Ep. 86 How to build your professional brand

how build your professional brand

In today’s episode, Anna looks at how to build your professional brand, leveraging LinkedIn to build your network and online presence, even as a full-time employee.

I like to think that companies and employers are forward-thinking enough these days to allow if not encourage their employees to build a presence online, including on LinkedIn. However, if that’s not the case, there are still actions you can take in the meantime. At the most fundamental level, you should always be keeping your profile up to date. On LinkedIn, that means a recent, professional photo; a custom headline (don’t just let the platform choose what happens to be your current job title); and a meaningful summary section. Ideally, you’d have been keeping your profile up to date and active on an ongoing basis.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

Get private mentoring for your business– Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator– This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5



How to build your professional brand


Hello there, hope you’re keeping well. Now this week I wanted to look at building a brand platform and this is something that’s come up with a number of clients recently in the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator programme. And this is all around navigating that transition from working out exactly what it is you want to do in working for yourself and running a business, and then transitioning out of your full-time job into running that business.

And one of the thorny issues, I guess, that’s come up is how do you manage this sensitively? So one of the eternal questions we all grapple with is do we stay in the full-time job as long as possible so we have the stable income, we have the security and the safety and the guaranteed comfort zone, I guess, while we try to build the side hustle alongside the business? And that’s perhaps a sensible approach, certainly financially, it feels better.

Or do we then relatively soon go all in with the business because we otherwise won’t have the time, the energy and the freedom to actually build that business, to network, to contact clients. Not to mention to actually run the work we want to run. And that’s a topic maybe for another episode.

However, related to this, the specific question is how do we start reaching out to people? How do we start building an audience and building that personal brand while we’re still on the job?

And what I find generally is that most people in general in full-time employment, most people on LinkedIn, in fact, for example, will ignore their personal brand. And I did a whole series on personal branding at the beginning of the podcast, I think around episode nine, if you want to go back and listen to why it’s so important to have a personal brand, whether you’re an employee, you’re an entrepreneur, a freelancer and so on.

But generally, a lot of people won’t even have a professional picture – gasp! They won’t have kept their information up to date. And even if they do, in fact, I had a client yesterday who had a perfectly up-to-date CV effectively on the profile, but nothing in the summary, no detail at all, no meat on the bones of each of the roles and so on, right?

So, often, unless you’re actively searching for a job, you’re not going to be so active, which is fair enough. LinkedIn is a very powerful platform for entrepreneurs, for freelancers, for getting clients and so on. But I really believe it’s a powerful platform for employees as well. And it certainly will give you an advantage if you get everything in order before you urgently need it.

 So whether you’re starting a business or looking for a job, or perhaps being made redundant, furloughed, as is happening now this year during COVID and so on.

It’s much better to have it all in place before you desperately need it. And again, it can be such a powerful platform, even when you’re in a so-called secure position.

Now, just as an example of this, I was working with a client recently who wanted to step up his presence on LinkedIn and his so called thought leadership, if you like that expression. And to build a platform and network for himself. Not just relying on the sales team and the company dealing with all the external links and so on. Not necessarily to start a business or do anything at all contravening the company is very passionate about the work he’s doing, but just having a bit more of a role, but more of a leadership role and exposure to people outside of the company.

And he described something interesting, which was that a new junior member of the team had joined. And was relatively quiet and obviously not very experienced within the company or in fact in the professional world. But this guy had been super active, he’d noticed, on LinkedIn. He wrote thoughtful pieces and comments. He shared articles and was really actively contributing to this area of expertise.

And so rather than be concerned or suspicious, as you might think a more traditional mindset might lead you to think, “Oh my goodness, this person is trying to get another job.” My client was impressed and inspired, as he should be. Because what a fantastic opportunity for a junior employee to demonstrate their expertise, their initiative, their passion for the subject. Where in a traditional hierarchical setting, I guess, in the office, you might not have the opportunity to really demonstrate how fantastic you are. Right. You have to work from the bottom up, you have to pay your dues and blah, blah, blah.

