“In times of rapid change, we are all students.”
With this in mind, my employer, Thornley Fallis sent me back to school.
The occasion was HumberPR’s second annual Personal Brand Camp, a brilliant workshop that encourages students to think about their digital footprint. Led and organized by Michael Cayley, it took place last week, Tuesday, February 23.
The goal of Personal Brand Camp is to ultimately guide the students in the creation of their personal brand. It helps them to understand the importance of an online identity as both an intricate part of their network and long-term professional profile.
This gave me the opportunity and pleasure to be both a mentor and influencer for the students. I not only shared my utmost “digital wisdom” but also strived to put myself in their shoes; existing as a fairly new, conceivably timid and footprint-less online brand.
I found myself sitting at a round table, surrounded by four wide-eyed students, a 20-something, slightly timid, girl asked, “What is the one thing you always do in preparation for an interview?” Easy, I thought. “I search the interviewer and or company profile on LinkedIn”. Somewhat surprised at my answer, all four students immediately highlighted “LinkedIn” on their pads of paper.
Living in a Googleable age, the rules and expectations of a professional resume have shifted dramatically. Endless information is readily accessible at our fingertips; from destinations, to directions, to businesses, the new and perhaps most common search is for each other. Real life friends or not, we avidly share and connect with one another on both a personal and professional level, for the new social network ultimately begins with a simple click and profile view.
This notion of an online identity and personal brand sparks magnitudes of curiosity, especially for those caught in the midst of the seemingly overwhelming world of “social media”.
Reflecting on my own personal brand and strong digital footprint, I think of all the time and effort I’ve spent nurturing it, as if a baby providing my undivided attention and constantly changing its diaper.“So yes, LinkedIn is vital,” I said. “…And don’t worry if you only have a few connections, it takes time and attention; besides, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?”
Pertaining of 20 different questions, each round table consisted of a mentor, discussion anchor, and four students. Each table was assigned a specific question and students were able to flow freely from table to table in order to absorb and digest as much information as possible. I was definitely in awe of the workshops seamless organization and clarity but moreover, I was thrilled that a College workshop was teaching the importance of personal branding and use of social media. To cater an educational program to what’s happening right now as well as what may happen in the future gives students a real change to accelerate past the workforce learning curve.
And indeed all of the students were already incredibly talented. During my table discussions, they were eager to learn all the “ins and outs” of what it takes to balance a personal and professional online brand. When asked about balance and online discretion, I used the analogy of a dinner party. At a dinner party or any social gathering, you want to laugh, engage and be “social”; however, it’s probably in your best interest not to burp, swear, interrupt, belittle and, of course, to refrain from provocative remarks.
Nodding in agreement, it became clear that a successful online brand should shine in authenticity yet remain considerate of others. Throughout my round table discussions I stressed – and I will stress again – that an online brand is no less complicated than who you are in real life; it exists to highlight your strengths, interests and passions as well as to facilitate engagement and socialization, just as you would in real life.
The beauty of your online brand is that it’s accessible to the masses and is fairly easy to maintain with the help of a few popular social media channels as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And with a few savvy mobile applications for eachchannel, your online brand is quite literally with you wherever you go because, in fact, your online brand is you in some way or another.
After each round table discussion, I handed out my business card and encouraged the students to stay in touch and connect with me on LinkedIn because an online personal brand and digital networking is neither a substitute nor a replacement for a handshake. A digital footprint and personal brand is simply incredibly complimentary to the complex online world that we live in.
About Jessica Muhlbier:
Jessica Muhlbier is a self-certified social media addict and genuine chatterbox. Jessica graduated from The University of Western Ontario with a BA in Media, Information and Technoculture (MIT) and has been working in the realm of digital communications ever since. Her passions include writing, networking, and experimenting with smart phone applications. Currently, she is an account coordinator at Thornley Fallis and avid contributor to various communities including BringITOn, Hover, Jessica Muhlbier dot com, and of course, What’s Your Tech. When Jessica is not online, you can find her exercising at the gym, reading at her local Starbucks, or planning her next travel destination.