If You Don’t Manage Your Professional Image, Google Will Do It For You
In today’s A/E/C marketplace, relationships are more valuable than ever. While your firm may be held in high regard, you need to ensure the same goes for your online professional image.
What is a professional image? It’s commonly defined as a set of qualities and characteristics that represent perceptions of your competence and character as perceived by your key constituents – colleagues, clients, superiors, subordinates.
With potential clients vetting your firm and its staff before making their final selection, your online professional image needs to be just that – professional.
Let’s be honest, not everyone keeps up his or her professional image in the most effective way. That photo of you with your dog at the beach is great but it doesn’t make someone want to hire you for their next landmark project.
Online reputation management takes into account all of your online presence, including government documents, project sign-in sheets, meeting minutes, newspaper articles and self-generated content. Your job is to filter it to ensure you are viewed in the most professional light.
To manage your professional image online, focus on these two important tasks:
- Decide what kind of image you want to portray. Think of your audience as you complete this task– potential clients, employers and industry colleagues. What do you want their impression to be of you?
- Build and maintain credibility to support that image. Consider your LinkedIn page – have you received any recommendations recently?
Deciding what image to portray:
- Think about your core competencies and character traits that are most closely associated with you currently. Are you happy with those traits or do you need an image makeover?
- What does your boss think of you? What about your coworkers or clients? Consider how you are treated in meetings, at social events and how people respond to your communication. These answers will provide you with the areas that need improving in order to reach your ideal professional image.
Building & Maintaining Credibility:
- Decide what platforms you will use to build credibility. We suggest LinkedIn at a minimum, but if time allows, we also suggest blogging about subjects that interest you and position you as a thought leader. Once you have decided where you will be active online, consider your voice, tone, use of grammar, and to what level you will disclose information.
- Use a professional headshot. After all, this is more than a photo; it is the face behind the business. It doesn’t have to be a staged and stale photo but it should reflect the product or service you are selling. For instance, I don’t expect a graphic designer to have a suit and tie on in their headshot, but I might appreciate that in the shot of a CEO. Also, make sure you use a current photo and that it is of high enough resolution. You may like that picture of yourself from 15 years ago, but you probably don’t look like that anymore. It’s time for an update. After all, age = experience, right?
- Use a professional email address, not a free Gmail, Hotmail, or AOL account. If you have to go with a free account, make sure your free email address simply states your name as opposed to [email protected] You are trying to establish yourself – and by association, your firm – as a thought leader, so let the world know how to get in touch with you professionally.
- You want to be active online in ways that reflect well on you as a professional and are not just entertainment or creative outlets. A word to the wise, keep your online activity authentic. People who initially find you Online, say on LinkedIn for example, only have that content by which to create their impression of you. However, if they meet you in person, your online persona should match or at least complement your true self. First impressions are crucial to building lasting relationships, especially in business. So, if the information they see online about you is well informed and professional, they are more likely to have a positive opinion of you.
- Be proactive in guarding your reputation. Search for your name and your business name regularly to monitor your reputation. Google Alerts make it easy to stay up to date on what the market is saying about you and your company.