Professional Branding

Author: Dr. Marsha Lue

Professional branding. What is it? What does it mean? How is it accomplished? In the simplest terms, professional branding is a reflection of who you are in a workplace or school setting. Your brand, whether intentional or not, develops from your online and in-person interactions. Your interactions on websites, over email, and in social media couples with your interactions in classrooms, workshops, meetings, and other public spaces to build a narrative of who you are. Ideally, your online and in-person presence forms a cohesive narrative that shows you are an emerging leader who would be great to partner with.

A great way to learn about one’s online professional branding is to simply Google search yourself on a public computer. See what comes up. As you move into the professional world (whether it is transferring to a 4-year university or going into the workforce), you may want to start professionally brand yourself.

A few things you could work on to make this transition:

  1. Determine what narrative you would like to build:
    • Think about what makes you unique. What qualities do you bring to the table? How does one shine and in what areas?
    • Think about your strengths. What is it that comes easily to you compared to other tasks?
    • Ask for feedback and opportunities for growth. For example, if you are putting together a webpage for a business, ask for feedback on how you are presented. Be okay with constructive criticism.
  2. Update social media:
    • Make Facebook or any other social media pages private: Do not let friends tag you in unflattering (read: parties with Solo cups) pictures. Reversely, do not upload them.
    • Do not be too political. It is okay to stand up for and support what you believe in, but some companies may not want to be associated with political issues and beliefs.
    • Have fun, but do not be rude or crude.
    • Utilize LinkedIn, which is a social media platform designed to network with professional people, as your primary online professional presence.
  3. Update your email:
    • Create a signature line with your contact information. If you are communicating with someone from an official role (job or club position), list that title too.
    • Add a professional photo to your email, so that when you send an email, the email recipient can see you and get a sense of who you are.
  4. Treat every interaction as a potential connection to a future boss:
    • Practice dressing up in professional attire to become more comfortable. Folks who are uncomfortable in professional clothing are fairly easy to spot and the uncomfortable feeling can impact your confidence.
    • Avoid holding (and, especially, looking at) your phone while engaging in a conversation. This sends the message that you are not interested in the conversation and your phone (and whoever is on the other side of messages) is more important than the person you are with in-person. Note: Emergency situations are an exception to this. In those instances, preface your interaction by sharing that you have an emergency and need to have your phone on hand.
    • Treat everyone with respect. There is a story about someone driving to a job interview when a car cut them off. The interviewee driver yells and honks at the other car. Low and behold, when the person arrived for their interview, the hiring manager for the position was the driver of the car that accidentally cut the interviewee off. Needless to say, the interviewee did not get the job.

Overall, it is important to start shifting your image to one that you can be proud of now. Always be professional with photos, terminology, and interactions and let your unique personality shine. If you have any questions or would like to review your social media presence, please feel free to ask any of the TRIO Advisors for assistance at any time.

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