me™

“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thing 3: Consider your personal brand

I’m not Apple. I’m not Beckham. I’m not a billion pound multinational or slick celebrity, quite the opposite in fact. I’m a bit geeky and find it awkward to accept a compliment. The term ‘personal branding’ conjures up ideas of shameless mass marketing that just feel wrong to me and I certainly don’t see myself embracing personal branding at the level encouraged by the Personal Branding Network. Reading the blogs of other cpd23 participants I can see that I’m not alone here. I do however appreciate that as a new professional I have an identity, a brand, a reputation and if I don’t actively manage it then I’m passing up opportunities for career development and exposing myself to the risk that my public image is misrepresenting me to the world or possibly even damaging my professional reputation. The importance of consistency and the threat of negativity were also cautions that echoed across a number of the posts I read (In the End I Want to be Able to Say I Contributed More Than I Criticized, Manage your brand as a librarian, Controlling your public appearance).

I read a few reports from a panel discussion on personal branding at the 2011 ALA midwinter conference and the themes really rang true for me, particularly Personal branding for new librarians. Putting the hype and marketing speak to one side, personal branding means understanding your values, what drives you as a professional and where you want to go in your career and then finding and reaching out to people with similar ideas and goals. As Stephen Bell argues so well in The WHY of Your Brand without this understanding of your core values, you can’t build trust, authenticity, relationships or professional integrity. As a new professional this idea is quite daunting and I think it will take time and experience to get to the point where the “why” is as clear the “what”.

Having an unusual work history I was encouraged to come across so many articles which emphasise stepping away from traditional job descriptions and career ladders and building your brand around capabilities, expertise and successes (The Brand called You, The CEO of ME: 10 Personal Online Branding Tips). I noted a lot of ideas from Dorie Clark’s Reinventing Your Personal Brand including developing a “feature-benefit” narrative to ensure my career transition is logical and coherent to others.

With so much to think about I was quite happy to turn my attention to the practical. The discussion points in the cpd23 Thing 3: Consider your personal brand post along with How to ruin (or build) your personal brand, 5 basic things you should be doing to manage your online reputation and You already have a brand! Here are 5 ways to influence it gave me plenty to of places to start.

For me the biggest issue was choosing to keep my personal identity personal. I’ve thought a lot about it and have chosen to use a separate “persona” for my professional blog and twitter account. My friends don’t want to get tweets about revelations in the world of library and information science and other professionals don’t need to know about the gig I went to on Friday night. I’m not adverse to “letting my personality out” in my professional life but I like to have boundaries.

On this note I’ve chosen a name which I think reflects a little of my personality but is solely reserved for professional use. I use it consistently across the online networks I participate in and I’ve also reserved it in popular networks I don’t currently use to prevent an “evil twin” tarnishing my reputation online.

As for image I’ve gone with a gravatar. If I ever find a photo of me I like which is suitably formal then I’ll happily use it here! Until then I’ve tried to use the same gravatar across all platforms so I’m more recognisable in the virtual world.

Taking control of your digital footprint seems to be the strongest piece of advice in any of the articles I read. As expected a web search for unlicensedlibrarian returned no surprise hits. It’s a new username and I checked it when I created my blog. My name is a different story. It’s unusual in the UK but seems to be more popular in the USA where you might mistake me for a miniature horse breeder, numerous medical professionals, a petty criminal or a pastors wife. Super. Despite that, my LinkedIn profile is the first hit on google.com and the third on google.co.uk and all the hits that related specifically to me were positive and mostly current. I only found one redundant profile which I have since deleted. I’ve also set up Google and Twitter search alerts to monitor for new mentions of myself or my namesakes.

Every article advocates a well maintained LinkedIn profile and they’ve got me on that one. I know mine needs work and it’s top of the to do list now I know it’s the first thing people will see if they Google my name.

Engage. Be social. Well, by participating in cpd23 and other professional networks I’ve made a start at creating content and scattering breadcrumbs online so I’m putting those steps in the ‘in progress’ tray. Dave Fleet’s challenge to reach out to someone you admire is a great idea. My first thought was “wow, that’s strong” but in hindsight I think I’ve already done that once without thinking about it and had a really positive experience.

Get out and meet people. I’ll finish with this one. All the articles I read mention this last but I think it really is the most important. If you take the person out of personal branding… well, there’s not much of value left!

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