There is a difference between covering up digital dirt and creating a strong personal brand. Burying unflattering or unprofessional Google results might keep you in the applicant pool, but personal branding can set you apart from the competition.
The first step in creating a personal brand is deciding what you want to project to the world. Take time to figure out your professional goals and the characteristics or skills you want to emphasize. The second step is gaining ideas from others in similar positions. How have they marketed themselves? What skills, content, ideas, and visuals do they emphasize and what could you build upon or add to the mix? Finally, you need to create a plan for showcasing your skills and building your identity (Quast, 2013).
Before you figure out your plan action, here are some best practices of personal branding.
Use the same user name. Using the same user name for all your public/professional networking sites helps viewers associate you with the content posted. This might include your first and last name or your first and last name plus an additional descriptor that you want to showcase (i.e. susan.kohl.baker). If your name is fairly common, you might need to get creative in coming up with a user name that is available on multiple sites.
Provide consistent messages. Providing consistent messages helps demonstrate how you fit with and might contribute to an industry. For instance, if you are trying to boost your baking career, post about favorite bakeries, baking strategies, or baking products you use. If you are trying to land a professional accounting job at a big firm, post comments about cutting edge accounting practices and pictures that show you in appropriate professional attire. Posting about multiple topics outside your target area results in a confusing personal brand. For instance, if you are trying to secure a baking job, don’t post about preparing the perfect steak or sewing a quilt.
Tell your story. Telling your personal story and the way your past, present and future fit together makes you unique. If you post on a variety of topics, what are the common themes or characteristics you might showcase to help build a coherent message?
Keep it current. Populate the web with new professionally-related information on a regular basis to keep your profile current and active.
Keep posts positive and fair. Positive or fair comments show leadership qualities. Posting negative or overly critical information can make you look both unprofessional and hard to work with.
Quast, L. (April 22, 2013). Personal branding 101. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2013/04/22/personal-branding-101/#77ceb87115fa