Quick: What does your personal brand say about you? If you can’t answer this question quickly, then you aren’t in control of your brand and it could be harming your career.
“But,” you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t have a brand! I’m just me!” Wrong. If you haven’t been consciously developing your personal brand, then you’ve been unconsciously developing one that you may — or may not — like.
Your personal brand is the sum total of your appearance, demeanor, professionalism, the way you treat your friends and coworkers, and the way you present yourself online.
If you come to work looking schlubby, are constantly complaining of a headache, and your Facebook wall is nothing but drinking photos, your personal brand is that you’re a party animal.
If you come to work polished, actively participate in projects with co-workers, and constantly tweet relevant industry articles and pictures from conferences, your brand is that you are confident and interested in your industry.
Which of those people do you think gets promoted?
If you’re not sure which employee you’re more like, consider these three ways your personal brand could be hurting your career.
You Have an Overly Crazy or Critical Online Image
“Nearly 80 percent of employers Google an applicant’s name at the start of the evaluation process,” says Mary Rigali, director of career services at Post University
. What they find when they do this search can determine if you get the job or not.
Social media profiles that display or discuss drug use or drinking, make references to other inappropriate content, or even include frequent typos can all stop you before you even reach the interview stage. Rigali also cautions that negative remarks about previous employers or educational institutions can be a big turnoff to potential employers.
Rigali says she advises her students to look over their social media presences, keeping in mind that any negative information will appear to potential employers without context and may be interpreted as a lack of professionalism. “While I always recommend turning on any available privacy, it is imperative for job seekers to clean up both their public and private profiles. After all, you never know who may be looking.”
Your Interactions with Professional Contacts Are Rude or Ridiculous
As important as your online image is, your demeanor when you’re interacting with professional contacts in your industry may be even more so. Via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, your writings and retweets can quickly gain you a reputation as being funny and gregarious, a hot-headed bully, or a relentless whiner, among others. If you’re hugging the wall at conferences, no one will remember you. If you make a splash telling dirty jokes or with endless witty cracks about your old job, you’ll be memorable — but not in a good way.
found this out the hard way. The Napa, California-area wedding photographer says he started calling out some leaders in his industry when he didn’t agree with them or when they made mistakes. Rather than showcasing his own innovative ideas and expertise, pointing out others’ flaws earned Halberg “more enemies than supporters.”
“I basically stopped using Twitter because I found myself only getting involved in conversations where I was calling people out,” he says. When Halberg recognized his behavior was limiting his brand and his business, he put a stop to the negativity.
Like it or not, society judges people by their looks. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are for that promotion, if the boss has to wonder if you’ll dress appropriately at that conference next month when she’s not around, you won’t move to the next level.
Everyone should appear fresh, clean, and well-rested at their job at all times. It’s also important to invest in well-fitting professional clothing and tasteful accessories, including shoes that “aren’t used for hiking,” says Ron Hequet, entrepreneur andcareer author
. Pay attention to your personal grooming, as well. That includes facial hair for men, makeup for women, and hair and nails for both sexes.
If you’re about to interview or start a new position and you’re unsure of the dress code, Hequet recommends calling to ask or even going a step further, if possible. He suggests driving by or waiting in the parking lot during peak coming and going hours to see everyone’s attire as they enter or leave the building.