#Whoareyou? Cultivate your personal brand during your job search

September 22, 2010

photo by Phong Tran

Last week I joined an AIGA panel discussion about personal brand management and job-hunting alongside Geek Girls Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker. The Geek Girls and I shared our thoughts on how to best use social media tools to build your online presence.

We came at the issue from two viewpoints: The job-seeker and the senior level directors who hire you. In case you missed it, here’s a wrap-up of what Nancy, Megan and I discussed at the event. Please share your thoughts on this discussion!

Utilize your Facebook friends

Your Facebook friends are some of your closest, most personal digital contacts. Don’t be afraid to utilize these contacts for your job search. You’d be surprised at how willing they are to help you out, but be specific with your needs. Instead of posting “I need a job,” post about a specific company you’re interested in. Then, if someone agrees to help you out, make it really easy for them. For instance, give them a list of bullet points reminding them about why you’re a good fit for the company. The easier it is for them, the more likely they are to help you out.


Admit it: We all hate those industry folks that have thousands of followers and tweet about how awesome they are all day long. Industry-related news is a saturated field (think Mashable, Tech-Crunch posts) and you’re a dynamic person. Don’t limit your reader’s expectations by being a “design” or “marketing” Twitter bot — it leaves no room for surprise and intrigue.

Connect on emotional level

Did your kid just do something really funny? Interesting dining experience? Show off that personality sans industry-speak and connect on an emotional level. You’d be surprised at how many people engage in topics unrelated to your expertise.

View yourself as a brand

A professor of mine once had our class do this exercise: Choose three words or phrases you’d like your brand to be known for. For instance: Curious, energetic and hardworking. Constantly reflect on these three things as you shape your professional brand — especially in the digital space. Does tweeting about how lazy you are make your brand look energetic?

Google report

Don’t know what your brand is portraying online? Have someone you don’t know Google you and write a report on your online persona. Your online presence may be sending the wrong message and this unique insight could help you be on top of it.

Create compelling content

Be on the lookout for opportunities to showcase your creative skills. There are tons of user-generated campaigns out there – participate and use them to build your portfolio. A few examples: Caribou’s Make the Cup, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine’s photo contest and, of course,¬†The Fast Horse¬†Intern-For-A-Day Program.

At the event, I spoke with a designer who won a Schell’s Brewing Company coaster design contest and used the coasters as his business card. Cool! Actively engaging in campaigns also helps to show your passion for the industry.

Keep it professional

This was my favorite event insight from Nancy Lyons: Don’t act like you know someone in person just because you know everything about their online persona. Yes, you should research the heck out of them (think all digital platforms), but treat these contacts with the same level of respect and courtesy as you would a brand new professional contact. Refrain from being too comfortable and treating them like a friend. This makes the future employer feel awkward. Sprinkle in bits and pieces of research into the conversation as you see fit, but don’t overdo it.