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Personal Branding Tips for Graduates

In this post, I will provide tips I have learned on personal branding which may be beneficial for graduates looking to “market” themselves into their dream job.

Young people entering the workplace today have far better tools and communication channels at hand then previous generations could ever imagine. Social media and the Internet provide all of us with the ability to connect with millions of people all over the world. However, we all know it’s a double-edge sword, allowing bullying and trolling 24/7, but for this post I am focusing only on the positives of the technologies we have available to us for personal branding.

First off, what is personal branding and why is it important for your career.

Personal branding is all about presenting yourself to the world in the way you want to be seen. You do this to help achieve your goals such as landing the dream role, increasing your earning potential and being thought of as a leader or influencer in your skill-sets.

Graduates are faced with more and more challenges in landing a job, let alone their dream job. Globalization and immigration policies have dramatically increased the number of available candidates per role. Success ultimately comes to those who know how to market themselves above and beyond the competition.

I have broken this post into 4 key sections:

  • Selecting a “home base” online to establish yourself and help grow your personal brand.
  • The importance of networking and connecting – not only online but face-to-face.
  • Content curation as a strategy for being recognized as someone to follow online.
  • Writing your own content to start on the path of being known as an expert.

So, let’s begin!

Choose Your Social Media Platforms Wisely

I think anyone who has invested their time and effort in building and growing a social media profile for business will know it’s never ending and massively time consuming.

For developing your personal brand, it’s even more important that you select the social media platforms that are right for you. It’s a complete waste of time investing all that time and effort building up a social media profile on a platform that will serve you no benefit to your career.

LinkedIn is the social media platform I invest most of my time and effort in for building on my personal brand. All the other social media platforms, some of which I must admit, I am too old to even understand, are not even on my radar. The only other social media platform I invest a little time in is Twitter but solely for content curation (see Content Curation section).

I focus on not polluting my personal social media profiles such as Facebook with business and vice versa. For me, LinkedIn and Twitter are for business and every other platform is for personal use.

Of course, LinkedIn is the number one social media platform for business. If you have not yet created a LinkedIn profile for yourself I suggest you do so ASAP. LinkedIn is the main tool people use to research people and businesses – recruiters will contact me via LinkedIn after reviewing my profile, clients connect with me as well as workmates.

As a graduate your first task on the road to personal branding is to establish a “home base” where people can go to get a complete run down on who you are and what skills you have. The home base should be your CV online. Some people recommend that you to establish a personal blog as the home base either as a static CV or a place to post your content. Personally, I don’t recommend a blog as the initial home base for a number of reasons:

  1. Maintaining a blog can be time-consuming, taking you away from your core objective of brand building. If the blog is hosted on a blogging platform then that adds further complexity in regards to SEO and migrating away from the platform.
  2. Unless you can register the domain name for your full name then there will be additional work required for SEO to help locate your website. Search engines especially Google rank highly personal social media profiles before any other domain where you keep a personal profile. If you are lucky enough to register the domain for your full name I would initially have it redirect to your LinkedIn profile. For example, MarcKrisjanous.com.
  3. Your home base should be where your target “market” is – your target market being people you want to connect with. You would not set up a shop where your target market is not present and it’s the same online. LinkedIn is one of the first places online where people go to conduct research on a person or business – that’s where your home base should be.
  4. Your LinkedIn profile not only represents your online CV but also records the groups you belong to, recommendations from others, information about your connections and your recent activity within LinkedIn. It provides an almost complete picture of your professional life on one page. To replicate this functionality on a blog or another non-social media platform would be difficult.

Networking & Connecting

Once you have established your home base within LinkedIn locate all your student friends and connect with them. Also, connect with all your old lecturers as well because you will then be indirectly connected to their networks which instantly gives you some profiles to look at and possibly connect to (see warning below).

Warning!! Do not randomly connect with people you do not know directly on LinkedIn! Attempting to connect with strangers or someone that does not share common interests is one of the worst things you can do on LinkedIn. If one of your direct connections connects with a person you either know or feel they share a common interest then connect – but make sure in your connection request you explain exactly why you want to connect with them.

The reason why you are connecting with people on LinkedIn is to firstly start networking but also it helps with “social proof” – a term used to denote your networking strength. Think of it this way – people by their very nature tend to be more positive towards someone who is seen to be popular. I will leave it at that because I do not want to distract focus and encourage debate on the pros and cons of “social proof”.

