Bottom Up Approach With Personal Branding

As you develop a personal brand, you should employ a “bottom up” approach whenever possible. With a “bottom up” approach, you first build an identity and then utilize a network – social media, forums, and the internet. This idea might seem MOO (“master of the obvious”), but the truth is we often become enamored by the network effect and do not consider how our interactions impact our personal brand. There is excitement when you make a lot of connections.

Social media companies understand the value of networks; according to Reed’s Law, the utility of large networks, particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network. And as I have discussed in previous blogs, this is why social media services first built their networks and then developed their identity aspect.

I remember first signing up with Facebook; the reason I signed up was to connect with my family. When I signed up with LinkedIn, I wanted to make professional connections. I hastily setup my profiles because my purpose was to connect and not necessarily to project my personal brand. Of course, I have since gone back and reengineered my profiles to coincide with my personal brand.

You have to build some sort of identity, such as a LinkedIn or Facebook profile, before you can use their networks; therefore, I suggest considering: the depth of content in your profile; personal versus professional content; who owns the content you publish; your objectives in using the service; and linking back to your professional website. In addition, everything you publish online becomes part of your digital footprint – a public record, accessible to everyone: recruiters, clients, associates, etc.; so when someone searches on your name in Google, there is a good chance they retrieve your profiles and content you published.

If you have already subscribed to a service, you should update the profile to ensure that it coincides with your personal brand. Whenever you start a new service with a network, I suggest taking a “bottom up” approach; your first concern is how you are represented on the network, your identity. You evaluate everything you say and any content you publish based on how it promotes your personal brand. After your identity is established, you then start branching out with your connections and building your social network. Always link back to your professional website because you have full control over the content, so you know when someone follows the link they get a consistent message about you no matter where they come from – in a way it becomes a universal representation of your personal brand.

Finally, the internet can be considered a massive network and your primary reference point is a professional website; it becomes what you wanted ranked first when someone searches for you in a Google search. Therefore, your professional website should exude your personal brand.

Online Personal Brand: Skill Set, Aura, and Identity
Online Personal Brand Click to Learn More

You Should Have A Personal Website

I want to summarize some of the key points from the last three blogs where I discussed what might replace the traditional resume and the concept of a professional identity and incorporated insights from publications by reputable authors (Dan Schawbel in Forbes, Sudy Bharadwaj in Mashable , and Susanne Markgren in College & Research Libraries). In this blog, I want to introduce some of the concepts from a LifeHacker blog written by Alan Henry called “How to Clean Up Your Online Presence and Make a Great First Impression”; LifeHacker has a large following and can be considered the pulse of the younger generation regarding personal branding.

I have two overarching conclusions. First, it is clear that a resume is going to morph into something new, something that takes advantage of the functionality of the internet including: delivering various types of media, enabling better interactivity, and using identities and networks. Second, there is this idea of a “professional identity” or “online portfolio” or “online presence” or “nameplate site” which is essentially a personal website with your own domain that acts as the primary node for all your interactions on the internet.

Professional Identity, Personal Brand
Professional Identity, Personal Brand

The standard employment platform is in a transition from a resume into a professional website and there are a few catalysts driving the change:

  • Recruiters are finding it more efficient to seek out candidates. This means there needs to be an accessible search mechanism, which requires a search engine and an index of personal websites or profiles.
  • Higher employee turnover.  In his article, Mr. Schawbel shares a startling stat that 84% of employees plan to look for a new job in 2011; people are on the move looking for the next best opportunity.
  • Accessibility to other forms of media. It is easy to deliver social media, video, files and rich text through the internet; this adds dimensions to an employment evaluation (as Mr. Bharadwaj argues in his article).
  • Facilitating the process. Adding interactivity, with searching, communication, and navigation functionality, is easy to do with a professional website.

Developing a professional identity is discussed in each of the articles. Some of the common themes include:

  • Get a personal professional website with your own domain name. This is your “home base” on the internet, a landing page for all your social media profiles.
  • Be prepared for what content about you is already out there. People are going to look for information about you on the internet. Mr. Henry suggests conducting a “vanity search” on Google to see what others are going to see when they search on your name.
  • Control how you are represented in search engines; you can setup an SEO (“search engine optimization”) and “clean up” what is already out there.
  • Publish content in a professional way. There is a thin line between what is considered professional versus personal. Ms. Marken says to consider publishing everything in a professional context, and Mr. Henry says to consider using anonymity when you publish personal content.
  • Present yourself in a flattering way. Consider the way you represent yourself with a resume, you want to standout as much as possible; don’t worry about possibly sounding conceited, though make sure you are accurate. On Quora, somebody posed the question: “Does a well-designed professional looking personal website make you look conceited?” and it elicited some good responses.
  1. Forbes article “5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years”, Dan Schawbel
  2. College & Research Libraries article,  “Ten simple steps to create and manage your professional online identity”, Susanne Markgren
  3. Mashable article “4 Reasons Recruiters Should Stop Accepting Traditional Resumes” ,  Sudy Bharadwaj

