Student Affairs Job Search: Personal Branding

While I have not always agreed with some of the tenets of the phenomenon known as "personal branding," I do value the importance of certain aspects.

January 5, 2012

While I have not always agreed with some of the tenets of the phenomenon known as "personal branding," I do value the importance of certain aspects. One of the elements of personal branding that is crucial is the significance of being "searchable" on the web. For Student Affairs professionals who are conducting a job search, searching on the web becomes a two-way activity. Potential employers will most-likely be checking you out on Google while you are simultaneously doing the same thing with them.

A few years ago, I was interviewing a potential candidate for the Oregon State University (OSU) College Student Services Administration program when she asked for my business card. Unfortunately, I had not brought any with me. I found myself saying what has become an inside joke amongst my friends: "Just Google my name." Trust me, it sounded a little ridiculous when I said it. However, at that time, and still to this day, when someone Google's my name, the top results point to sites that are all about me. I love business cards, but if you need to find my contact information or you want to find out more about me, then searching for my name is a great alternative and a form of personal branding.

So why is this important? Well, in my case, there are at least 11 gentlemen named "Eric Stoller" in the United States. When someone searches for me, I want them to find me and not the other 10. I realize that this paints personal branding as a bit of a competitive activity. Perhaps labeling it as "strategic" is more apropos? When you are looking for a job, it's a tactical activity. After you apply for a position, there's a good chance that you will be "searched."

One of the easiest ways to ensure that your name turns up in the #1 search position is to buy "yourname.com". Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. give a high priority to domain name addresses. When I was a graduate student at OSU, I started blogging in 2004. It wasn't until August of 2005 when I purchased ericstoller.com. With more than 6 years of existence, my personal domain will always turn up #1 on a web search for my name. An easy way to procure "yourname.com" is to sign up for a premium account at WordPress.com. Optimized for search engines, WordPress is a great way to build an online personal brand. I've been wedded to WordPress for more than 7 years and it's the engine that powers my personal brand.

After you purchase your web domain, it's important to establish a presence on high traffic/PageRank sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. Make sure that you use the same name for every site. Consistency ensures that you have a better chance of building a searchable personal brand. Using nicknames or anything but your real name will dilute and add little value to your brand. Employers want to know as much about you as possible. Your résumé and cover letter tell your story from your point of view. If your online personal brand does not match up with your application narrative, it could have detrimental effects on your candidacy. Blogging, tweeting and engaging via social media channels is a terrific way to establish your network, create content, and build your personal brand.

What happens when you Google your name? Are you in the top ten search results or is someone else?

This is post #2 in my Student Affairs Job Search series. Yesterday's post included thoughts about initial questions and challenges.

Remnants of this post were inspired and/or borrowed directly from a blog post that I wrote in 2010 on Student Affairs Professionals, Search, and Personal Branding.




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