Admit it now, and use the knowledge to your advantage.
What’s the difference between a personal and professional brand?
It’s pretty simple actually. There isn’t one, not anymore. So, drop the personal and professional, you get one brand.
The people you work and associate with professionally look at your total picture, and if you think that doesn’t include your personal profiles, or that hiding your profile, or not living life to its fullest is a solution to that, you’re wrong.
If they can’t find you online…let’s just say even that’s a red flag. Do you have something to hide? You don’t have any skills worth showing off? Neither? Both?
Your personal brand is your professional brand.
So, you may as well admit it now, and use the knowledge to your advantage.
I’ve shared this lesson with everyone I’ve worked with — from Fortune 100 CEOs to college-age interns. Let me tell you, it’s just as important at 20 as it is at 60.
Look at celebrities, for example. Athletes, politicians, pop stars — old and new, young and old, left and right — all prove time and time again that this isn’t just about the content you create and share today, directly. The things you comment on, the people you follow, your friends’ posts, your friends’ friends’ posts, they all represent who you are.
It wasn’t always this way
You can say that again.
However, since the advent of social media, it has been “this way,” and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. Once upon a time, you could go to work as a buttoned-up professional, and do whatever you wanted with your 5–9.
If you wanted those spheres separate, it was no chore to make that happen. Today? Well, I think you know that’s not the case.
Think about it. How easy is it now to look someone up on the internet? When your friends start talking about someone you’re unsure if you know, what is the first thing you do? You look them up on Facebook or Instagram, scroll through their profiles, and learn a bit about them.
Now tell me this. If you own a company, and you’re hiring for a new position, are you going to stop your research at an interview, and two minutes reading a resumé?
When social media platforms first began to roll out, people were warned that recruiters would look at their profiles and make judgment calls about them. At first, this seemed like an invasion, and maybe it was, but nowadays everyone is vetted before getting hired. In fact, you have probably been “vetted” a thousand times by random people.
Your brand is in your digital footprint
So, what does all of this mean for you?
Your beliefs are reflected in your digital presence, even amplified. Without context or the ability to explain yourself at the moment, anything you put online will take on the meaning people assign to it.
I once had a client who claimed to realize the importance of building their brand and thought leadership professionally. Yet, once they had access to new and shiny social accounts, they followed, shared, liked, and commented on accounts that aligned with their personal beliefs — personal beliefs that others might find offensive.
Is it wrong to follow accounts you believe in — no, but it isn’t always going to send the right message for your company as a whole, and that’s the key. When you post on social media, like a post, comment, retweet — whatever it is, you’re showing the world that you share certain values and beliefs. That’s fine, you should, but sometimes those values and beliefs will not align with your company’s, or they might be offensive to your company’s audience, and that is something people need to be very cognizant of.
Regardless of what your beliefs are, when you’re in a leadership position you have the power to impact the people who do, have, or will, work for or with you positively or negatively. As a leader, you don’t just represent your beliefs and values, you represent, as an extension, the company’s as well. You become the face of the company — for better or for worse.
You have one brand — personal and professional
Stop trying to divide personal and professional, and build one cohesive, true, and professional-enough representation of yourself. It sounds difficult, I know. But, there is a happy medium. Straddle the line, and be careful not to step on anybody’s toes.
Do you like baseball? Retweet the game-winning run, not the story of “x” player who did “y” and how it is “z- expletive” that he’s in trouble for it.
A personal brand is not necessarily synonymous with an opinionated one. But at the same time, without an opinion, you don’t have a brand. Find a happy medium, emphasis on the happy. Share your opinion with grace, and compassion, not a chip on your shoulder and your vision going red.
Growing up, my Mom always told me to never talk about the B’s: banks, the bible, bureaucracy, bitching, the birds, and the bees. These translate to money, religion, politics, complaints, and sex.
In building my personal brand, and dozens of others on top of that, I’ve found that not offending anyone is like walking on eggshells nowadays, but it ispossible. Just be cognizant of what you say, who you follow, and what your digital presence might say about you.
The moral of the story is this, your personal and professional brands are intertwined. You are entitled to your opinion, but don’t say things for the sake of saying them. Be smart, know what you are putting out there, who is seeing it, and who that reflects.
This article was originally published on Predict