With fierce competition for open positions in finance, job seekers need to expand the ways in which they conduct their searches. In today's marketplace, building a positive online presence is more important than ever, even for an accomplished finance professional, employed or not. "Regardless of your current position, online branding is critical because there is no such thing as job security," says branding expert Dan Schawbel, author of "Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success." "In order to protect yourself and become searchable in Google and various social networks, it's imperative that you invest in your own online identity."
Be the First to Claim Your Name
Before you do anything else, you'll want to "claim your name" on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, says brand strategist Catherine Kaputa and author of "U R A Brand." You'll also want to try to purchase the domain for your name. If it turns out your name has already been taken, then you'll want to use a slight variation, such as a middle name or initial, she suggests. Just keep it consistent across the Web. By taking these steps, you're calling the shots on how you will be perceived, says Kaputa.
Take Your Time to Develop Your Identity
Once you own your name, you can slowly develop a presence, starting with basic information and then adding to it as you go. "This is something you can control," says Kaputa. "It's an opportunity to really develop your brand yourself." It can also be an opportunity to reinvent yourself, says Schawbel. "If you aren't especially happy with your current job, then use your online platform to rebrand yourself."
Don't Go Overboard
Prof. Sree Sreenivasan, who teaches digital media at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, has received membership invitations from more than 40 networking sites. Each time he receives one, he politely declines, having made the decision early on to limit himself to three: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. "There is just not enough time," he says. "Pick two or three, then cultivate a presence there."
LinkedIn is the Place to Be
If you only have the time to join one site, most experts agree that LinkedIn, with 60-million-plus members, is the most essential -- at least right now. "LinkedIn is the premier business social networking site, so it is the one crucial place to be if you are a business executive, professional or entrepreneur," says Kaputa. Steven Burda, who works in financial planning, procurement, and cost management for The Boeing Company, used LinkedIn to start a group for finance and accounting professionals; the group now numbers more than 47,000. "Linkedin is required in this day and age. It's the survival of the fittest amongst professionals," says Burda. "As of now, I get dozens of opportunities from recruiters -- most are finance, business development and management jobs."
Stay Current and Up-To-Date
For every network you join, you'll need to update your profile regularly, especially if your position changes or you lose your job. Even after promotions, people don't always remember to make the changes online, something people rarely forget to do in the traditional resume marketplace. "Curate [your online profile] the same way you would curate your one-page resume," says Sreenivasan. If you choose to set up your own blog, commit to adding a new entry each week. This is the minimum, says Kaputa. Anything less than that and you'll lose your readership.
Connect With People You Know
Expand your network carefully; only add people you actually know or with whom you've done business. Whether it's on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other networking site, "it's much more of a quality game than a quantity game," says Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn spokesperson. A recruiter may choose to contact one of your connections to ask about you; you wouldn't want that person to be someone you don't really know or trust -- or be someone who doesn't really know you very well.
Google Yourself on a Regular Basis
Increasingly rare is the employer or recruiter who doesn't Google a potential employee prior to the interview. Google yourself regularly, so you can see how you stack up on the Web compared to others and whether your "personal brand" is compromised in any way. If you do find something out of line, it's your job to fix it, says Schawbel. "You should create content, join social networks, and run your own personal PR campaign to push that result down."
Consistency Is Key
It's essential that you keep your brand consistent across the Web and treat it like the "broadcast medium" it is, says Lauren Doliva, a partner at executive-search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. "If an executive is using online sources to network, it's important for the person to present the full story of his or her experience. This should include corporate title, functional title, reporting relationship, an outline of responsibilities, the specific scenario and context and, most importantly, the results," she says. Everywhere you go online, you'll want to use the same picture, brand name and personal brand statement, says Schawbel." "By doing so, people will be able to follow your digital tracks and get to know you better."
An online presence is essential in today's marketplace. It's just a matter of making sure you create the one that puts your best foot forward, say experts. "Whatever you put on a profile or networking site sends an impression of who you are. It becomes part of your personal brand identity," says Doliva. "The key is to be thoughtful about the content you are conveying and what others might assume as a result of reading or seeing it."
-- Liz Garone
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