by David Sullivan
Tell me about your online personal brand…
You mean you are considering looking for a new role and you haven’t thought about it?
Try Googling your name and see what happens. Now consider that others (prospective employers for instance) do the same. Are you happy with what they see?
In 2011 Google announced they intended to hire 6000 people and received over 75,000 CV’s in a week. OK, for most computer forensics roles the competition is marginally less intense – although make no mistake that these positions almost always attract a large number of well-qualified applicants.
If you aren’t getting invited to interview maybe you need to consider how you can stand out from people with similar skills/experience?
What is a personal brand and why does it matter when jobseeking?
Personal branding is all about establishing trust.
Essentially, your personal brand is a combination of who you are personally and professionally. As computer forensics professionals know better than most, the privacy we took for granted in the past no longer exists and information on all aspects of our lives is only going to be more publically available as the inexorable growth of social media continues.
There are companies that specialise in developing online personal brands or rectifying negative ones. This concept certainly isn’t new and has been alive for a long time in areas such as Hollywood where movie stars and their agents closely protect and develop their brand. The rise of social media is slowly changing everything, even in an area as (necessarily) conservative as computer forensics.
When you are looking for a new position I suggest that you really need to give thought to your personal brand. Make no mistake – employers and recruiters in this area are very interested in your online profile in order to get a much better idea about you than the one dimensional basics that can be gleaned from a CV. As a recruiter, I always immediately check the LinkedIn profile of anyone who contacts me before I call them. Hiring Managers I know do the same. If the overall picture doesn’t add up then I and others won’t make the call which means that you could miss out on your dream role.
How do you establish trust in your brand?
Whatever your level of experience, experts in personal branding argue that to develop this trust the basic rules of consistency and authenticity must apply.
To provide consistent and authentic messages you need to be clear whether your brand is personal, social or academic – this depends on what you are trying to sell. Think – what do you want to be known for? You need to be aware that everything you ever post online can be found and so everything you ever publish must be looked at in terms of your brand.
For example, there is no point being very serious and business-orientated on LinkedIn and then being indiscreet and unprofessional with your tweets (however much fun that can be). Increasingly, you will be cross-referenced across the social media platforms and if you aren’t clearly authentic and consistent in your brand you will be unable to generate the levels of trust required by hiring organisations.
After almost three years at university your Facebook account is filled with pictures of you drunk in various bars. Is this the brand you think you should portray?
When I speak with computer forensics students I always bring up the subject of personal pictures on Facebook. This is often talked about in a rather puritanical way but I think that, within reason, it is a non-issue. Most organisations I work with would expect to see a few pictures of you partying and having fun. Even in a serious area such as computer forensics, nobody wants to hire a robot and it is vital to show that you are a rounded person with friends and a social life.
If you have a ‘colourful’ private life and are unsure about what to post on Facebook the answer is simple. It always comes back to being consistent and authentic as your personal/business life are increasingly linked and contradictory messages will just cause problems further down the line. Be authentic.
The younger you are the easier it is to create the correct personal brand as you are likely to have less online history. Why not write a blog critiquing textbooks or issues in forensics and then publicise this via platforms such as Forensic Focus, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? This is an easy way to develop a great brand and gain an advantage over other graduates in a competitive area.
Personal branding is rubbish
No doubt some of you cynics out there have read this short article shaking your head and thinking what a load of nonsense. You aren’t alone as many critics see the whole concept of personal branding as fatally flawed.
For example, there can be issues between authenticity and consistency where it can be argued that it is essentially inauthentic to be consistent as human beings aren’t consistent. Others argue that a brand you create at fifteen is quite different to what you create at thirty and it is ludicrous to be constrained by a brand as you develop both personally and professionally.
Although these points have validity, I would suggest that as the 21st Century workplace evolves, it can be argued that a large number of us will increasingly be out there selling our employment services in the marketplace and not protected by large organisations. As this continues to be the case, the value of our personal brands will certainly play a major role in future work success.
Even if you are one of the many cynics out there who don’t really agree with the concept of a personal brand, what do you have to lose?
Unlike many things in life, you can shape, protect, manipulate and develop your personal brand and in this ever competitive job market, taking control of your personal brand can only bring you an advantage.
David can be contacted as follows: