Personal Branding: Tips for Contract Lawyers -- Part 2

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Last week we covered some tips for creating and protecting your personal brand as a contract lawyer.  This week we continue this theme.  Before we jump in though we do want to state that we recognize there are countless sources out there that provide guidance (good and bad) about how to craft, create, and protect your personal brand.  We are trying to distill all of these tips down to a workable set.  Further we are also focusing on the ones most pertinent to contract lawyers.

One of the most overlooked aspects of an online brand is consistency.  We all have many different portals we visit online and many of these ask us to fill out and maintain a profile.   Sites such as LinkedIn go a step further and ask for a summary of who we are, what we are seeking to achieve, or anything we want to share about ourselves.  Too often people are inconsistent across all of these platforms.

Pics:  Everything from Google to Twitter to LinkedIn to different forums asks for a picture when setting up a profile.  In scanning across certain people’s various profiles one things stands out more than anything else – various and “interesting” pictures.  Sure you may use Facebook differently than LinkedIn but both are equally accessible by the public and potential employers.  Some guidance:  use either the same picture for all of your profiles or have one for more professional platforms and one for more social.  CAUTION: make sure that whatever pic(s) you use – you are represented as a professional with a twist of personality.  This means that while you need not go to Glamour Shots for a news anchor-esque face shot – you do need to use a photo that you would be confident showing your boss, spouse, mom or dad.  No need to be too stuffy. Add a wry smile or impish grin if you like just do not over do it.  You want your pic to create no alarm in the viewer or questions of your seriousness or responsibility.

Goals:  Many of the profiles also ask for goals.  This is one of the key highlighted areas on LinkedIn.  Make sure you are consistent across all platforms but leave room for a healthy mix.  This means do not have your LinkedIn goal be to secure a leadership role within a growing company and list a goal or aspiration on Google+ or Facebook to make enough money to quit your job and become a bartender in the tropics.  You may be laughing but this is all too common.  More importantly, those of us who are considering hiring your – pick up on these inconsistencies.  While we may share the dream lounging in the tropics slinging margaritas when we read this on your profile it will give us pause as to your candidacy and commitment.

Interests:  This should go without saying but be careful listing or “liking” certain groups or interests.  There is nothing wrong with being yourself, and by all means that is the great thing about social media.  Just remember that if you are up for a job that you have been coveting you may want to revisit some of the things you have online.  For instance, being the Mayor of the local head shop or something more benign as participation in political rallies may raise eyebrows – rightly or wrongly.  We are not saying do not follow your passions or hobbies –just be mindful about what you are broadcasting to the world.

Experience:  This is more geared towards LinkedIn and any resume banks you may use.  One of the first things that catch a prospective employer’s eye is inconsistency between resumes – online or on paper.  If you apply for a job through a resume portal (like Taleo) do not think for one second that we will not check out your LinkedIn profile.  If there are inconsistencies here – depending on their nature – you either will not be a candidate for the job or best case scenario you will be asked about them during the interview stage.

One of the trickiest things to master with experience is maintaining focus if you have had a varied employment background.  There are many contract lawyers out there who have had non-law jobs – before or after becoming a lawyer.  Also there are just as many that want to leave the law and pursue a career they are more interested in.  In either case make sure your experience is relevant to your job goal.  For example, if you are looking for traditional law firm job and have a mix of both legal and non-legal employment – provide more details on the legal elements – especially if your non-legal was being the manager of a restaurant or a manufacturing foreman.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these jobs but most likely the skill sets you gained from them will not be relevant to the law firms you are applying to.  We can leave for another day why the law firms are more than likely wrong for overlooking this but that is reality for now.

Our final tip for this week has to do with staying “Fresh.”  This means that you need to stay active with those platforms you have a presence on.  Nothing is worse than having a LinkedIn profile that has not been updated in a year (or even shorter).  You will simply disappear on Twitter if you do not use it regularly (lose followers).  Make it a point to post updates on relevant current topics that interest you.  Update your reading lists or travel.   You want to demonstrate you are an active learning and professional individual who not only has career interests but other complimentary social interests.  Posting about your rock climbing adventures is a great idea – it demonstrates you are “human” and have friends.  Posting tirades about politics and/or religion equals BAD idea – leave those for your in-person interactions.

Remember you want to portray an image of professionalism with a twist of personality.

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