Personal Dynamics In Having A Professional Identity

I discussed how the concept of an”online presence” or “professional identity” is going to replace the resume in the last blog (based on an article by Dan Schawbel). In the article,  “Ten simple steps to create and manage your professional online identity”, Susanne Markgren thoroughly describes the important characteristics of a professional identity and their influence  on our personal dynamics. Managing how you are perceived personally and professionally on the pervasive internet is a difficult undertaking. Ms. Markgren breaks it down into 10 basic steps (the following list is in her words only).

Ten simple steps to create and manage your professional online identity

I think this is an exceptional summary of the personal elements involved in developing your professional online identity. People will conduct online searches about you, whether or not you are prepared for it and there is almost no delineation between personal and professional content.  Therefore, you should have a strategy as you develop your online identity and it should be professional in context and resemble how you want to be perceived – your personal brand. I suggest substituting what she calls an “online portfolio”, with a more advanced and functional professional website, and carry on with the same ideas of promoting it in your social media profiles.

I would make one addition to her list: setup your own SEO campaign, where you optimize your professional website so that it performs well in search engines – ranking high in areas where you want to represent yourself. For example, you want your professional website to appear when someone searches on your profession and where you live or the title of an article you wrote or the company whose website you built. Moreover, in the near future, I envision a search engine that indexes only personal websites which would make a SEO campaign even more effective.

What Is Going To Replace The Resume?

In many previous blogs, I have discussed why I think the standard resume should be replaced by a professional website as the standard employment evaluation platform. I decided to research what published writers are saying in their blogs and articles to answer a few questions: what might replace the resume, why do we need to make a change, and when will this change occur. I am planning to write a series of blogs on this subject, starting with analysis of blogs and articles I have read and then following with a summary of my conclusions.

In the Forbes article “5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years”, Dan Schawbel , a guru in career development technology, makes a compelling argument why an “online presence” is going to replace a resume. In previous blogs, I talk about the concept of a professional identity which is essentially the same as what Mr. Schawbel calls an “online presence” (though my discussion centers more on its functionality).  Some of the similarities between an online presence and a professional identity include: having a domain name as a primary reference point; ranking high in search engines; displaying as a landing page in social media profiles; and establishing your personal brand.

Mr. Schawbel discusses five reasons why an “online presence” (or professional identity) will replace a resume (his words are in quotes):

“Social networking use is skyrocketing while email is plummeting.”

Social media has transformed professional networking and is being used during employment evaluations (51% of HR professionals consider using social media). LinkedIn has developed a sophisticated search mechanism where recruiters can target candidates from their profiles.

“You can’t find jobs traditionally anymore. “

I think this statement is too strong. According to the survey Employers Seeking Employees, a majority of HR professionals ranked finding and applying to job postings as the most important factor while seeking employment.

However, I agree with Mr. Schawbel that times are changing and individuals should brand themselves and introduce a pull approach – where you “pull” potential employers to your professional website – while seeking employment. So, as Mr. Schawbel concludes: “By building your online presence (professional identity), employers can find you and thus you have more opportunities”

“People are managing their careers as entrepreneurs.

Basically, Mr. Schawbel suggests there is high employee turnover in part because employees are always looking for the next exciting opportunity and as evidence shares a stat that 84% of employees plan to look for a new job in 2011. Interestingly, the whole idea of a pull approach can support professionals with what I call “casual employment seeking” – where you lure potential employers to your professional website while you are employed. This is not meant to scare employers with the prospect of higher turnover. Most employers tacitly understand the “flight risk” of their employees, so they should keep their employees properly engaged and incentivized.

“The traditional resume is now virtual and easy to build.”

I agree that much of the content on a resume and a professional website is essentially the same, so it is easy to manufacture digital copies instantaneously.

“Job seeker passion has become the deciding factor in employment.”

