“Reputations are created every day and every minute.” ~ Anonymous
So you’ve made the leap. You have finished your formal education and now the fun begins… you want to work doing something meaningful, make money, and make a way for yourself in the World. Congratulations and welcome to the next day of the rest of your life! It feels so different now.
I remember when I graduated from college. It felt to me, at least, like I was now worthy, and every employer out there should know it. I had a head full of freshly ingrained knowledge and more ambition than ever before in my life. The good news was that my degree, by virtue of its general nature, opened up a variety of opportunities for me. The bad news was, because of its unspecific nature, it was difficult for employers to figure out just where I could provide value. So I began my hunt like many students while I was still in school. I was competing with people who had the same desire as I, to secure the position of their dreams and knock that employer’s socks off.
Well, after 3 months of searching, I did find a job. It was actually a pretty good one. I always dabbled in work that focused on people, so securing a position as Training and Development Coordinator within Human Resources was a great opportunity as my first job out of school, and one that opened the door to some great future job opportunities. So, as I reflect on where I was then and where I am today, it makes me think about the journey to get here. My life changed in more ways than I can imagine, but the one constant through it all is the person that I am. That persona evolved into what is known today as my personal brand.
With the advent of social media and social networks, the value of the personal brand has taken on greater meaning than ever before. It is absolutely transparent, easily known and just a click away on a computer, iPad, Blackberry, etc. Your personal brand is something that you will hone over your lifetime. It describes you, but it may not define you. The best way to look at “you” from the perspective of another person is to put yourself in that person’s shoes.
Now, think about this in terms of an employer. Imagine yourself as a seasoned recruiter in a Fortune 500 organization who is looking to fill an entry-level position in marketing. You know that you’re looking for a recent college grad who’s A-level, and willing to come in and learn the company’s business, grass roots style. As a job seeker, you see this position on the TweetMyJOBS channel on Twitter. It looks interesting, so you apply. Then that sacred day arrives, the phone rings with an invitation to interview. You know your resume and cover letters are good representations of your brand — why else would you have gotten the call? But have you thought about the other pieces that comprise your image? Some of those pieces are found in your Facebook and MySpace accounts, your Twitter, Four Square and Gowalla updates, and on your LinkedIn profile — and this is just a short list. So the big questions are: what have you done to get these image pieces in place to support your resume and, more importantly, support you during the interview process?
I can tell you in fact that employers leave very little to uncertainty when it comes to talent acquisition. And, I think more so today than ever before. With the lightning fast speed at which you can communicate with your peers, so can an employer locate those communications that expose you… for better or worse. Companies not only want to know you are capable of doing a job; they need to know you are the person you claim to be during the interview process. No one is perfect and, from what I see, employers understand this. You, as the job seeker, just need to be astutely aware of what information is “out there” about you and be prepared to handle questions from a prospective employer. You will, like any company, deal with the effects of your brand and be called upon to explain and acknowledge its existence. With transparency being a keyword of the times, there is no hiding. What has happened, happened; it’s history, but know this, there are no excuses. You will be assessed on what you are, who you know, where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and for the purposes of starting your career, how you acknowledge how you want the prospective employer to view you. You have control over this. Your brand reputation is your own, and something no one can take from you. Others cannot change or alter your brand without your active or, at least, passive cooperation. But you’ve got to take responsibility and control. This doesn’t mean you can’t make a mistake or suffer a bump in the road; chances are you will. What is more important is how you manage a snafu and control the spin around it.
So what’s the point? Simply this, your brand will carry you through life – both personally and professionally. Treat it with kindness and nurture it. In return, you’ll receive a lifetime of benefits that will sustain you as the person you are and raise you as the person you want to be.