What's your most important career asset? Your skills and industry experience are certainly important, but for many of today's employees, a strong personal brand — both online and offline — is their greatest strength in the workplace.
According to LinkedIn's New Norms @Work Study, more than a quarter of global professionals say it's more appropriate now to self-promote on social media than it was before. Two-thirds said they don't believe it's as important to keep personal and professional social media separate, the survey found. Perhaps unsurprisingly, millennials change their LinkedIn profile pictures more than any other generation, making them the most viewed demographic on the site.
Catherine Fisher, a LinkedIn career expert, said that these statistics point to an increasing emphasis on professional branding, and the role social media plays in creating a first impression. [Tweet It Out: Developing Your Personal Brand on Twitter]
"The way an employee presents their professional brand is the golden ticket in today's workplace," Fisher told Business News Daily. "As professionals continue to craft and develop their brand, especially on social media, it is important to be mindful of how they're portraying themselves."
But a professional's online presence isn't the only factor that informs his or her brand. Fisher noted that employees should consider how they dress and share their opinions as integral parts of their professional image. While the majority of global professionals (88 percent) don't have to wear a suit or other formal attire to work, nearly half said they keep a separate wardrobe just for the office. When it comes to communicating with colleagues, members of today's workforce are much more vocal about their opinions and experiences. The survey found that 54 percent say they feel comfortable challenging their bosses, and 47 percent draw motivation from discussing workplace successes with colleagues.
Work history is also important to the professional brands of modern employees. The survey found that most survey respondents believe that having at least three jobs looks good on a LinkedIn profile. While one-third of professionals have no qualms about quitting a job quickly if they're unhappy, 1 in 5 global employees and more than half of U.S. employees would actively work to hide it if they got fired. Younger employees, in particular, don't want anyone who looks at their work history to know if they were fired from a previous job.
"Millennials are the most tight-lipped, with 70 percent of U.S. workers ages 25 to 34 reporting that if they were fired, they would not be honest about it," Fisher said. "This generation of employees seems to be owning their professional brand both online and in the office."
For professionals who want to build a strong personal brand, Fisher advised starting with a great online profile.
"People should be able to look at your profile and quickly see your accomplishments, know which skills you excel at and what makes you tick," she said. "Another great way to build your professional brand with your network is to share industry news, and include your perspective."
Fisher also recommended uploading a high-quality, professional-looking profile picture — especially on LinkedIn, where profiles with photos are 14 times more likely to be viewed.
"Your profile photo in today's digital age is often your first impression," she said. "It's always great to start by putting your best foot forward."