It’s virtually impossible to keep up with the never-ending wave of “how to build your personal brand” articles and books. It’s especially tough for young people who are just out of college and are looking for their first professional job in an employment market that often favors candidates who make the most noise.
Twenty years ago, or even 10, I don’t think many newly minted college grads were paying too much attention to personal brand building. And using technology to build a personal brand, or to start earning a reputation, was nearly non-existent. Then, one relied more on word-of-mouth and good old fashioned networking. But today, the social network LinkedIn provides young, professional job seekers with the best platform ever for showcasing in full view of prospective employers their ambition, passion, competency, business smarts and networking savvy.
Like anything else, though, a tool is useless in the wrong hands. For LinkedIn to become a true personal brand building solution, there are a few rules of the road.
I see too many young people — interns I have worked with, the sons and daughters of friends of mine, etc. — who are wasting a great opportunity by not investing time in LinkedIn. Meanwhile, those who get it — like Dan Schawbel and his disciples — are reaping the benefit.
Schawbel has built a tremendous business by advising Millennials on personal brand building. While there are scores of other personal brand building experts, Dan’s focus is on Millennials (young people who are generally in their 20’s and early 30’s, the focus of this post) who are just starting out. One of his books, “Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future“, has been a best seller here and across Asia and Europe.
For young job seekers who may not have the time, or who are unwilling to make the time to read Dan’s or others’ books or attend the many personal branding seminars that are available, there are six relatively simple steps they can take on LinkedIn to grow their personal brand and begin to build their reputation as someone with something important to say.
Here are my six:
1. Can the profile picture of you at a party, or at an event or on vacation. Save those for
Facebook. And kill the glamour picture unless you’re in the entertainment industry. Replace with a straightforward head on shot of you in professional attire wearing a nice smile.
2. If you don’t yet have relevant work experience for your intended field, then fill your profile page with relevant skills instead. For example, if you want to work in public relations but spent your college summers working as a waitress or waiter at Texas Roadhouse, then let’s hear about your customer service, problem solving, team building and communications skills. Find the relevance.
3. Build out your LinkedIn network. To start, connect with college classmates, your professors, high school classmates who went to a different college than you and may already be working. Also, connect with your parent’s friends who may run their own small businesses or may be employed by big companies. I guarantee they will be happy to hear from you. Don’t forget the professionals you talk with at the health club, or people you meet at summer weddings and graduation parties.
4. Ask for LinkedIn recommendations. Don’t be shy about asking for help from managers you may have interned with, past summer employers or professors you may have assisted. If you did good work, they will not refuse you.
5. “Follow” companies on LinkedIn you think may be a future employer. Then visit their LinkedIn page and see who you may already know who works there. Reach out to them even if you don’t see any jobs of interest posted. Many open positions are never posted and those who are best networked often get first dibs.
6. Get involved. Join a handful of the thousands of available LinkedIn groups. Guaranteed there will be groups in your chosen field no matter how obscure. A couple of times a week visit the groups and eavesdrop on the discussion. When you think you can contribute to a discussion, weigh in. After the first time, it gets easier and easier.
Give LinkedIn your best shot. Your competition already is.