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Personal Branding Checklist

Personal branding is a continual process just as knowing yourself is a continual process

"Hi, my name is Jesse Warden."

"What do you do, Mr. Warden?"

"I'm a computer programmer."

"Oh really? I used to work in the IT division. What type of programming do you do?"

"I specialize in Adobe Flex, which creates Rich Internet Applications. I typically work with server-side developers as well as designers in various design agencies. Working with a variety of people who have different skill sets rocks!"

I like to add my feelings so people immediately know I am passionate about it. That's just my style. Your elevator pitch should show your style as well, if applicable. I like to talk, a lot. Therefore, elevator pitches are hard for me. I want to spew details to people. However, it is best to give them the synopsis, and let them ask for more details.

Remember:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • What type of industry

Be able to describe who you are and what you do in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

4  Be Positive
No one likes negative people. People like positive people. If you are positive, people will want to work with you. A positive attitude implies you can provide solutions, will be successful when thrown into the fire, and will generally raise the morale of those around you.

Be positive.

5  Business Card
While old school, it's still effective. Business cards should be personalized without being annoying. It's okay to have a weird shape, for example, but the card better fit in someone's wallet. If not, they will immediately have a negative impression of you. Those little CD ones are hot and will make people think you've got it together.

Having your first and last name, professional title, company name if applicable, phone number(s), e-mail(s), and Website on your card are the bare minimum. These help drive people to your Web presence. They, too, should match your brand. If you are a Spartan, clean, no nonsense programmer, a clearly readable and Spartan card that matches the style of your Web presence, if any, should match.

Misspellings are unacceptable. If you accidentally printed out 300 cards with the wrong e-mail, take the loss and get it done right. It's unprofessional to get a card with a verbal disclaimer.

"Just ignore the top number... it no longer works, use the bottom."

...bad, bad.

A lot of local FedEx, Mailbox Etc., and others can make a large number of custom business cards, cheap. Cheaper than Kinko's, too!

Finally, your Website can go down. A business card doesn't require a server, nor power to be viewable; it's just paper and ink, and that works reliably on its own.

6  Blog /Website / MySpace Page
Being accessible anywhere, anytime is now technologically possible. In the past, you'd slip your business card to someone, hoping it wouldn't get lost in their already overflowing wallet; they'd see it, and remember to associate the card with the hopefully good impression you made.

Now, you can have who you are immediately accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. A personal Website allows you to collect the good things about you in one accessible place. You can then use that as a tool whenver you travel...and it's larger than 3x5.

"Do you have a resume?"

"Do you have examples of your work?"

"What type of work have you done in the past?"

All questions can be answered verbally, via IM, or even phone by:

"Sure, just point your laptop's Web browser you have open there to www.jessewarden.com."

The best is if you have a previously prepared Web page that showcases your work nicely. You can then guide the potential employer/client through your site. Self-guided are cool as well. A lot of designers have portfolio sites, Websites that showcase their design work online. They can both stand alone, allowing anyone to see their work without any handholding, or used onsite during an interview in a guided presentation.

You can also upload multiple resumes to your Website to be always available. It's just really handy to have all of that in one place. Depending on your industry, any associated files and documents can be there as well, either hidden (non-linked to) or protected so only you can access them. There are many sites out there devoted to storing your data, but this is stuff you want people to see so it's okay if it's found.

A blog is great too. It shows a history of you writing about your industry. That immediately sends a powerful statement. It implies you are knowledgeable in your industry, if not a cut above the rest, if you can write a lot of content over a long period of time. You will also have a long record that can showcase your vast amount of knowledge and even growth in the industry. If you have multiple blogs, one for personal stuff and one for professional postings, it's easier because you don't have to explain away personal posts that may be uncomfortable to talk about in an interview.

Remember, you're never sorry for something you didn't say. If you said it on the Internet, you can be sure it's saved, somewhere. People have been pretty harsh about such things on the Internet since there is more accountability for what you write being in the public domain as it were. That said, those of us in tech recognize and appreciate things in context, and should take that into account. Most don't, so be warned.

Blogs are also nice because of their communal nature. If you have a comment to show, this gives the impression that you are involved in the industry. Again you are being perceived as knowledgeable. Comments that show positive feedback or thanks are even sweeter. You can even play on the negative ones if you responded in a professional way, attempting to initiate a dialogue or a healthy debate. Leaving comments that point out weaknesses in your arguments or are just plain corrections on your inaccurate reporting show that you are not afraid to admit you're wrong, and have documentation of such. Anything racist, offensive, or politically incorrect should be deleted unless it applies to the industry you are in. Some people don't understand that an anonymous commenting system allows anyone to comment, and yet they can hold you accountable for content on your Website. I feel the risk is worth it, though.

