Sharpen Your Image to Boost Your Career

Whether you think you have a brand or “merely” a professional image, it’s important to nurture it. In today’s competitive job market, it’s vital to distinguish yourself from your competition – to position yourself as a coveted prize. If you adopt this mindset, you’ll eventually help people realize that you’re an invaluable asset to any organization. Here are 6 tips to help you do just that:

  • Project a professional image online. First, make sure any social media profiles you use for business (e.g., LinkedIn) are up-to-date and professional. Second, use a professional picture. You should be wearing business attire and posed against a neutral or business focused background, not next to Mickey Mouse at Disney World. The text should be upbeat, conveying enthusiasm about you and your passions. To become a desirable brand, don’t be bland: inject personality into your profiles (without coming across as unprofessional).
  • Become active on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for job seekers, but it’s not much use if you create a profile and then walk away. Nobody will know you exist. You need to network. You need to join – and routinely participate – in various professional groups. Post comments, “like” posts, connect with new people and then correspond with them. Build relationships just as you would at real-world networking events.
  • Become a thought leader. If you really want to attract attention, become a thought leader in your industry. Write and publish articles on the Pulse section. It’s also a good idea to respond with thoughtful comments to other people’s articles. People and organizations will definitely take notice of your efforts. Note: unless you’re already a recognized expert in your field, you’ll probably need to perform research to create posts that capture the attention of industry leaders. At the very least, stay abreast of current trends and developments. The blogosphere is awash with unread posts published by people with strong opinions but little expertise.
  • Be a Lifelong Learner. Never believe that you “know it all.” Nobody does. I don’t care if you have an MBA or Ph.D.: search for ways to continuously advance your education. Attend classes, seminars and webinars. Acquire new certifications and licenses. Keep building your knowledge and skillsets. Do what it takes to increase your value to your current employer, as well as companies you may want to join someday.
  • Find a niche in which you excel. Everyone excels at something. Sometimes these skills and talents are listed in a formal job description. Sometimes not. For example, a bookkeeper might be good as his or her job, but truly excel at building relationships with prospective clients. In this case, his ideal niche might be leading the sales division of a large accounting firm. Sometimes we don’t discover our niche until we’ve experimented with a variety of jobs, companies and industries. Upon graduating from college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where my talents lay. But eventually, I discovered that my niche was insurance claims services and technology. Once I learned this, I dove in headfirst, doing everything I could to become the best. Don’t just look for a job. Look for a niche in which you can excel – something that will set you apart from the crowd.
  • Read, read and read. Lifelong learners are voracious readers because they recognize that continuing education consists of both formal and informal components. It should go without saying that, whatever your field, it’s vital to stay apprised of the latest news. Read magazines, books, eBooks, newsletters, blogs, emails and tweets. Read books written by the best and brightest in your business. That said, do not limit yourself to information related only to your industry. As noted in the book The Idea Hunter, some of the business world’s greatest innovations were produced by people who looked outside their own networks, industries and specialties for inspiration, advice and new ideas.

Ernie Bray is a high-energy, award-winning American entrepreneur, CEO, author and podcast host. Bray is a respected advisor in driving strategic impact in the areas of process improvement, strategy, management, social media, marketing and innovation. 

“The effort you put in today leads to the results you will get tomorrow.”