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Make Sure Your Professional Brand Stays With You

By now most of us have gotten the message that we’re all self-employed, regardless of whom we work for. We’re in charge of our careers and job opportunities, and that means being ready to land on our feet should a pink slip happen to land on our desk. And a big part of that “being ready” is making sure that you’ve built up professional visibility – your brand – outside your employer.

Although losing a job is tough, finding a new one will be much easier if you’ve taken steps to become professionally visible outside the universe of your company and co-workers. What are some of the ways you can do this?

Use social media to build your reputation.  Although having a robust LinkedIn profile is pretty much a career “must have,” where LinkedIn can really help you build your professional brand is through your engagements with career-relevant groups. Join ones that are appropriate for your field, then begin contributing by asking thoughtful questions, commenting on others’ posts, and sharing resources/information. This will distinguish you as an individual, rather than as an employee, to those who read your contributions. Similarly with Twitter and other social media tools, the more active you are, the more people recognize your name and associate it with your value as a professional, rather than with your role as an employee of a specific company.

Consider developing a specialized expertise.  Almost every field has hundreds of areas of specialization or emerging trends. To really stand out in your profession, consider developing an interest and expertise in one area related to your work and then sharing your knowledge with others through conference presentations, articles, perhaps a blog, or via a social media tool like Twitter. Or consider joining (or starting) a LinkedIn group on this topic to share your findings (and showcase your expertise). Your goal is to distinguish yourself as a contributor to your field and a person who’s continuing to grow and learn professionally, beyond whatever job you may have.

Become active in professional associations.  Whether at the local or national level, becoming active in associations is a terrific way to build visibility as someone willing to invest time and energy for the good of the profession. The reputation you build among fellow association members will be based on your efforts rather than on your job title, a benefit that also holds for any community associations you become active in. And of course an additional advantage of association involvement is the network of connections you’re building!

Use a personal e-mail account.  If your social media and similar accounts all have your company e-mail account as the contact point and you lose your job, you will also lose access to your company e-mail and you ability to gain access to your online accounts. So make sure that in the settings for your online accounts you have your personal e-mail address listed as either the primary or secondary (if an option) contact account. Otherwise you may be locked out of the very tools you were using to build your professional visibility (as evidenced by thousands of “orphaned” Facebook and Twitter accounts!).

Building your individual professional brand outside your company doesn’t mean that you can’t still be a terrific and loyal employee. After all, the brighter your star shines, the smarter your employer looks for having you as part of the team. But if you’ve taken the steps to establish your professional reputation as an individual, then you won’t suffer the added loss of career invisibility if you happen to lose your job.

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