I full heartedly agree with this concept as well. This is why a professional website has many ways to infuse your passion into the website including: style and layout of your website, using video content, a blog, and “body of work”.

Mr. Schawbel’s blog entries and articles are all over the internet as he is probably the most prominent author on the subject of professional branding.  I agree with his prediction that the basic one-dimensional resume of today will be morphed into something more advanced in the future, though I think it is necessary to understand it is going to take time; he says in 10 years. So if you are seeking employment, I recommend not abandoning the traditional approach of finding and applying to job listings. And you should build a professional brand where you share your passions and aspirations, which is easier to do with other forms of media than a typical tabular resume. Finally, it is necessary to “get found” – where recruiters and HR professionals can find you in social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter), job search boards (MonsterJobs and CareerBuilder), and online searches (Google, Yahoo, and Bing). And we agree that you should link back to your professional identity (“online presence”) whenever possible.

My application of Mr. Schawbel’s “online presence” (or professional identity) is a professional website. I believe a professional website serves all the functions of an “online presence” and more. A professional website is a multi-dimensional resume with a standardized structure and elements – something that is crucial to be an effective employment evaluation platform.  There has to be a “pre-defined” structure, so individuals making the evaluations know where to find what they are looking for and have a common platform to make comparisons of their target list of candidates; so I disagree with Mr. Schawbel when he suggests the resume will completely go away, remnants will remain. In addition, a professional website supports the presentation of all types of media in one place.

Survey: Employers Seeking Employees, Not A “White Collar” Phenomenon

Using web services to advance your career is not limited to “white-collar” or IT and business professionals. I sent a survey, Employees Seek Employers, to HR professionals from 20 different industries/services and 30 US states and there is a clear majority of respondents using web services to find candidates (75%) and every respondent is willing to accept other types of media for employment evaluations (to compliment or replace a standard resume and cover letter).  This tells me a few things.

For many careers, it is necessary to get references to validate your experiences and skills – what LinkedIn calls endorsements. To accomplish this validation, LinkedIn has built a sophisticated, networked interface where your connections can endorse you.  However, I find a few difficulties with their approach: early career professionals simply do not have many connections and have not yet developed many skills; there becomes a “popularity contest” where the number not necessarily the quality of endorsements and connections defines you (why else are the number of connections so prominently placed); and the interface is so impersonal – essentially anyone can endorse you and view your profile without consent. What am I driving at?

You cannot fully rely on a single web service when you are seeking employment, and some web services will work better for you based on your career type and stage.  According to the survey, HR professionals are primarily using LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, and MonsterJobs to find candidates. As discussed above, LinkedIn works great for mid-career, higher-paid professionals (average age of a LinkedIn user is 42 and the average household income is over $88,000). MonsterJobs and CareerBuilder have a service with a more traditional resume approach and therefore might cater better for early career professionals and careers that require less professional networking. Echoing a suggestion in other blog entries, use your professional website as a landing page in each of these web services.

Most HR professionals would agree that the best way to represent yourself while applying to a job or getting found by a potential employer is to provide as much content as you can. Take an inventory of what content you can create and relates to your profession and provide it on your professional website. This might seem difficult if you have little employment experience, but with some self-reflection you should consider the following:

  • If you are a recent college graduate, share sample papers, presentations, and projects from your courses that are a strong representation of your capabilities (74%)
  • Create a video resume (53%)
  • Write a blog (44%)

In parenthesis, the number of HR professionals willing to use it in an employment evaluation according to the survey.

Pull Approach FAQ

I have written many blogs/articles about the idea of adding a “pull approach” to employment seeking – where you “pull” potential employers to your professional website. You can read more about this concept by clicking here (scroll down to see the blogs). I wanted to write a blog about some of the questions I have fielded along with my responses.

Push, Pull Approach Employment Seeking

How does a potential employer find out what type of career I am interested in?

There are a few ways to share your career aspirations through your professional website. First, you can write a mission or objective statement – something commonly found at the top of a resume – and make it a focal point on the home page of your professional website. Second, you can take advantage of the skill-based approach and present your skill set – something an employer can use to infer what career opportunities you would be interested in. Third, you can setup a SEO campaign to target career opportunities where you live; it takes time to be properly indexed in a search engine so this is more effective for a long-term employment search (or what we call “casual employment seeking”, i.e. when you are already employed but would be willing to explore other employment opportunities). Fourth, keep up a blog; potential employers can learn more about you on a personal level.

