The glory of graduation season has quickly worn off and millions of professionals are suiting up to hit interviews and the job market. And with unemployment rates up 6/1% and roughly 1,000 applications submitted for every open position, your personal branding can be a key deciding factor when landing that “dream job.” 

A reported 37% of employers use social networks to screen candidates, meaning your tagged Facebook and Instagram photos  – although uncharacteristic – could very well exclude you from the job race. Another 33% of employers know if they’re going to hire someone after the first 90 seconds of conversation, emphasizing the importance of body language, character, personality and so much more.

Major corporations such as NIKE, Pepsi, Apple and Samsung have long been in the business of branding – there are key phrases, logos and more that define them, and the same can be said for you. Personal branding is so much more than a cheeky new term – it’s how employers and (most importantly) the world define you.

The following are 7 tips that will help you to create and manage your personal brand:

1. Know Yourself.

A wise man once said, “You can’t know where you’re going, until you know where you’ve been.” This saying rings especially true when it comes to creating and managing your personal brand. Your experiences (whether personal or professional) help to shape and mold you into the person that you are today. They are also apart of your larger story and should be reflected in your personal brand.

Many professionals who enter the job market, despite having good references and notable experiences, find themselves competing against other professionals with similar, if not better experiences. To stand out, you’ll need something that differentiates you from the rest – the power of your uniqueness – your personality.

Think about it – what’s your story? Remember to be accurate, honest and more importantly true to yourself. Your potential employer will respect that and thank you for it.

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2. Identify Your Brand.

Whether you like it or not, your personal brand is one of the first things a potential employer notices when considering you for a job position. It’s more than the 5-7 bullets highlighted on your resume – it’s your character, the way you dress, how you carry yourself and so much more.

This brand should showcase your interests and personality, while speaking to your skills, perspectives and strengths. It should also contain a specific message and speak to your suitability for a particular position, company or industry.

How do you want your potential employer and others to perceive you? Take the time to self-reflect and determine what exactly it is that you want to be known for personally and professionally.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your personal brand.

3. Have Fun With It.

Developing your own website is a creative and fun way to offer professional information, control the message and to get your personal brand out there. You can also use this site to showcase your official logo or link to a number of web pages and documents such as your resume, LinkedIn profile, notable intern work and more.

Thousands of professionals are also leveraging personalized websites, with a personalized domain name, like .ME, to control their online reputation and create a captivating online identity that caters to their unique branding, personality, professional interests.

Explore your options and decide what’s right for you. The more time and effort you invest in your personal brand, the better your job leads will be.

4. Make Sure the Social Media Stars Align.

When you’re building a personal brand, remember that all publicity is not good publicity.

And with social media platforms emerging as the sole resource for sharing your online identity with the world, you may have less control than you think – yup, those old college Facebook photos are just one Google search away from your potential employer.

Read the fine print before creating any social media account as elusive privacy settings or open controls may fail to give you complete authority of your online persona and personal brand.

If you have several social media accounts already in place, control your personal brand by updating your bio and privacy settings. It’s also vital that you watch what you say at all times – if you don’t want your potential employer reading it, it’s probably not worth sharing.

5. Practice What You Preach.

Think your personal branding journey is complete once you’ve created a website and updated your social profiles? Think again.

Practice what you preach by becoming your personal brand. Do you claim to be the next Beyoncé of PR? Then you better join several PR organizations, be able to blurt out the top 10 most successful PR campaigns of 2014 and have a few noteworthy industry internships under your belt.

6. Create Opportunities for Yourself.

As much as you’d probably like your personal brands to do the work for you, it’s simply just the beginning of this journey. Create opportunities by networking and attending relevant events in your industry. Your dream job may be one resume submission away, but you’ll still have to utilize your contacts (along with your personal brand) to go get it.

7. Continue to Update Your Personal Brand.

Once you land that dream job, continue to mold and evolve your personal brand to fit your changing skill sets, interests, experiences, and goals as they grow over time. Keep in mind that this brand should remain fluid and relevant to your industry as its sole purpose is to help with the advancement of your career.

Predrag Lesic is the CEO of .ME – a personal online domain that caters to the branding, professional and personal interests of online users.

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