So social media now, and again, in particular, LinkedIn, offers a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, even when you don’t necessarily have the experience and the traditional qualifications.

So that’s just one illustration of even if you’re not looking to change your job or start a business, I would always recommend that you maintain your basic profile at least, and look into making the most of using the platform. You never know what kind of connections you can make and who you can meet on there.

LinkedIn has a pretty high average salary income range on there in terms of demographics. You’ll find very senior CEOs, entrepreneurs on there who are actually actively managing their profile. Some people might have an assistant to someone, and certainly there are bots. And I get a lot of kind of spammy salesy messages, which I think must be some agency or some kind of tactic that they’re using. But more times than not people are genuinely engaging there and they’re open to speaking to you and to learning and so on.

And certainly if you’re looking for a job in the future, rather than submitting your CV to an anonymous application website with 200 other applicants, if you’ve already been in touch with people and you have a name for yourself in the industry, you can just imagine how much better placed you are, better positioned for that role.

So, regardless of what your goals are, as a minimum, I would recommend the following. So there’s different levels to getting involved on LinkedIn. But the first one, and maybe you think this is ridiculous, but believe me there are people out there who don’t have a picture or certainly have sort of a blurry wedding picture or something like that.

So at a minimum, get the professional picture. It doesn’t have to be you paying an actual professional photographer, but at least get someone, clean background, looking at the camera, smiling, looks like you.

It’s not 20 years old. That’s a pretty basic element. So A nice picture is one of the pieces. And then you don’t want to have that egg head thing going on because this is an individual platform. We’re engaging with people and that’s really important.

The second piece there is to have a really meaningful headline. Now, what generally happens is that LinkedIn will just take your most recent job title. And for lots of people that’s meaningless, it’s jargon. And that doesn’t necessarily mean anything to anybody outside of the company, let alone outside the industry.

So we could do a whole episode on this, but really looking at thinking about not just, “Okay, this happens to be my job title, but this is the work I do. These are the results I get. This is the experience I have.” And you can spend some time looking at what other people have in their headlines and so on.

To be honest, a lot of people are bad at this, so it might not be the best example, but if you have a quick Google of custom LinkedIn headlines, you’ll get some really good examples. And again, definitely when you’re freelancing, when you’re running your own business, this is prime real estate for you to communicate your value. But even if you’re in a role it’s more meaningful to say, “Passionate social media manager working in the charity sector,” let’s say, than it is to say the particular job title, project manager, whatever it happens to be, which doesn’t accurately reflect what you do in a particular company.

And while we’re at it, just a pet peeve, I don’t think it’s necessary or recommended to say… I wouldn’t say I’m Anna Lundberg, I’m CEO and founder of Anna Lundberg Inc because it’s not really adding any value. I might put the fact that I’m founder of One Step Outside, but that’s because that’s a different company name and I’m trying to push that branding.

But if you’re a consultant at Anna Lundberg Consultancy, that’s not really adding any value at all. If anything, I think that makes you look smaller than you actually are I suppose. So professional picture, custom headline.

And then you have this about section, the summary, and that’s where you can really craft a story.

Now, if you were running a business, I would recommend that you wrote this almost like a sales page. You need to be thinking about the audience you’re writing to and weave that story of who you help and how, and what’s the call to action. Obviously we’re talking here, if we’re taking a step back, at being still in a job.

So you might not be able to be quite that blatant. However, do use that space to tell a little bit more about you, give some colour, your experience. Maybe some passions you have outside of work too, because that might then give you a bit of an in when you move into another area. Perhaps it would make more sense if you’d been already saying, “Hey, I really care about diversity and tech,” or whatever it might be that will then give you an opening OF the door to doing more work in that area in the future. So crafting a story. So at the minimum that’s level one, professional picture, custom headline, and a meaningful about. And of course, keeping your experiences and so on up to date as well.

The second level would be to start connecting with people in your industry. The good thing with LinkedIn is that it’s free first of all. You can very easily find people in your field with certain job titles and so on. Again, when you start building your business, that will be invaluable. But even in the meantime, finding interesting people with similar roles to you in other companies, other countries, follow them, connect with them by all means. Like and comment on their posts.