After you have connected with people you know on LinkedIn search for LinkedIn groups that cover your interests including skill-sets, then request to join the group. For example, if marketing is your career path then search for marketing groups, if its IT security then join up to IT security groups.

The most important rule when joining a LinkedIn group or any online community for that matter is to first watch and learn. Don’t bother contributing to the group yet. You should first understand the attitude of the group and the key players. You need to understand the “culture” of the group in order to know what is acceptable to contribute and what is not. As a newbie, you don’t want to upset anyone or be laughed at. Once you have identified the key players in the group introduce yourself and confirm with them the rules for the group. This help show that you are respectful of the groups culture and hopefully one or more of the key players in the group will look after you until you are accepted.

Connecting with people online is an important part of personal brand building however, what really cements a relationship is connecting face-to-face.

Ask your workmates and other peers what professional groups are around that you can join to network with people and learn further. Make sure you commit to attending the meetings and don’t be scared to say hello to the attendees.

Conferences and expos are also a fantastic way to meet people not only the locals but people from further afield. Conferences and expos have industry leading speakers so make sure you introduce yourself at the end of their presentation and then attempt to connect with them via LinkedIn.

Important Tip!! When requesting to connect to someone within LinkedIn, make sure you add a note to the connect request such as how you know the person or why you would like to connect with them. Do not, ever, attempt to connect with someone within LinkedIn without providing a personal note in the connection request. Many influencers will ignore the default connection requests since they receive so many – make it personal and memorable.

Content Curation

Content curation is a newish marketing term, though what it involves has been around forever. The results of the effort are “magical” in the way compound interest works for financial growth – it’s a slow process but overtime the results can be exponential.

For example, my personal Twitter profile is currently at 12.6k followers at the time of writing this post – 95% due to content curation.

Content curation is about locating content that would be of interest to your network and sharing it with them so they may get value from it. The content you locate and share should be from various sources not just you. The content should be of a high standard and from reputable sources.

You can share your own content but I have a rule of a 1-to-19 split, meaning each piece of content I authored and shared with my network I share 19 other pieces of content I did not author. This removes any chance of being thought of by your network as purely self-promoting.

Now, you may feel that content curation appears to be a fantastic way to promote others but ultimately does nothing to help promote your own personal brand – but you would be wrong.

This is where the “magic” really kicks in.

Sharing content created by others has amazing benefits to your personal brand such as:

  1. Sharing content that will provide value to your network overtime has a magical effect where people believe you to be an expert on the topics you share. You may never write a single post in your life but sharing well written and high value content authored by others still makes you out to be an expert!
  2. Most people have at times attempted to contact influential or famous people directly only to have no response. This is where the “magic” of sharing another person’s content starts to work! If the person you are trying to connect with authors content such as blog posts, articles, videos etc… share their content with your network and make sure they are aware of the share. Most social media platforms make it easy for the author to be alerted to the share. Alerting the author of the share has two benefits for you: (1) the author is now aware of you and (2) most of us who receive a favor feel compelled to return the favor at some stage. The action of sharing an author’s post is in my opinion the easiest and most effective way of getting a person to notice you and most of the time, results in a favor to be returned. It may take a few or many shares but ultimately, I have found the sharing strategy works 99% of the time.
  3. Though I do recommend, as part of your personal branding, writing on topics you want to be known as having skills in, you don’t have to. Just sharing other people’s content puts you above most people within social media who are mostly watchers not active participants. One of the major success factors for being known in social media is to be active by contributing to the content stream – sharing content makes you an active participant, and therefore as a direct result, people will notice you.

How to find content to share

One easy strategy for content curation, is to locate influencers within your area of focus and re-share whatever they share that you think would be relevant to your network. Not only does this save you time locating content but it also helps you getting noticed by the influencer.

However, to really ignite the magic of content curation you will need to start seeking out content to share yourself.

Finding content to share online that is of high quality and provides value to your network is not hard – it’s just a matter of finding one useful initial source of content. Overtime that initial source will lead you to other sources of great content.

If you’re stuck locating a website for content try News360.com. The website provides a free service where you can sign-up and select categories of interest. News360 will then locate and display content related to your selected interest categories. The content is sourced from thousands of websites. I have used News360 for years and have located some interesting content and websites through this service. As usual, there is a mobile app, so when you have some free time, maybe while traveling to and from work, browse the latest content News360 has located and if something looks interesting share it with your LinkedIn network.

