Personal Branding as a Young Professional – Why it Matters Before You’re in a Leadership Role

Personal branding is not exclusive to CEOs, CVPs, directors, or those in a leadership role. Nor is it only expanded to people looking to soon advance to high positions such as those. Personal branding is a tool that everyone should engage to help solidify their career. Regardless of age, job title, or industry, personal branding can help you be more discoverable, shareable and memorable. As a young professional, it’s important to lay yourself a solid foundation for your impending career.

As a young, now 26-year-old professional, personal branding matters. While I have friends, who dismiss LinkedIn outside of the windows of time used for job searching, I have come to understand the importance of building my professional and personal brand. I embrace LinkedIn, Twitter, and work, as tools to build my future. So should you.

Here are 5 tips and skills to hone to master personal branding as a young professional:

1. Master your personal branding statement – and don’t be afraid to adjust it

As a young professional, it’s important to have a solid statement that outlines your professional purpose, your ‘why’. As a young professional still navigating the new world of adult working life, it can be hard to figure your purpose out at first. It’s understandable. You’ve moved on from the revolving world of school with its essays, tests, and classes all lined out for you. It can take plenty of time and self-reflection to truly figure out why, or even what, you really want to do with your life and career.

Here are a few things to reflect on, to prepare for writing your personal branding statement:

  • Educational experience
  • Work experience
  • What you love about what you do (or want to do)
  • Where you want to be in 3 years

Writing your personal branding statement, and refining it, can be difficult as you’re just starting out. Remember that your statement will grow with you, and you can refine as needed. In 5 years, you may have a big epiphany and truly realize why you love what you do. So then update your statement to reflect that. Your personal branding statement need not stay static – nor should you.

2. Monitor your online presence

In today’s age, our online presence is often our first impression on someone. Whether or not it’s for the better, much of our lives are now documented online. Social media profiles, news articles, sports competition results, and more.

Your social profiles just a search engine away from being discovered by a future boss. It’s important to remember this and put in place some precautions to make sure your online presence is in tip-top shape. Take time to go through security and privacy settings on your social media accounts and make sure you know what will show to those you don’t know looking at your profiles. Search your name to see what appears. Knowing what shows up is half the battle.

Don’t be afraid to use online tools to monitor your online presence. You can use tools such as IFTTT (If This Then That) which can create triggered automated tasks, such as every time your name is mentioned on twitter adding the tweet and details to a spreadsheet. There are other tools like Mention, which allow you to monitor your name and track it’s mentions across varied sources online. You can also easily set up a Google alert to track your name as well.

Take charge of your online presence and know where and how you show up online.

3. Network and find a mentor

Probably the typical piece of advice you might have received in college or in the first few years after, but it’s a cliché for a reason: it’s helpful. Navigating your early professional career can be daunting. Getting out of your comfort zone and making new connections in your industry, can help you build relationships that may span your career. Being able to talk and get to know people in your field can help you down the line and could of course also lead to new job opportunities.

Finding a mentor can be crucial to professional success, whether you’re a young professional or not. Having someone to talk to about job options, workplace conflict, and just navigating the professional world, can help you can invaluable insight. With a mentor, also be sure to inquire about them, their career, their drive. What motivates them to do the work they do? What are they passionate about? Stories are powerful motivators, let their story inspire you to write your own.

4. Learn how to write more than just essays

Writing is a skill that many of us are taught for a particular purpose: writing essays and exams for school. We have a formula in our head and can often write a wonderful essay. Yet writing takes on a different purpose when school is finished. It is not to say you’re starting all over, or those skills don’t apply, but it’s important to recognize the difference between writing an essay and communicating in a new way in the professional world.

In the professional world, writing can take on many forms, and can vary by industry. The universal truth is that email communication plays a major role. Effective email etiquette is an important skill to master. Some quirks and specifics may vary from company to company, or industry to industry, but mastering the basics is key. So, take time to practice writing. Learn how to get your point across clearly, and concisely. Asking for constructive feedback on your emails from people like your mentor or your boss. Show initiative and take ownership of your communication skills.

5. Never stop learning

Learning does not stop once you become an adult or start your professional journey. It does not stop once you leave school. On the contrary, you’re learning journey has just truly begun.

Not only will you need to learn organically in the workplace, but to advance in your career, it is important to also always seek out learning opportunities. Whether that be asking to shadow someone for a day who’s in a role that you would like to advance to, to taking a class to further your skillsets, or taking the time to read a book about your industry.

Our jobs, our industries, and our companies are constantly evolving, and we should be too. Especially as a young professional looking to further your career, it’s important to make sure to focus on learning. Learning can help us be more creative, find new solutions to old challenges, and help us gain a deeper understanding of the world we work in.

Don’t forget

As you move through your career, it’s important to remember that your personal brand may grow and change along with you. Human beings are not static, and neither should our personal brands be. Take time to master your personal branding statement, network, find a mentor, practice writing, and monitor your online presence. Most of all, remember that learning is key to both personal and professional growth.

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