Ever since we started making the transition from the Industrial Age to the Social Age, people have been talking about personal branding. And for good reason: how you show up – online and offline – is a critical factor in today’s job search.

But for some, especially workforce veterans less familiar with social and digital platforms, personal branding remains a mystery. We weren’t born digital natives. And yet to compete, we must get to know our way around the internet pretty well. We must be willing to leave our comfort zones behind long enough to build a strong online reputation.

However, do we know where to start? Do we know which networking actions will have the biggest impact? Once we have an effective online brand, do we know how to turn the contacts we’ve made into mutually-beneficial relationships?

Without that base knowledge, how do we make a great first impression when employers search for us online – well before inviting us to an interview?

To help you embrace the concept of branding, here are 20 ways to create, expand and leverage an impactful personal brand. No experience necessary.

  1. Create a Profile on Major Social Networks

Even if you aren’t using all platforms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) go register your social media handle on each site now (don’t let someone else get it first!). Don’t be too creative with your handle, and be sure to incorporate you full name. For example, my Twitter handle is @MarkSBabbitt.

  1. Create a Custom URL on LinkedIn

This is done simply from your profile page; as an example, “LinkedIn.com/in/MarkSBabbitt” is better branding, is easier to find and is far more memorable – than “LinkedIn.com/#/US42_378107/user/998”.

For instructions on how to create your custom URL on LinkedIn, click here.

  1. Create a Custom URL on Facebook

Again, your custom URL will reflect a much stronger personal brand than the Facebook default: “Facebook.com/php?id/10988845771”.

For instruction, click here.

  1. Grab Your About.me Page

About.me is a terrific landing page for your personal brand. When setting up your account, be sure to stay consistent with the URL you use on LinkedIn and Facebook.

  1. Buy Your Domain Name

Go to any domain name service bureau and purchase a domain name using your name. Keep your domain simple and professional. Good examples include:

  • FirstLast.com (LindsayTuttle.com)
  • FirstMILast.com (LindsayATuttle.com)

If you’re occupation is clearly defined, consider adding a keyword or acronym

  • FirstLastTitle.com (LindsayaTuttleCPA.com)

Again, don’t wait too long to grab your domain name. Many others with a name similar to yours will scoop up the exact domain you would want most.

  1. Get a Professional Headshot

Go spend a few dollars at the mall, even JCPenney’s, to get a professional headshot. This is hugely important to show a positive, professional image. Yes, this will cost you a little money. Do it… it is worth every penny.

  1. Upload Your Image

Now that you have a brand-new, professional headshot… upload your smiling face and attitude everywhere! Use the same photo on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, your About.me page and – when you’re ready – your personal domain.

  1. Develop Your Three-Sentence Pitch

There are so many situations that will demand you have a capable, conversational personal pitch. Networking events, informational interviews, job interviews, and so much more.

Don’t make this more difficult than necessary. Keep it simple, perhaps down to just three sentences:

  • Who you are
  • What you do really, really well
  • How that skill will benefit the listener

That last sentence is most important! When you make your elevator pitch more about the listener than you, you’ll distance yourself from about 95 percent of your job seeking competition.

  1. Sync Your Social Media Profiles

Consistency is everything!

In each one of your profiles – every single online platform – make sure that your three-sentence pitch is the foundation of your bio.

  1. Print a Business Card

Go to VistaPrint.com and have job-seeker business cards printed. Be sure to include your social media contact info, including the link to your custom LinkedIn URL.

  1. Join at Least 10 LinkedIn Groups

Based on your chosen occupation, your alma mater and job search status (internship, entry-level job?), choose a minimum of 10 LinkedIn Groups to join. And don’t just lurk… get involved.

  1. Participate in Two Twitter Chats Per Week

True, Twitter has lost a bit of luster. But Twitter chats remain an amazing way to meet new contacts, learn more about any subject, build relationships with mentors, and so much more. There’s a Twitter chat for everyone, regardless of your experience level. If you’re an executive, consider #CXOChat on Thursdays (every Friday at 1pm ET). Just getting your career started? Consider YouTern’s #InternPro Chat (every Monday at 9pm ET)

  1. Visit Blogs; Comment and Share

Each day, comment on at least five blogs and/or Answer sites (Quora, LinkedIn Groups, trade association forums, etc.). Even more important: to demonstrate your passion for the subject and to become known as a curator of quality information, share the best of the blogs you read on social media.

  1. Network in Person!

Every week, attend one networking event in your community. This is not easy sometimes, especially for introverts. But to do networking right, you must get out from behind your keyboard. Get out… and let people get to know the “real” you!

  1. Pay it Forward

While networking – offline and on – make sure you are focused on helping others. This is the single best way to engage with influencers and build networking karma (and with this approach, you will soon be asked about you… perfect!).

  1. Follow Up

It is very important to your brand, and reputation, to develop a meticulous follow-up plan. Why? Because most people fail – badly – in this area. Connect on social media. Then follow with a simple email or platform specific personal message:

“It was very nice to meet you yesterday evening! Based on our conversation, here’s an article I thought you’d find interesting. I look forward to our next conversation.”

  1. Engage!

People like to work with, talk with, and recommend people they like – and trust. Engage with your contacts in an authentic way. Share what you know. And share who you know…

  1. Connect Others

If there is one way to really stand out with your personal brand, it is to be known as a connector – the person who says, “There is a person you must meet…I’ll send an e-mail introduction.” This is networking karma gold!

  1. Focus on ‘A’ Players

Personal branding can be such a timesuck. This is especially true if you find yourself spending time on channels, groups and people who can’t help you achieve your overall goals. So be cognizant of not just how much time you’re spending on your personal brand – but who you’re spending it with.

Of all the people you’ve now met online and in-person, who is the most influential? Who has the greatest potential for a mutually beneficial – perhaps even mentor – relationship? Just as important: leave the divas, drama queens and trolls behind. They can’t help you. (And you can’t help them.)

  1. Nurture Your Network

The biggest mistake personal branding newbies make? Developing their next contact without fully leveraging the contacts they’ve already made. Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure your networking becomes an ‘AND’ network, not an ‘OR’ network. At least once a month, and no less than once a quarter, keep in contact with those on your “Influencer” list.

Don’t let the world of personal branding pass you by. Don’t allow your fellow job seekers to gain a competitive advantage, just because you aren’t a digital native. Get started now. Accomplish one of these tasks each day. And in just three weeks, you’ll have an enviable online presence – one sure to make a great first impression on employers!

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