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The 4 Don’ts of Personal Branding

These are four bloopers that will take your personal brand down a few notches. Avoid them at all costs.

“Develop your narrative. Refine your online identities. Expand your network.”

You’ve probably heard of the above three points, and many more, in a personal branding article, conversation or conference session. The truth of the matter is that nowadays we get told a lot of what to do with our individual brands in order to convert them into social currency and job opportunities.

Although knowing what to do is incredibly valuable for your growth as a professional, knowing what not to do is equally as important.

Here are the four dont’s of personal branding:

1.) Don’t Be Phony

Of all of the dont’s, this is the most dangerous to your personal brand. There’s nothing that will make people write you off and distrust you more than being a big sham.

Personal branding isn’t about pretending to be someone you’re not. It’s about cultivating the narrative of who you are, what you stand for and finding ways to best represent it across all platforms.

If you think that you can fool everyone with creating a phony facade, you’re wrong. Eventually people will see right through it and that moment will be an unpleasant one.

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Be the Same on-and-off the Stage:
If your personal brand has been fruitful enough to score you some speaking opportunities–at businesses and conferences–then this is especially relevant to you.

Don’t be that guy who is one personality behind the microphone and another when he’s approached by pre-professionals and peers afterwards. There’s nothing more phony than this and there’s no way to tarnish your personal brand faster.

Be as real on the stage as your are off the stage.

Keep Your Portfolio Realistic:
A trend nowadays is for professionals–both young and old–to lie on their resumes and portfolios.

I’ve heard it time and time again from my clients and colleagues–the stories of ex-employees who take credit for projects that they weren’t even still employed to possibly accomplish.

Don’t be that person.

You might inflate your personal brand, but that’s exactly what you’ll do–inflate it with air. One day soon, you may be asked about those “accomplishments” and eventually you’ll run out of the answers. And even if you manage to lie your way through the conversation, you’re not setting yourself up for success.

What happens if they call your former employer and find out that what you’ve been proclaiming isn’t true? The answer is that you’ll lose all credibility and start building a personal brand of deceit.

Make sure that everything you include in your portfolio is 100% the truth. Not 80% and not even 99%. It has to be 100% for you to list it.

Check Your Messaging:
I once knew a professional who set up voicemails specific to every, single day of the week.

Sounds like a touch of excellence, doesn’t it? Well the idea was fantastic, but the execution was fatally phony.

I had met with this individual countless times and knew for a fact that he wasn’t nearly as cheery or bubbly as he sounded on his specialized voicemail systems. Anybody giving him a call for the first time and converting that into a following conversation/meeting would quickly realize that as well.

This concept goes far beyond your voicemail–it applies to every platform you’re on. If you say in your Twitter bio that you’re a coffee fanatic then make sure you actually are. Don’t lie about it to appeal to a certain group of people.

2.) Don’t Be Lackluster

Look Your Best (Physically):
Countless studies have proven that people who look their best experience more success in business and life.

There used to be a time where I would do everything right, except two minor items–I’d let my hair grow just a little bit too long (where it didn’t quite style as nicely) and let my facial hair grow to the point where it was no longer 100% professional.

Nowadays, I keep strict tabs on my grooming habits and make sure that my hair and scruff match the quality of my clothes.

The point is this: get into good habits and take care of yourself consistently. Even something as little as letting your hair grow a quarter inch beyond your personal spectrum is too much.

It’s also important to:

  • Find outfits that best flatter your complexion and body type.
  • Wear clothes that actually compliment each other.
  • Refresh your wardrobe when items start wearing out.
  • Keep yourself clean and pleasant smelling.

Do these sound like common sense? Yes, but a lot of people neglect the simple rules of keeping themselves looking their best.

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Be proud of who you are–go out and properly represent yourself.

Look Your Best (Digitally):
The same goes for your digital identities.

Don’t let your LinkedIn and Twitter profile images look like you just got your photo snapped on the blank wall in your bedroom. Recruit a young photographer in your network to take one that looks professionally done, lit and backdropped. It might cost some green, but I promise it will be worth it.

A growing offender nowadays is the personal website. It seems like most people snag a free WordPress domain and select the generic template that everyone and literally their grandmother are using. All it takes is a $100 investment into a dedicated domain name and WordPress theme to push you beyond the norm.

Never Stop Sharpening Your Axe:
Just because you’ve achieved any level of success in your career doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for continuing your education.

Even if you don’t agree with the latest trends, be sure to study and understand them. Pick up the latest book on your industry written by not just the veteran, but the high-intensity start-up CEO who has a completely different perspective.

Attend that professional development conference and check out the sessions that you are most unfamiliar with–you’ll be surprised what you get out of them.

Whatever your way of exploring is is up to you. The main thing is this: if you continue to use your axe without finding ways to sharpen it then one day you’ll become dull and outdated.

3.) Don’t Talk Trash

You’re not going to like everyone you work with. And yes, you will be wronged somewhere along the journey of your career. It’s inevitable.

This doesn’t give you creative license to speak ill about anybody. Although it may feel good to emotionally vent about the person who screwed you over, talking trash is a dangerous fire to play with.

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I don’t care what anybody says, trash talk always has a way of creeping its way around the office or network until the person you targeted finally finds out. By this point, however, the original message has become distorted and can do some unrepairable to the relationship and your reputation.

If you have a serious issue with someone, find a constructive and respectful way to resolve it. Don’t let your emotions spin you into a web of backstabbing trash talk.

4.) Don’t Abuse Social Media

Facebook isn’t the place for you to cryptically write about your life’s problems. Twitter isn’t the place for your 140-character nuggets of uselessness (like how “he shouldn’t have done that #drama”).

For the professional, social media should be used strategically. It shouldn’t mindlessly abused with your random nothingness. In today’s day and age, your social media presence will tell people–prospective bosses, colleagues and friends–a lot about you.

If you fill other people’s feeds with rants, hate and generally useless remarks then you’re not saying much about yourself.

Keep a steady eye on your social media platforms. Evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Develop a strategy and stick to it.

Brand yourself to a better you,

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The 4 Don’ts of Personal Branding