Finally, My Space pages. When I was in college studying multimedia, one of my respected professors told me that you need your own domain if you want to apply for a Web designer job. Local companies like Mindspring (now Earthlink) and others wouldn't take you seriously if you put geocities.com/~cablesland as your portfolio URL versus jessewarden.com.

I think times have changed. Creating a Website takes a lot of time and a wide array of skills to set up and maintain. If this isn't your primary discipline, it's kind of ridiculous to do so in a day and age where a plethora of Web applications exist for solving these various needs. If you are a Web designer, sure, I can see how it's relevant, but battling hackers, blog spam, and shoddy Web hosting providers is time-consuming, expensive - both monetarily and time-wise - with little perceived return on investment.

Why pay for Website space when places offer it for free? Why go through the laborious process of setting up a blog when many services exist that make it easy to set up and handle all the spam and hacker issues for you? To me, people who do that are effective, not lazy. In a day and age where time is precious, and attention sparse, anything that helps you get things done quicker seems good. Effectively using those tools to develop your brand seems like a good thing. Web mail, too, is nice versus a domain-specific one. Access anywhere with built-in spam protection is great! While it is professional to have "[email protected]" versus "[email protected]" when in communication with a client, having something like gmail or others is fine; they handle the spam so you don't have to. That shows you're smart...or at least appear so, and that's what matters.

Get your brand online in some fashion.

7  Multiple E-Mail Addresses
While it can be a pain and cause confusion to clients, it's worth it, even if you only advertise one. If your mail server goes down, you can at least be in e-mail communication via another e-mail address. In addition, you don't have to use work e-mail for job offers that could get you fired.

You don't have to let everyone know all of your e-mail addresses. You can tell clients which one you want them to use, and friends the rest. E-mail filters, however, will triumph over these efforts.

Finally, some e-mail addresses can have more than one purpose. For example, I have a Gmail address not just for the spam filtering and Web browser access, but because I can check it through my cellphone's Web browser. Since you can't always control which types of e-mail people send you, you can set the tone that your Blackberry cannot view PDF documents, so people won't even try and instead will stick to text only. Flickr has a creative use of this. You can send an e-mail with an attached image to an address they give you for your account. It'll extract the image from the e-mail, and post it to your Flickr account.

8  Phone
Having a phone is good for many reasons. First, e-mail and IM conversations aren't that great. They are not as effective as actually talking to the person. If you can't talk in person, voice communication is the next best thing. Having yet another way to be accessible via a decent form of communication is a good thing. Phone calls are instantaneous, assuming you're awake and your phone is on, garnering immediate results. You have opportunities to use the aforementioned tools like your elevator pitch, as well as being positive and passionate over the phone. It's hard with shoddy cellphones not to interrupt people sometimes, but that's the nature of the beast.

In addition, text messages have the benefit of being quiet. If you are in a meeting or someplace where you cannot make a phone call, a text message is a way to communicate using the same device. They are quicker on some phone networks, and more reliable than multimedia and e-mail messaging (at least at the time of this writing). You can use one hand, and immediately pause mid-typing without being rude. The send / receive methodology allows you to send a quick message and go do other things while the message is being responded to. The latency can work in your favor.

While it may be painful, try not to use Leet with people you don't know. Leet, also spelled l33t and l77t, is a loose Internet language. It replaces some words with symbols and has other colloquialisms. It's handy for devices that make it hard to type, but again, you need to portray a professional impression. People hear you speak in their head when reading text messages, and bad leet grammar doesn't leave a mature impression.

"lol, y0r da [email protected] n0\/\/ d0g!"

versus

"Ha ha, that was quite funny, Dr. Watson."

However, unless your device has a keyboard, prudence can come through after a decent rapport has been established, you can begin with the abbreviations. "yes" versus "Yes." No capitalization and no period. No problem. "I'll be there b4 8." versus "I'll be there before 8." It's okay if you are on a personal basis with the other party, but it's not okay if it is a potential employer or client. Use your best judgment; typing proper sentences without a proper keyboard is tough.

Get a phone.


More Stories By Jesse Randall Warden

Jesse R. Warden, a member of the Editorial Board of Web Developer's & Designer's Journal, is a Flex, Flash and Flash Lite consultant for Universal Mind. A professional multimedia developer, he maintains a Website at jessewarden.com where he writes about technical topics that relate to Flash and Flex.

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