When this post was originally published in July 2014, we received such a great response. Since then, it has been shared and referenced over and over again. For those that haven’t read it yet, we’d thought we’d share it again; a great reminder about the importance of a professional brand. Enjoy!
We talk with emerging and experienced professionals every day about how they should best represent themselves on LinkedIn and other online platforms. Often we see people put nothing or the bare minimum on LinkedIn because they don’t know what to add or how to best showcase it. Maybe they are in career transition and are switching industries. This is especially difficult for consultants and independent contractors who work across industries and specialties.
A quick search from my LinkedIn network shows me there are more than 5 million professionals with “consultant,” “freelance,” or “independent contractor” in their title. My guess is that a fair number of those people are working on a variety of gigs at the same time and aren’t sure how to best show that project, client, or expertise. And, sometimes that focus changes. No worries.
Clearly, sometimes you may need to stay under the radar. Some projects and clients are confidential. That’s actually not what I am talking about here. I am referring to the person who tells me, “I do marketing, business development, some executive coaching and on the side I have another business.” Often those people ask me how to show all of that and make sense of it on LinkedIn so it makes sense to others. While others are flying and swirling around, define who you are — define your professional messaging.
It’s not always easy to do and sometimes I don’t have a good answer when people ask me how they can “be all these people” because there is no good answer. We watched The Grand Budapest Hotel last night and I think it was good but I can’t really decide. I couldn’t tell if it was a comedy or drama and had to look it up and guess what, it’s marked as both. Hmm. No wonder I couldn’t decide whether it was good, it was a bit frenetic. I think the same happens when we don’t define who we are. Specialists are “in” today but even generalists need to define their playground. People don’t want someone who can do a ton of things sort of well, they want to hire people who are great at certain things even if that is only one or two things.
In today’s work landscape more people are working independently than ever before. It’s a free-agent world now and will continue to be. Just be careful and strategic in how you position yourself.
Here are 5 ways to manage and land your professional messaging to gain more ground.
1. Use the summary section in LinkedIn to share and explain your professional journey in narrative form. The summary section allows you to tie all the disparate pieces together and caveat what may not, at first glance, make sense.
2. Prioritize your messaging—who you are and what you want to be. At least people will better understand your priorities, strengths, and professional interests.
3. Highlight outlying experience in LinkedIn’s projects section. It rounds you out without pigeonholing you. Everyone gets that often you pick up gigs outside your main expertise when you are a consultant. I just talked with a consultant yesterday who worked on a project for a client, it was so good he turned it into a product that has created a whole new business for him, and now that is his professional focus and message. He adapted.
4. Make sure all your online platforms align. If you are tweeting on behalf of a client under your own profile, consider whether that can expand or potentially diminish your messaging and professional brand. I do see this often. Certain topics can be polarizing for potential business opportunities. Beware how you promote clients and business partners and associates. You probably don’t want their brand to become confused with yours. If you do it for several clients, you really run the risk of people not knowing who you are.
5. Define who you are. There are lots of online resources about defining your brand, mission and values. It makes sense to do this even as an individual. Susan Bishop, a good friend, client, and partner helps her clients define this messaging and it provides greater clarity and impact in how they are viewed and do business. She has a worksheet called What is My Brand?, take a look. Our LinkedInProfileBuilderGuide may help you focus your LinkedIn profile.
The more I have worked to hone this messaging for myself and our team, the better it has been for our business. It’s worth the time and energy and will most likely shake up or focus your thinking.
Remember, people will drop in on your website, Twitter, or LinkedIn profile and give you brief seconds to make an impression. Will your impression make sense to them? Will it be compelling enough to make them take the next step and start a conversation with you?
Take the time to hone your messaging. Land your professional messaging and others will be able to more easily know how and when to connect, refer and provide new opportunities for you. Have tips for growing your professional messaging? Let me know in the comments.
This post was originally published on Intero Advisory’s website in October 2016. Please note that LinkedIn is constantly changing. While it’s current now it may not be in the coming weeks or months.