Managing your professional identity

How are you managing your professional image? You are all bright young people so you already know to pull down those inappropriate college photos from your Myspace account (or never put them there in the first place since there are many websites that can look at old versions of websites). But let's focus on the future, how are you proactively managing how people perceive you in person, through the web, and through other means of communications like your blog, newspaper articles where you are quoted, or other writing that you do? Here are some quick tips for improving the ways that you market yourself, conciously and subconciously.

In person

  • What do people think of you based on your appearance? Do you look like an up and coming in executive or do you look like someone on their way to freshman English? Maybe it's time to get professional help. People have been telling me for years that clothes come in colors besides brown and cream. I didn't truly believe them until I had a professional shopper hold my hand and walk me through a department store and make me purchase a red jacket. Professional shoppers can cost anywhere between $25-50 an hour and many have a special rate for initial consultations. You can also get free help if you ask for a personal shopper to assist you at department store. This is an important investment in yourself since people often make first judgments based on appearance and being young in the field isn't always looked at as a positive characteristic.
  • How do you describe to people what to do? There is of fun tool that helps you create 15 seconds elevator pitch about what to do. This tool is worth it's weight in gold if it can help me explain to my family that I really do have a job where I give away money but, no I can't give them in them any. Try out the pitch wizard here.

On the web

  • If you haven't already (you know that you have), Google yourself. If you aren't coming up on the first page, you've got some work to do (unless your name is Robert Johnson, then you are just out of luck). The searches that people do of you give a picture of who you are and you need to manage that well. If the first result for your name is a picture of you at a frat party that your friend has on their website, ask them nicely to pull it down and bribe them if you have to.

Other places

  • A blog is a great way to help people get to know who you are professionally and what you stand for. Make sure that the things that you put on a blog are things that you are willing to say in front of your organization's board of directors and your boss, otherwise keep it to yourself.
  • Being quoted for an article or on a news show can be a good boost to your credibility in the field but make sure that you are properly quoted and are managing your messages well. Nothing is worse than seeing your quote out of context and having to pull yourself out of the hole that you have dug. Ask reporters to show you a copy of the article before it goes to print, so that you can make sure that you aren't being misrepresented. If you are on camera, make sure that you have 2-3 main points that you are trying to get across. That way you don't become flustered and end up saying something that your regret later.