For many professionals out there, whether actively seeking employment or a career change, or for those who consider themselves passive candidates, a hacked-together profile is often the extent of their digital presence. In the best case scenario, a candidate might have a strategically composed profile complete with well-thought-out headlines, compelling job descriptions, and a nice profile shot. But more often than not, I find job seekers aren't using networking sites, or the online space in general, to its entire potential as far as personal branding and reputation marketing goes.
It's not just about creating or having a digital brand presence — you have to curate it too.
The idea behind creating a cohesive digital presence encompasses more than just signing up for networking sites or having an online version of your resume — it includes all of the areas in which you make yourself visible to employers online, and the overall message that connects them together. This can include your resume, professional profiles on networking and media sites, social media accounts, published blog comments, online portfolios, videos, About.me page, and the list goes on. I often use the term "personal brand portfolio" to describe this, as it essentially functions like a packaged selection of content, profiles, and data that you're utilizing to promote your identity and reputation to potential employers.
A solid online brand presence should be built around a strategic message that answers the question, "What do I want potential employers to know about me as a candidate, and as a professional in my field?" Whatever that message is, it should resonate clearly throughout all of your visible profiles and online properties, anything that employers might come in contact with when they research you.
There are a few key steps you can take to build a solid digital presence, manage your online reputation, and ensure the visibility you're creating sends a positive and impactful message to potential employers:
Create Brand Consistency
Consistency is essential to your online brand, and this holds true both visually and content-wise. I recommend investing in a professional headshot and using consistent profile images for all of your networks, making it easier for people to recognize you. Professional profiles function as your digital resume, your online business card, and are the first things people will often see about you. Make them polished and enlist tools that will create an excellent first impression. Keep consistency in your headlines where possible, and think about how you are describing yourself. Is your Twitter tagline conveying something completely different than what you say in your Behance portfolio, or on LinkedIn or Google+? This also applies to any professional associations or directories where you might be listed as a member.
Deliver on Your Message
What you say in the body of your profiles should support the high-level ideas presented in your headlines. If you describe yourself as an "Innovative Designer & Visual Problem Solver," explain what that means in terms of what you've done. Discuss the kinds of solutions you have come up with through your design, the type of work you've done, and the how it has positively impacted your customers. Avoid heavy claims that simply sound good on paper unless you're prepared to back them up with evidence and examples.
Manage Your Reputation
There are a number of services out there like Klout or Brand Yourself to help you measure the effectiveness and reach of your digital presence. Of course, there is also information that you can't control, and it's important to keep a watchful eye on what is being published with your name attached. The most straightforward approach is the old Google search, but it's also a good idea to set up Google alerts for your name so that you can be notified of any mentions you may not be aware of.
Update Your Presence as Necessary
Avoid falling into the trap of creating a one-off profile on these networks and never tending to it again. Your accomplishments and career trajectory will change, and your target market may also change, so your profile should reflect those things. Don't just create a Twitter profile, stand back, and see who follows you, or setup a Git Hub repository and never commit or update anything. Make it a point to be continually connecting with thought leaders, companies of interest, and peers in your industry, to participate in conversations, to get involved in networking groups, and share interesting content and ideas of your own. This is the quickest way to start positioning yourself as knowledgeable and in touch with what's going on in your field, and employers are looking for evidence of that.
Not everyone is actively job seeking, and how you manage your digital brand presence should align with your own career objectives, which may be simply to continue building your network for when you are ready to move on. The goal is to create a place for people to find you, and ensure that you're conveying a cohesive brand message around your expertise and credibility. You can't control everything that's out there, but you can position yourself effectively by publicizing the information you do want hiring managers to receive about you and remember you for.
Dana Leavy-Detrick is founder, chief creative scribe and resume writer at Brooklyn Resume Studio, www.bklynresumestudio.com.