups. Search websites like Meetup to connect with people who have similar professional interests. It is something that I am not particularly good at but I have been trying to network in person by attending conferences and local professional meet-n-chats.
Write and post not just on your blog but on sites like LinkedIn. They have new options to write articles that you should take advantage of. (remember to cross link to your social media and blogs)
Volunteer to do talks and presentations both at Meetup events and at conferences. Start with small crowds to build up nerves and go from there.
Lastly, create a professional business card and not one for your business but one for you. Use it to perpetuate your personal brand and promote yourself as a key character in your industry. Yes, you represent the company you work for, but if you work on representing yourself as a stand-out industry personality, your business will be proud to have you on board.
If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. The take away here is that:
You don’t have to be the best.
You don’t have to be the least expensive.
YOU are the brand.
YOU are what employers are betting on.
YOU have to stand out.
Businesses want unique, motivated, and enthusiastic people who have community and industry clout. You have to stand out among the millions; to be the G.I. Joe among the green army men.
I am still experimenting with self branding every day however this is what has worked for me and I hope that it works even better for you.
(as an example, here is my ongoing self-branding experiment)