Personal branding is about managing your name – even if you don’t own a business – in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records.
– Tim Ferriss
Start by knowing what you want and who you are, build credibility around it and deliver it online in a compelling way.
– Krista Neher
With the return to campus, the change of season and the prospect of meeting with employers, many of us are re-examining the image we want to present to the academic and professional worlds.
Whether we’re at the early stages of our academic journey, job hunting, pivoting professionally or simply questioning ourselves, we can all benefit from pausing, taking a step back, and asking ourselves: “Does my professional brand send the right message with regard to my most immediate goals?”
But what exactly is professional branding?
Professional branding is the art of shaping the general perception that your peers, colleagues, professors, and current and potential employers have of you after interacting with you: in writing, in person and online. It is the precise impression or representation of yourself that you strive to leave in people’s minds. It’s essentially a form of marketing. It’s not a one-day performance that you choose to deliver for an interview: it’s a savoir-être that you cultivate over the long term with consistency and intention. It’s second nature. It’s what you exude when no one’s looking.
Think about your last 3 interactions with Telfer staff members, your most recent outing at the local coffee shop, the quality of the language in your last 10 text messages, or the overall look of your LinkedIn profile. Think about what you wear most often in class or at the supermarket. That’s all part of your brand.
If you could describe the message you conveyed to those around you (intentionally or not) in these various scenarios, what adjectives would you use?
Now think about what you’d like people to say “behind your back” after they’ve met you. Does your professional brand represent you authentically? Does it serve your professional intentions? In other words, are your actions in line with your career aspirations?
If you think your professional branding needs a little kneading, tell yourself it’s like getting a deep tissue massage: you may not see the need for it now, but when you feel the difference afterwards, you’ll realize it was more than necessary!
An easy 3-step branding action plan
1. Flawless: your default setting
Anyone from the Telfer community knows that “business school” means competition, hence your need to stand out from the crowd. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to polish your written communications: e-mails, job applications, resumé, cover letter, chat interactions, LinkedIn messages, etc. Very few of us take the time to proofread and correct our mistakes; so few indeed, that the simple act of proofreading what we write, can easily mean rising above the competition. Any professional will tell you: there’s nothing more insulting than receiving an email that’s poorly written, rushed, riddled with mistakes, and/or lacking a clear subject line and greetings. It’s the best way to alienate the very person you’re hoping to get something from.
To start off the academic year on the right foot…
- Equip yourself with integrated spelling and grammar correction tools like Antidote, which has the advantage of working in both official languages.
- Proofread out loud and, if in doubt, have a peer proofread.
- Proofread again. No kidding. It pays off a lot more than you think!
Take a step further
Go see the mentors at the Academic Writing Help Centre and strengthen your writing skills. Through the Academic Writing Help Centre, you can get help understanding assignment instructions; learn how to make an outline and organize your ideas into paragraphs; get feedback and discover tools that will help you edit your work yourself; learn how to cite your sources correctly, and more!
2. Authenticity: at the core of your visibility
You already know that LinkedIn is THE networking platform you should be prioritizing throughout your time at Telfer, but did you know that the summary (or “About” section) is one of the 3 most important components for the visibility of your profile? Why do so many people neglect it? Because talking authentically, yet positively about oneself can be terrifying!
Along with the headline and your two most recent professional roles, the summary of your LinkedIn profile is THE component that drives algorithms. By leaving this section empty, incomplete or generic, you’re missing the opportunity to make yourself visible and credible to recruiters.
Naturally, writing a LinkedIn summary isn’t exactly a piece of cake. The Career Centre Team knows this, and we’re here to help.
This year at the beginning of the academic year…
- If you haven’t already done so, create a LinkedIn profile in English. You can add a French version later.
- Read this article, and from the suggested summaries, pick out the phrases that appeal to you. First and foremost, this section of your profile should be authentically yours.
- Write a one-page draft, then book an appointment on Career Launch: LinkedIn: Writing a compelling LinkedIn summary.
Take a step further
Take on the LinkedIn challenge: buff up your profile in 40 days.
3. Getting to know you: it starts with you
When I offer a one-on-one consultation on the LinkedIn summary or profile in general, I always ask the following questions:
Who are you professionally? What are your guiding principles? In a team, what role do you feel most comfortable in? What kind of challenges or tasks do you enjoy? In what kind of work environment do you feel you can perform to the best of your ability? If we had to describe you in three words, what would they be?
All these questions (and the answers that go with them) are much broader than your academic training and specialized skills: they focus on your personality, motivations, and interpersonal relationships. Before broadcasting your professional image, you need to define and master it.
To explore your professional image this year…
- Take the time to answer the following question: “What achievements (academic, professional, personal or other) am I most proud of, and why?”
- Book an appointment through Career Launch: Career Awareness: Career Testing (information/intake).
- Attend a Network Like a Pro workshop or any networking event; register now through Career Launch.
Take a step further
Answer the following questions, which are among the strangest ever asked in an interview. There’s no right or wrong answer: the idea is to help you define your strengths, character traits, and temperament. This exercise will not only help you develop your professional brand, but it will also prepare you for employers’ unsettling questions.
• If I gave you $100,000 Canadian today, what would you do with it?
• If you were a vegetable, what would you be, and why?
• Which song best represents you, and why?
• What would you do if you inherited your aunt’s pizzeria?
• If you could be a superhero, who would you be?
• Name five uses for a staple-less stapler.
• We’re arriving unannounced for dinner. What are you preparing for us?
Do you think it’s crazy? Your humble writer took part in the exercise, and here’s the result:
Q: Which vegetable are you, and why?
A: I am an Ontario-grown asparagus. Here is why. Even though I have a strong affinity for French culture (my ancestors came from Charente-Maritime), I thrive on Ontarian soil. I speak both official languages and I proudly defend bilingualism. Like the asparagus spear, I can be rather rigid, especially when it comes to language quality and clarity. Nonetheless, I remain flexible when faced with a changing climate. I also need little intervention from the chef. My only requirement? Precision in execution. Whatever the text or document, I believe I can add a touch of refinement and, above all, flavour! As the asparagus spear, I grow well on my own, but surrounded by my peers, with whom I share roots. I enjoy taking on solo projects, but as part of a team who strives to reach high. From amuse-bouche to dessert (from career blogging to coaching), I can play a variety of roles. I also adapt well to a variety of “cooking styles”. I can’t immediately please every palate, but in a context that combines expertise, talent, openness, and creativity, I always make a positive contribution! Whether your goal is to make an omelette, a velouté, a quiche or a soufflé, I’ll adapt to your recipe and your skills to help you shine with your guests.
Now that you have a clear way forward, I hope you’ll take advantage of this new academic year to nurture your professional brand and explore what makes you unique career-wise. I can’t wait to find out what kind of vegetable you are!
To know more: What Kind of Vegetable Would You Be?