I would like to see the concept of a “pull approach” to become more popular, enough so that web service companies develop new technologies to make it more effective. I envision a search mechanism that indexes personal websites, for example.

How much should I rely on a “pull approach” to find employment?

I would take the same amount of time applying to jobs with the traditional approach (what we call a “push” approach), especially if you are early in your career. You can respond to job listings by sending not only the traditional PDF cover letter and resume, but also an email invitation to visit your professional website ; of course, you would prefer they follow the invitation because of the richer content and communication features of a professional website. LinkedIn and MonsterJobs have effective search mechanisms where employers can find you by searching through a skill set; I recommend linking your profiles to your professional website, so an employer winds up there.

Is there a way to tailor my website for a particular employment opportunity?

Yes. You can optimize your website by setting up the sections you want to make available, and within the section, turn “on” or “off” line-items. In addition, you can make a targeted cover letter available to a potential employer visiting your website from an email invitation. They follow a link from your invitation, log into your website, and are then taken to a page where the targeted cover letter appears.

How do I keep track of potential employers visiting my website?

You can incorporate Google Analytics with your professional website. This helps you keep track of how visitors are finding you, what content they are accessing, and how long they are on your website. There is also a feature where a potential employer can leave a message after visiting your website for an employment opportunity; this functions like a guestbook. They can leave a message about the opportunity, how to contact them, and what the next step might be.

Is a “pull approach” more effective for certain professions? Is a “pull approach” more effective at certain career stages?

I would expect that if you are seeking employment in IT, business, and communications, a “pull approach” might be more effective because of the direct influence of web media and the faster pace of hiring in these areas. I have experienced recruiters trying to fill a web designer job in a matter of hours.

Matching job seekers with potential employers is a long standing, well established system. There are certain professions, such as entry-level lawyers and doctors, where there is a courting and internship programs that will ultimately determine whether you get an offer. However, even if you do not effectively pull a potential employer to your website, a professional website is still an excellent way to represent you.

A “pull approach” can only be effective if employers actively seek employees, something we have discussed in previous blogs. The best evidence that this is happening is the success of LinkedIn’s flagship product Recruiter, where recruiters pay to access LinkedIn’s network to find potential candidates. The average age of a LinkedIn user is 42, which means they are established professionals.  So there is no clear indication how effective a pull approach would be for early career professionals, but some indication it could be effective for mid to late career professionals.

Let’s make this an open forum so we can develop this “pull approach” concept; please leave your questions as a comment.

TheProfessionalWebsite provides you with a your own professional website – the ideal platform to pull potential employers to.

Network Vs. Identity II

Five months ago I wrote a blog about providing a service with a network and an identity and the relationship between the two (read blog Network Vs. Identity). In the ensuing months, there have been of course some changes in the services offered by the social media giants LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn has made strides in developing a more in-depth profile and had a press release in mid-October to discuss the new features. On the network side, they added a new interface where your skills can be endorsed by your connections and their endorsements can be displayed as part of your profile. Facebook released company pages and their timeline application has hit mainstream.

Another interesting dimension is how users perceive these services as professional or personal in context. It is clear that LinkedIn is strictly for professional content; however, it is less clear with Facebook. The number of Facebook to LinkedIn users is about 6 to 1, so professionals use Facebook posts to effectively reach the masses (stat comes from numbers represented on the map). For example, if you wrote an article, you would want to create a Facebook Like and Share to get it out to the public.

I created a map to show how these different relationships interplay. I used my own interpretations in placing these different services; however, to get a better more accurate interpretation, I designed a survey where you can provide your own insights: Survey.

Network-Identity, Professional-Personal Map
Network-Identity, Professional-Personal Map

As we build our professional website service from an identity, we need to understand how our identity can be used by networks such as those built by LinkedIn and Facebook. Our approach is providing you with a personal website where you can brand yourself, and establish your professional identity across various networks. The same premise holds from the previous blog that it remains difficult to manage your identity across all these profiles and the best solution might be to link back to your professional website as a landing page for each of them. Of course, the profiles are getting better; but I would compare it to how companies use their company pages. Are companies going to abandon their own websites and branding for a company page on Facebook or LinkedIn? Probably not.

One other distinction with the placement of our service on the map is that we are not all the way professional (to the left). As we develop the concept of a professional website, we plan to explore ways to incorporate personal elements into our service – by perhaps creating a clear delineation such as a sub-domain or letting you use your discretion for what is appropriate on your professional website. An example of something personal you want to share on your website could be a gallery of images from a trip you went on recently.