Just as things in the sports world we starting to settle down after the tremendous sendoff of Derek Jeter, we stand once again at a moment in history. Tonight U.S. Soccer fans everywhere say goodbye to "The Captain", Landon Donovan. Donovan will suit up for the U.S. National Team for the last time this evening against Ecuador.
As I watched the tribute video, "Landon Donovan: U.S. Men's National Team Legend", I began thinking about Jeter, Donovan, and other sports greats. These individuals contributed to their sport, but also inspired the entire nation at times. Although these legends excelled in every way imaginable at their sport, they were also able to maintain a high level of respect. The reason? Their brands. There have been plenty of gifted athletes, but the true 'legends' of sport create a lasting brand and impression.
So, in honor of Donovan (#10) I've put together a list of 10 ways to easily improve your personal brand. Whether you are a Millennial nearing graduation and looking to enter the workforce, a seasoned professional looking to up your game, or the next legend of sport, personal branding has to be a part of your arsenal.
There is a BIG difference between personal branding and embellishment. A personal brand must be authentic and real. A personal brand is not about creating something out of nothing. Instead, it is about accurately differentiating yourself and articulating a compelling story.
As an example, most college grads don’t have deep expertise or experience, and potential employers aren’t necessarily looking for that. So don’t make stuff up! For example, don’t list your headline on twitter as ‘twitter business guru’ if you have an incomplete profile, 7 total tweets, and 34 followers. Make sure your description and headlines are accurate but compelling.
GET A PROFESSIONAL EMAIL ADDRESS
If you don’t have a corporate email address, then take 5 minutes and set up a clear and professional address.
I have seen several embarrassing (at least they should have been) email addresses from applicants and sales people over the years. My ‘favorite’ was an applicant for an internship a few summers ago: partygurl420@(domain).com. Ouch!
Your reputation certainly precedes you in our digital world and your email address is a small but important item to get right.
Simply existing online doesn't help you stand out anymore. You have to make sure you are active and optimized. Make sure you a) have a profile picture b) that it’s professional. Nothing says “I don’t care” like the generic shadowy figure or egg.
If you curse like a sailor, I’m actually ok with it. Do I need to know that before ever meeting you? Probably not.
It amazes me how many people use profanity regularly on social media. Trust me, it’s not going to impress many potential employers or clients.
EXPAND YOUR NETWORK
Having a solid network and platform is expected these days. Having low to no connections on social media gives the impression you are either not a real person, or you are someone who doesn’t care to understand networking (both on and offline).
If you are filling out a job application, RFP, or anything important, pay attention to the little details.
During a recent hiring round, we put out a posting here on LinkedIn. We stated clearly in our job post, “please reply with a cover letter and CV”. The number of people who took the time to apply but failed to send a cover letter or CV amazed me. I am certain we passed up on some very qualified individuals simply because of this fact.
If you can’t follow instructions or pay attention to details up front, it does not instill confidence you can do so if we hire you.
Ditch the generic cover letters and proposals. Again, with a recent employee search, we received a lot of overly generic cover letters, which showed us the applicants were blasting out their resume. Some letters even had the wrong job listed.
How many times have you received a generic email that didn’t even address you directly? These types of generic communications are a waste of time to create and are a waste of time for the recipients. Take the time to be sincere.
DON’T WRITE LIKE AN AFRICAN PRINCE
If you’ve ever received a SPAM email asking you to wire money for a small piece of a large inheritance, then you know what I’m talking about. Make sure your grammar and style are an indication you are a) educated b) have a proficiency in English.
DIFFERENTIATE BUT DON’T BE TOO QUIRKY
Yes, differentiation is great and doing something to grab your audience’s attention is encouraged. I once had a salesperson write me a poem!
While differentiation is essential in personal branding, there is a line and when crossed classifies you as too quirky or odd.
I once had someone say this in a cover letter “My name is ‘Alex’, but I also go by the alias Moon Stalker 81”. Yeah, that was enough for me…
BE ON TIME
I had two qualified applicants I reached out to in order to set an initial interview that self-selected out. These two agreed to the initial time and both ‘had something come up last minute, and needed to reschedule’ twice! Needless to say, we did not extend a 3rd invitation. This told us these individuals could not manage their schedules and certainly weren’t dependable.
Whether you are trying to climb the corporate ladder, just starting your career, or looking to establish yourself as the next face of U.S. soccer, personal branding is an essential strategy for your success.