As a final tip, don’t spam your network with too much content. My rule is to share daily 1-3 pieces of content that is of high interest and value to my network. Therefore, my network knows that when I do share something its worth their while to take a look.

Writing Your Own Content

In my opinion, the most effective way to build your personal brand is to write about topics within your skill-set. There are so many benefits to writing content on a topic that I could write another post solely on that subject.

Writing content to promote a person, business or brand is called “content marketing” and at the time of writing this post it’s a massive focus for the marketing sector. Search for “content marketing” to learn more about the strategies used.

Here are some of the most important benefits:

  1. As a graduate, writing about a topic that is part of your professional skill-set forces you to learn more about the topic and to fill in the gaps of knowledge you have. For example, if you’re focused on marketing as a career, create a list of topics you are interested in and commit to writing a post on each topic. The fact that you will end up publishing the content on the Internet to be read by people with far more knowledge and experience than you, should force you to make sure you have researched thoroughly that your content is correct and based on facts.
  2. Building up a collection of content covering your skill-set and publishing on applicable websites and social media platforms such as LinkedIn super-charges your CV. Your content is proof that you actually know something. Don’t forget, most CV’s are embellished to a certain degree – most recruiters and future employers know that a person’s CV conveys how the person wants to be seen – not what they truly are or know. Your content is proof that what you state in your CV is true.
  3. When you have enough content, you can package the whole lot up and create an eBook that other graduates can read and get value from. The eBook is a major marketing tool for you – its pure power for your personal brand! You will be surprised where the eBook will end up – in the hands of influencers, recruiters, future employers, conference management teams looking for speakers. Oh, and now you are also a publisher – another skill to add to your LinkedIn profile and CV! Then of course there is repurposing your content into different channels but I will leave that up to you to discover.

Get Started – Now!

This post provides a small collection of tips I have learned throughout my professional career to help build my professional brand. As a graduate you are just starting out in your career but it’s never too early to start thinking about your professional brand. Finding a job is not as easy as it used to be, we all know that, so learning how you can promote yourself above the competition is an absolute must.

So, the steps are:

  1. Establish a “home base” on a social media platform where people can find you – I recommend LinkedIn.
  2. Start to get recognized, firstly by connecting with peers and influencers in your professional sector both online and face-to-face.
  3. Share high value content with your network, that starts you on the path to being recognized as someone who is passionate and keen to learn.
  4. Create your own content and share with your network to start on the path as being known as an expert.
  5. Continue to promote yourself – but also promote others you feel have given you value, as people will often return the favor.

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Management

Is Social Entrepreneurism Right For Your Business?

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Social entrepreneurism is used by for profit entrepreneurs and also not for profit startups.  It’s  popular and a considerable number of ‘for profit’ companies are also incorporating social entrepreneurship into their business strategies as a way of giving back to society.

However, social entrepreneurship isn’t clearly defined and thus it’s meaning mis-interpreted, and misused particularly in marketing initiatives.

Let’s look at it in more detail and examine the advantages or disadvantages of launching a social enterprise.

What Is A Social Enterprise?

A basic definition of social entrepreneurship is an organization which operates in order to identify, create and implement solutions to social problems. Of course, the wide-ranging nature of social problems means that social enterprises can be focused on hundreds of areas.

Whether it focuses on poverty, homelessness, health or the environment, a social enterprise typically aims to promote a cause, alleviate suffering and/or resolve serious problems which are affecting communities, countries or the population as a whole.

Why It’s Popular

Social entrepreneurship has really taken off in recent years and companies which align themselves with positive values appeal to customers. Those among us who are more discerning about where we chose to shop and what we buy, will chose the ‘feel good’ that comes with knowing our purchase can indirectly improve the conditions of those less fortunate.

If you’re a purchaser who often feels guilty for buying for yourself, then knowing your purchase is not solely about you is all you need for guilt free pleasure. Plus the feel good experience, motivates you to share it with friends, family and followers in social media. It’s a reason to buy from the same company, time and time again, and every business wants a repeat customer.

Should It Be Where I Focus My Business?

Labelling yourself a social entrepreneur can be a savvy business decision. However it’s also a responsibility that you must fully commit to, as it requires a bonafide desire to make a difference.

Commit To It

Dedicating resources and some of your business profit to social causes is not for everyone. A halfhearted approach may backfire too if your business fails to follow through in any way.