So you don’t have to go all in with doing live videos and posting everyday yourself and writing these incredible thought pieces. Start by actually engaging with other people. And again, whether you’re potentially looking for another job in the future or potentially changing sector or starting and growing your business, this will really stand you in good stead. So connect with people, follow them, like, comment, share by all means.

And then level three, then you can get more advanced in terms of sharing your own content. And again, you don’t have to start with a massive, perfect article and two hour webinar. It can be a short form post. You can share some testimonials of your work or just, “I’ve worked in this fantastic project, really proud of the team.”

Again, we don’t have to be explicitly selling our business services. We can build a name for ourselves and start connecting with people even while we’re still in a job, regardless of what that goal is.

So those three levels, the minimum, get the foundations in place, clean up your profile, keep it up to date, make it meaningful. Level two, start connecting with people and engage with other people’s content. And then level three can be to start sharing your own content.

Now the sensitivity of course comes when you’re still in a job. And I would just put that out there that you may want to just check the company policy if there is something formal. I know back in my corporate days, we had some very strict guidelines around sharing and social media. Obviously that was sort of 10, 15 years ago now. We had to put #employee of this company just to be very transparent, for example.

And it may be if you’re concerned perhaps, that your manager might be suspicious or something, just talk to them and have that conversation out there. Now, if you are in fact, looking to network, grow your audience and start laying the foundations for a business that you’re planning to transition to that, of course, needs a bit more sensitivity. And I do definitely have clients who are reluctant to openly start ramping things up on LinkedIn.

Now you may be really lucky to be in a more modern company, and I hope for your sake that you are. And if you’re an employer, by the way, please do reconsider your positioning on this. If you’re then able to be open about this, some companies will actively support and encourage you to have a side hustle. And to navigate the more open online presence and pursue other business endeavours and certainly build your brand and network with people.

If so, you’re really lucky. However, if not, you can still number one, update your basic profile. Now this is something everyone should be doing, whether you’re job seeking, building a business or not. So it’s always best, if you could just keep that updated ongoing, there won’t be any eyebrows raised when you suddenly do a massive overhaul of your profile. What you can do, of course, is you go into your privacy settings to make sure that people don’t get an email saying, “Oh, Anna’s just completely updated her profile.” And every day you do it, they’ll get a new email. Just make sure that it doesn’t communicate the changes you make to your network. But that’s something, again, you should be doing ongoing.

And certainly if an employer came to you and asked you, “Why have you updated your LinkedIn?” Just say, “Oh, I just noticed it was out of date, just want to make sure it’s up to date when people connect with me.” And then, if you are actively wanting to grow your audience and network and so on, but you can’t do that openly yet, what you can do is do some more behind the scenes messaging, maybe some more traditional outreach, perhaps wireframe, but certainly via LinkedIn messaging until you’re ready to go public with a business.

So it’s not ideal. And again, coming back to the original question, it might be that you’ll need to take that leap so that you can freely communicate about your business and so on if you’re feeling very restricted in your current role. But there are things you can do in the meantime to at least start preparing content and behind the scenes, start talking to people.

Now, if you’re wanting to update your LinkedIn and get going with this and you’re not quite sure how to do so, I’d be happy to take a look. So do just send me an email. You can get me at podcast@onestepoutside.com, podcast@onestepoutside.com. And I’d be happy to take a look at your profile confidentially, maybe give you some pointers. And we can also look at a more comprehensive programme together to really work on building your personal brand. It’s something that I feel very passionately about, and it’s something that will be so critical to you, certainly building a business in the future.

So thanks so much for listening. I hope that was interesting. Just navigating that audience building and brand development while you’re still in a job. And again, it’s something that’s come up with clients and I’m sure will be relevant for those of you who may still be in your job.

So let me know as well, of course, if you have any questions or build on this and we can take it further and go into more detail. And again, podcast@onestepoutside.com. Thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you back here next week. Bye for now.

Connect with Anna:




If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:

Get private mentoring for your business– Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall

Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5– After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator– This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

Up-level with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate


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