Advance yourself in 2014: Creating your personal brand

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    It’s advice as old as the dawn of time: “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

    It’s a solid suggestion, too, because a poor, broke, recent college grad wears sweats and Uggs more often than a pencil skirt or tie.

    But if you find yourself sitting on the couch at your parents’ house, zoned out with your college degree in one hand and the remote in your other, there’s a beautiful reality that can offer your future employers the most professional version of yourself: personal branding.

    Jerry Wilson, co-author of “Managing Brand You: Seven Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self,” defined personal branding as “your personal promise.”

    The art of personal branding is a beautiful thing for those stepping out into the real world for the first time because you choose how you want to be perceived by the masses.

    Thus, a presentation of personal branding food for thought:

    Decide what you represent and what you want to represent

    Humans are complex. A college grad is also a brother or a sister, a Giants or a Dodgers fan, a chocolate lover, a writer, etc. And to different people, you’re different things.

    The first step in creating your personal brand is deciding how to narrow your focus, which generally goes hand-in-hand with your chosen field. Are you in a band? Do you want to start a business? Are you an aspiring ESPN anchor? Take what you love and what you want to have a future in and propel your name and image forward with that.

    “The way a college graduate could choose to enter (the job) market is with a bit of a shotgun approach — throwing résumés everywhere and (hoping) they stick, which won’t work in this market,” Wilson said. “A personal branding approach will start with who you are and how you are.”

    In “Managing Brand You,” authors Wilson and Ira Blumenthal write, “Successful brands cannot be, and do not try to be, all things to all people. In fact, a characteristic of well-positioned brands is their narrowed focus and specific expertise.”

    But putting forth what you want other people to know isn’t all sunshine and daisies — personal branding has to include a spoonful of humility and honesty.

    For that, a personal SWOT analysis is in order — assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to figure out the real you. Then sit down with friends and co-workers and ask them to tell you about yourself — in order to pitch yourself to the world, you need to find out what others honestly think of you.

    Follow the leader

    Once you’ve figured out how to portray yourself to the masses, it’s time to get organized. Digital stalking becomes a necessity, especially if you want to emulate professionals in your field. By following in the footsteps of the greats, you will find stories of inspiration, as well as an idea of where to start.

    Robert Dean Barrett manages a part-time job with his home business of personal branding and social media advertising. Barrett has worked with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and specific members trying to get their names out.

    “(Personal branding) is making yourself look good without showing off,” Barrett said. “Then it depends on the audience. The first thing to do is find a mentor who’s already done it, someone who has a personal brand, and then you copy everything they do.”

    Get social

    As much as Generation X and the Baby Boomers might not want to accept it, social media is part of the 21st Century. Many businesses are now hiring full-time social media managers to run their social media pages.

    Fieldhouse Media recently found that 93 percent of employers look at social media profiles. Thus, maintaining social media sites can only help you put your best face forward:

    1. Cover the bases: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Having an account with these sites can help get your name across the Internet. At the same time, don’t go overboard. Have enough accounts to where you can manage them, and not too much to where you’re scrambling to update them.

    2. Upload a consistent avatar (profile photo) across all networks to avoid confusion.

    3. Post often. If you’re going to brand yourself as a “social media guru,” you need to be able to back that statement up.

    4. Share unique content. While your avatar should be the same, your content shouldn’t be. Posting the same copy across all of your networks leads to boredom.

    5. Zero in on your audience. If you hope to have a job in the world of sports media, state it in your social media bios, and stick to sharing and posting that type of content for the most part.

    Mark off your checklist

    Ages 23 through 30 are known as the “proving ground” time. But before donning those big-boy pants, you need to fine-tune your presentation.

    • Update your résumé. Now that you’re fine-tuning your job searches to something in your field, it’s time to erase “Costco cart crew” from your list of work experience. Instead, pull out all the stops by including anything and everything that pertains to your dream job.

    • You can’t go wrong with a digital portfolio. Anything from Google Sites to Wix will give your interviewer what they need to see the real you.

    • Always be on the lookout for opportunities to expand your talents and experiences. Not only do employers look for the number of internships or jobs you’ve had, but they also look for interesting facts and talents that set people apart. Volunteering or participating on boards or even taking up an instrument add to a bullet-point-filled résumé.

    • Start a blog about your industry or submit articles to websites. Such content will result in a more solid search engine optimization when employers do a Google search for your name.

    With the daunting task of finding a job as a recent college graduate in a world where a mere 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major, preparation is key when stepping off campus for the last time.

    “I would encourage any college student to focus on quality, not quantity,” Wilson said. “Quality of content, quality of relationships. Quantity doesn’t differentiate you in the marketplace, quality does.”

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