We know how fast a business can be destroyed through carelessness.  Who doesn’t remember Ratner’s fall from grace and it’s reputation irreparable.

Consumers are becoming accustomed to a whole host of organizations identifying as social enterprises and the media spotlight means self-proclaimed social enterprises do need to back-up their claims with clear goals, actions, and results.

Positives Of A Social Enterprise

Becoming a social entrepreneur can have many benefits and it can be extremely rewarding.

By identifying a worthy cause which needs exposure so it receives the support to make a difference to people’s lives, your business can help to alleviate a genuine social, culture or environmental problem.

Regardless of the size of your organization, knowing you’re helping to resolve a harmful issue can be rewarding on a personal and professional level.

Free PR, Discounted Marketing & Advertising

Perhaps more cynically, incorporate a social enterprise objective into your organization can garner positive PR.

Aligning yourself with a worthwhile cause can lead to free or reduced-cost advertising, and it can certainly help to gain support from similarly-minded individuals.

Tax Breaks

In some cases, social enterprises can benefit from tax breaks too so there could be a financial incentive to take a professional interest in social issues.

Grants

If your organization operates as a non-profit or eco-friendly enterprise, there may be certain grants you’re entitled too as well, not to mention PR-friendly awards you could be eligible for.

With so many benefits surrounding social entrepreneurship, declaring your organization a social enterprise may seem like a no-brainer. However, there are some disadvantages which can arise from social entrepreneurship.

As well as meeting your legal obligations as a company director or owner, you may need to fulfil additional requirements if you’re operating as a social enterprise. There are often strict guidelines which must be adhered to if you claim to operate for the benefit of cause and you’ll be expected to back up your claims with evidence.

Are There Conflicts Of Interest Between A Social Enterprise Versus A For Profit Business?

Not necessarily. A non-profit organization may run as a social enterprise but this doesn’t prevent for-profit businesses from incorporating social entrepreneurship into their for-profit business strategy.

Inevitably, a percentage of your revenue will need to go towards a particular cause if you claim to be supporting it but this doesn’t prevent your company from continuing to make a profit as well.

As the number of social entrepreneurs continues to grow, the definition of social entrepreneurism continues to evolve. Whilst there are a number of considerations to take into account before declaring yourself a social entrepreneur, adding a social enterprise element to your business or launching or non-profit organization can be beneficial for you, your business and your chosen cause.

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Management

What You Should Know Before Hiring an Independent Contractor

contractor

Are you thinking of hiring independent contractors?

Hiring contractors is a budget-friendly way to help support your small business. They allow you to get your business done and grow your company, without the legal and financial hassle of bringing on full-time, salaried employees.

Freelancing is taking off as more and more people want freedom in their work schedules. So there is plenty of talent out there to help your business succeed.

But hiring an independent contractor can be tricky, so don’t make any offers before you do some research and know what you’re getting into. Keep reading to learn more about what you need to do before hiring an independent contractor.

Five Steps to Hiring an Independent Contractor

Independent contractors and freelancers can help your business thrive, but you shouldn’t hire just anyone. Certain forms need to be filled out, and there are unique rules when tax time comes around.

If you’re new to working with contractors, here are five steps you’ll need to take before bringing on independent contractors:

1. Always Check Credentials

There are a lot of great contractors out there, but make sure you always vet your candidates before you make any official offers. A lousy contractor could cause some legal trouble down the road.

Always ask for a copy of their resume and to see past examples of their work. You likely wouldn’t hire a full-time employee without meeting them, checking their references and making sure they’re legitimate.

2. Fill Out The Proper New Hire Paperwork

Just like full-time employees, contractors have paperwork that needs to be filled out before they can start legally working for your business. Make sure you have a W-9 form filled out for them. This form is the contractor’s equivalent to a W-4.

3. Make Sure You Sign a Contract

Before your contractor does any work for you, you should have some form of contract or work agreement in place. This will keep you safe legally and hopefully prevent any disputes later on.

4. Paying the Contractor

Paying your independent contractor isn’t that complicated. You can either have them charge you hourly or agree on a flat rate per project. The exact price and method of payment should be agreed upon before the project starts and laid out explicitly in your contract that you both sign.

All you have to do is make sure that you accurately record every payment that you send to your contractors, and pay stubs is an easy way to do this. You can generate pay stubs online by going to a website like https://www.thepaystubs.com.

5. Give Them Proper Tax Documents

If you pay your independent contractors more than $600 in a year, you’ll need to give them a 1099-MISC form and include the total amount that they were paid. They will need this form and information to properly file their taxes.

