It used to be that only professional writers penned articles. Only big studios created TV shows and movies. Only established critics shared their opinions with a broad audience. Today, in the Information Age, absolutely anyone can create content of any kind and share it with the world. If you haven't yet contributed to the global content exchange, you are missing out on a huge opportunity.
As a young professional building your career, you can -- and should -- boost your personal brand by expressing your knowledge, ideas and opinions with a wider audience. Even if you've never considered yourself to be a "content creator," you can begin at any moment. Why is this so important? Because people often Google you before they meet you in person, and you want them to find interesting, impressive, professional content related to your name. The content you create will become an essential element of your growing personal brand, and it will differentiate you in a competitive world.
Not All Content Is Equal
Before going further on this topic, let's pause and be clear that we're talking about professionally appropriate content. You've probably created lots of content socially -- travel photos, wall posts on Facebook, YouTube videos of your band playing at a party -- but those should be kept private.
There are several places where you can create content online that will help you to garner professional interest from recruiters, grad school admissions officers, networking contacts and other important people. First, begin with your existing social networking profiles.
On Facebook, consider filling out the "Work and Education" portion of your profile with details about your professional experience. Just be aware that the things you post could then potentially become associated with an employer, so you'll want to make sure your content is appropriate. Things that seem innocuous in isolation could raise issues when connected with an employer.
On LinkedIn, make sure that you have included all of your experience in your profile. Be specific about the organizations with which you've worked. Join alumni groups and other professional groups and be sure that they are reflected in your profile.
Many young professionals don't realize that internships, volunteer work, part-time work and many extracurriculars "count" as experience. Write a brief blurb about each position you list and be sure to include lots of keywords in your profile, so that someone searching on those terms will come across your profile. If you're not sure what words or phrases to use, check out the profiles of people you admire and borrow some of their language. Remember that everything you write on your profile is an example of your writing talent, so it "counts" as content as well.
LinkedIn also offers a variety of applications that allow you to feature content that will help you build your professional brand. The Amazon Reading List allows you to show what you're reading and write reviews (you can and should review books directly on Amazon.com as well). The SlideShare and Google Presentation apps provide the opportunity to share any PowerPoints you've created, such as a presentation you designed for a class or a slide show of your graphic design work. If you write a blog that's appropriate for professional distribution, you can add that to your LinkedIn profile as well. However, be mindful about posting anything you may have done for an employer. You should -- and may even be required to -- get that employer's explicit permission to post that work.
Become A Knowledgeable Presence
On the micro-blogging front, Twitter provides a terrific way to engage in professional conversation in 140 characters or less. Many students and recent grads demonstrate their professional interests by tweeting about current events, developments in their industries, news articles and much more. A fashion design student could tweet about clothing trends on his campus. An aspiring lawyer could tweet out articles related to major court decisions. A student seeking a job in advertising could tweet about ad campaigns she likes.
Beyond adding content to your social media profiles, there are many other ways to share your views online. If you're a sports broadcaster for your university's TV station, post your favorite segments to your own YouTube channel. If you love technology, host your own podcast on the free site BlogTalkRadio.com, providing your reviews of the newest gadgets. If you love to write, send an email to your favorite bloggers asking about their policies for accepting guest blog posts and then write a few. If you have opinions to share on your industry, comment on professional blogs or submit letters to the editor of online publications.
Overall, when you're thinking about creating relevant professional content to boost your personal brand, your main focus should be on producing content that is authentic to you and represents your true talents, abilities and interests. That passion will shine through and engage people immediately. So don't be afraid to speak up -- your audience is ready and waiting.
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