Creating a personal brand is much like creating a 3D resume. Everything on the paper has to come to life through social media, guest blogging on websites, business cards, and even email addresses. However you want to create your personal brand is up to you — be creative and start building up your accomplishments on and off the web. In the end, creating a personal brand can be a lot of fun. However what many professionals don’t realize is that you’re not always creating a personal brand from scratch.
For the first time, those entering the workforce grew up with social media. At fifteen years old (some even younger) they were posting pictures and statuses on MySpace, and when Facebook exploded onto the scene they were letting others tag them in photos and tag them in statuses. Although this social media evidence may have been years ago, it will follow you into your professional career as a part of your personal brand.
In other words, it is extremely important that you realize how you are already branded across the Internet. You can do this in a few different ways:
Look up your name in quotations on major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. This will pull up anything that was ever recorded about you on the Internet. If you have a MySpace account, it will likely appear; if you were ever mentioned in the local paper, it will likely appear. You may find things you had forgotten even existed!
Look up every social media account you’ve ever had. If you had a MySpace page that you never used, try to obtain the password and login. Sometimes inappropriate spam messages can get posted on your social networks, and this is not something you want connected with your name. Either micromanage what is shown on these accounts or delete them immediately.
If you find that your current personal brand is less than professional, it is time to start changing some things around. Unfortunately, it may be too late to delete certain aspects that helped shape your current personal brand, but there are things you can do to help:
4 Tips to Help Save an Existing Personal Brand
Guest Post. One of the quickest ways to cover up that “bad” stuff with some “good” stuff is to guest post. If you write articles and then contribute those as a guest post to different websites, these articles will start to be at the top of the search engines when you type in your name. In other words, you’re working to cover up your old information. Get all the bad stuff to page 4!
Change Name. If you have a very common name and a personal brand that needs changing, you are lucky. When you look up your name many others may come up, making it harder to find your less-than-professional past (however, this also works to the flip side: If you have a great personal brand, it will be harder to find). Whether your name is common or unique, it is never a bad idea to change your name on social media accounts if possible. This will make it harder for employers to find personal accounts.
Create Fake Accounts. Many soon-to-be professionals want to maintain their social networking accounts no matter how vulgar or raunchy they may be. If this describes you, consider creating another social media account to be your professional account. Set your personal account to private and have the professional account public for all to see. However beware: if employers care enough, they can track down your personal account.
Privacy. Set everything you possibly can to private. If an employer asks why everything is private, say you are concerned about predators or spammers.
In the end, it is social media that usually bites a candidate in the butt. According to The Whole Brain Group, 91% of employers search for applicants on social media sites as part of the background check. For this reason, it is extremely important that a candidate take all measures to cover up this less-than-professional personal brand. Fortunately, this is the case for many in the latest generation of workers, so your friends will understand.
Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University. Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger at Highervisibility, nationally recognized as one of the best SEO companies in the country. Connect with HigherVisibility on Google+ and Twitter to learn more!