Learn More About Running a Small Business

Hiring an independent contractor might seem complicated, but it’s easy to do if you remember a few simple things. The extra help will mean that you can focus on doing other things and helping your business succeed.

Check out the rest of our website for more helpful business tips. We have articles ranging from finance to marketing and sales!

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Management

Contributing to a Healthier Planet Through Event Sustainability

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Have you ever thought about the waste that big events leave behind? When there is a concert, a big game in town, or even a corporate event, like an expo,  have you ever thought about all the plastic used, like drink bottles, eating utensils, plates etc. You’d be forgiven for not considering it, however, now more than ever, it’s a question being asked.

Society is putting some thinking on the environmental impacts of events, alongside their societal, economic and sometimes – depending on the type of the event – political impacts, and the development of standards such as ISO 20121 proves precisely that.

Even though events planning and management might sound like a fairly contemporary idea and business activity, it is in fact very old. Since early humans started to get organized into groups, the idea of rituals was born, and thus the organization of “events” took place. Then, when the society started to get hierarchized, royalty would have extravagant weddings, birthdays, celebrations, funerals and so on.

In other words, even though perhaps the nomenclature did not exist as such, events were planned and organized from a long time ago.

Events Planning

With the evolution and the sophistication of societies, events planning took a whole new dimension and it got more complex.

One of these dimensions is also the environmental footprint that events, especially big ones leave behind. This matter was materialized in all its seriousness in 2012, during the London Olympics, when the Organizing Committee implemented the freshly developed ISO 20121 – the first international standard on sustainable events.

The standard was developed by ISO during the time of the London Olympics because sustainability was a central idea in London 2012.

While the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has a myriad of standards concerning the environment and environmental management, such as:

–    ISO 14001 – Environmental Management System;

–    ISO 50001 – Energy Management System;

–    ISO 14015 – Environmental Assessment of Sites and Organizations;

–    ISO 14063 – Environmental Communication;

–    ISO 14031 – Environmental Performance Evaluation and many more.

However, ISO 20121 is very specific to events, and offers guidance on how to organize an event with a minimum environmental footprint while enhancing productivity and efficiency, saving costs and increasing profit.

While being aligned with other management systems standards, such as ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, ISO 20121 is also a very good management tool to show social responsibility, or the “People” bottom line of the “Triple Bottom Lines”, famously known as the “three P’s of Sustainability”.

It is a very interesting approach to sustainability, because it does not undermine the importance of profitability, while putting the same weight on sustainability and social responsibility.

The TBL or “Triple Bottom Line”, or “Three P’s” stand for three bottom lines that a company should take into account, and which measure a company’s success: Profit, People and the Planet.

In an article on ISO 20121, the three P’s and the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle, it is argued that an events management company can integrate these three and tackle a number of issues with one solution: implementing and maintaining ISO 20121.

Some of the more general benefits of implementing ISO 20121 for sustainable events include:

  • Reduced environmental footprint
  • Cost Reduction
  • Increased efficiency
  • Reduced energy consumption
  • Increase labor productivity and motivation
  • Improved image by proving to be socially reliable
  • Possibility to integrate several management systems

Moreover, while the urgency and imminence of the effects of global warming and climate change are the main reason of investing in the implementation and maintenance of the ISO 20121, the latter is also a very good PR tool which can be used to display how responsible an organization that organizes events is towards the future of the planet and the future generations.

As environmental issues have never been paid more attention to, people all over the world, both in developed and developing countries are being careful and increasingly showing interest towards doing their part to contribute to the global effort of saving the planet.

In this sense, a company which showcases interest, to the point of investing time and resources in being environmentally responsible, to interjecting their input in this matter of cardinal importance, shows alignment with the contemporary values and principles of their clientele.

If we look at it closely, a company or organization which organizes big events implements a standard like ISO 20121 and commits to not polluting the environment through their business operations, is not committing to “clean” the environment, but rather to leave it as it is. It is rather a matter of balanced principle of non-interference than a heroic act of salvation.

About the Author

Julian Kuci is the Marketing Quality Assurance Manager at PECB. He is a graduate of RIT in Economics & Statistics and Public Policy & Governance. Julian holds a diploma in Transitional Justice from the Regional School of Transitional Justice and is certified against ISO 9001 – Quality Management and ISO/IEC 27001- Information Security Management.

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