Perception matters. For all of those people out there not caring about what others think of them, just know that finding a job,obtaining a promotion, getting involved in community efforts, and just basic existing in life, might prove quite difficult. A brand strategist, Jami Dunham, stated in a recent presentation, “You have a brand whether by design or default.” Wouldn’t you rather be at the helm of the conversation?
I had the privilege of spending time with a professor who broke down everyone’s brand in three parts: Pre-Presence, Presence, and Post Presence.
Pre-Presence: Before I meet you
Presence: The meeting
Post- Presence: After we meet
What makes up your Pre-Presence? Think of anything that gives people information about you before they meet you.
– Resume (past experiences, school, major, community involvement, and, honors/awards etc.)
– Emails including that pesky signature at the bottom
– Social Media
– Word of Mouth
– References/Letters of Recommendation
– Phone conversations
People form a perception about who you are from all of these items. I can learn a great deal about you in one swift Google search. By the way, have you Googled yourself lately? I hadn’t Googled myself in a while but as part of s lecture, the person sitting next to me had to look me up online. Eek! Luckily, I keep it classy and here’s what I thought post exercise:
1. I need to delete any social media accounts that I no longer use. What was the point of “We Heart It”? On the same note, if I use it then I need to keep outlets updated. I can’t keep throwing around my blog link if the last update was 6 months ago.
2. I should create a portfolio with all links associated with me including those for interviews, writings, photos, presentations–there were things listed that I’d totally forgotten I’d done throughout my career.
3. An updated headshot can really do your profile some good.
4. If there is something I need to warn people about, then I need to be proactive and craft a response to any questions that might pop up in an interview about that image or text. If you don’t want anyone to know about it, then don’t post it on social media. Ahem, depending on what it is, you might just not want to do it at all.
5. What I devote myself to professionally and in the community are on full display. I want people to see what I do because that also informs them of what I value. Any potential employer needs to know what you value and vice versa. If those values aren’t in some way congruent, the working relationship won’t be fulfilling.
Perception is important. Fit is critical. Employers begin assessing your fit before you walk in the door.
Tips to Pre-Presence Success
– Get your resume tidied up by a professional or an acquaintance who’s spent a lot of time hiring others. Always keep your resume freshly updated. You never know when an opportunity is going to land in your inbox.
-Are your emails grammatically correct? Did you utilize the power of spell check? Have you found a way to appropriately insert your personality into all correspondence? According to the professor you should erase that “please forgive any typos line” because it makes readers feel as if their email isn’t significant.
-Make sure to return all phone calls in a timely manner and rehearse voicemail messages once or twice before you start rambling on the machine. Also, make sure that your outgoing voicemail message is up to date and appropriate. Personalize your outgoing message and please get rid of that ring back tone. I’m terrible at listening to voicemails and often my mailbox is full. Grr! Not a good pre-presence tactic.
-Letters of recommendation/references are out of your control once you request them so work to make sure that you’re choosing people that can provide the best feedback about you and your skills. For some, the “requirement” of having your current or most recent supervisor as a reference can be bothersome. Be prepared to cover that issue with your potential supervisor and give them a heads up about the nature of your relationship with that person. Just know that if you don’t list your current or most recent supervisor, it will raise questions for your potential employer.
-Clean up your social media and/or put it on private. I monitor my social media very closely and I make sure that I don’t post anything that would cause people to question my character. My social media engagement has become a large and positive aspect of my brand.
-Word of mouth is still the most powerful determinant of Pre-Presence. Be cognizant of what you’re putting out in the world because word travels fast. Most people don’t adhere to the list of references submitted by the applicant. Informal means of communication are regularly used to gather feedback on a candidate.
Hmm…think about potential employers as your customers. They talk to each other about you and essentially about your brand. What do you think they’re saying about you?
I strongly encourage you to take some time and tighten up your Pre-Presence. What are the things floating out in the world that can assist others in forming an opinion of your brand? Make sure your Pre-Presence reflects you in a desired manner. First impressions aren’t just made in person. In 2015, my first impression of you is made quickly after a few clicks on your Facebook Page or a scroll through your Twitter feed. Make sure the results are in your favor.