In the age of Google searches, online profiles, and instant share buttons it's more important than ever to take a controlled approach to market yourself. After all, the internet lasts forever. Try as you might to hide it, there's still a chance your old MySpace page could surface to haunt you. But fear not! There are practices you can employ to present your best image.
Maybe you have dreams of running an enterprise, climbing the ranks at a Fortune 500 company, or simply contributing to the success of an organization. Whatever your aspirations start crafting a plan now to get to where you want to be. Keep in mind the following advice on how to best position yourself for success and why it's important to always market yourself.
Establish your strategy
Every successful endeavor starts with a general plan: an outline of how to get from point A to point B. As you start understanding the best ways to market your skills, treat yourself as your own client. It's also wise to create a comprehensive marketing strategy. Identify your professional goals and then create an action plan to achieve them. What is your target industry or market? What type of work are you most passionate about? Taking the time to answer these questions will help you decide how best to approach.
Part of successfully marketing yourself is looking for ways to add to your existing skills. You can participate in workshops, online classes, or even an informal meet-and-greet events. The more time you spend with like-minded professionals, the more you learn from them. Additionally, make an effort to diversify your contacts and experiences. Take a class outside your comfort zone, or volunteer to work on a project that tests your professional abilities. Embrace the uncomfortable feeling that comes with trying something new. The more versatile you become, the easier time you'll have positioned yourself as a “Jack-of-all-trades." No one wants to paint themselves into a corner. Dissuade any doubt about your abilities and learn to dabble in a variety of professional pursuits.
Stay aware on social media
It can be tempting to share everything online, especially for those who grew up in the age of the ubiquitous internet. When sharing your lunch with your friends and followers becomes second nature, it's difficult to draw the line on what to share. In fact, a reported 88% of young adults ages 18-29 use some type of social media platform, every day. With these types of figures, the chances of posting a not-so-appropriate picture or comment are high. Make sure to always post appropriate comments and images. Maintain a sense of decorum and professionalism on every social media platform.
Social media accounts are often the first introduction people have who you are. To protect your image, start with a social media audit. Review all your active accounts and browse through current and past content to look for any questionable postings. Remove anything controversial or problematic, such as extreme political views or attacks on a particular group. Going forward, ask yourself: would I be OK with my boss seeing this? If the answer is no, don't put it on the internet.
This is not to say you must change your personality or alter the very fabric of your being. Rather, think of it as increasing your self-awareness. It's very possible to stay authentic without putting every aspect of your life on display. Remember, you're trying to market yourself as a knowledgeable professional in your field of choice, so make sure the content you post aligns with that intention.
Keep your goals in mind
Don't worry: we won't ask you what you want to be when you grow up. But you should have some idea of the direction in which you'd like to move. Plan for your future; shaping your image to align with where you aspire to be. Remember the old adage, "dress for the job you want, not the job you have." It doesn't always refer to your wardrobe. Explore the metaphor more deeply: get involved with local networking groups, volunteer your time at nonprofits, or jump into the world of freelance. Find out where you want to be and trace the necessary steps.
Not sure where to start? Reach out to your alma mater's alumni association and subscribe to their newsletters to stay apprised of opportunities to mix and mingle with local professionals. Join a local business group to start making connections and work on your marketing and networking skills. And remember: every interaction is a chance to position yourself in the best light possible.
Whether we realize it or not, we're constantly marketing ourselves. How we interact, how we learn, and most importantly, how we chase our dreams all reflect on the type of person we are. There's no one right way to market yourself, but there are ways to put your best face forward. Start with a well-planned strategy, push yourself to learn new skills, and always keep your eyes on the prize.