As a budding young career-starter with the world at your feet, it can be overwhelming to think that little ol’ you could make an impact with your professional presence. But it is easier than you think!
In my case, I was fortunate to land a Public Relations role that included being the company’s spokesperson. I was thrust into the spotlight about six year ago without a clue of what I was doing, but having always been over-confident, I knew I could smash it. It also helped to be persistent and pick up a few little hacks and great advice along the way.
But the opportunity to be in the spotlight and influence a wide audience is anyone’s to grab.
These are the most important lessons I’ve learnt along the way, which anyone in any role can practice to improve career prospects, but also build a profile as a sought-after influencer in your field.
Be conscious of how you look
It’s unfortunate that we’re always initially judged by what we look like, but image is very important. Our image reflects the business we represent, who we are and if we can be trusted with what we are saying.
If you’re conscious of this, you will be empowered to strategically plan your self-image.
I’m not saying that everyone should dress in a drab suit or you need to take those plugs out of your ears. As long as you’re conscious about image decisions and understand that your image can impact how others perceive you and the business you represent, you can reflect and review your image to work out the best way to represent you and your work.
Be an expert
When you take an interest in a topic, particularly if it relates to your career, it becomes easy to grow your influencer presence in the world. Make it your hobby. Make it your obsession. And most importantly, learn as much as you can about the topic.
You don’t have to necessarily learn about every aspect of a certain field, for instance, a librarian doesn’t need to know of every author that wrote a book. Drill down on the areas that interest you the most and keep up to date with the latest changes, industry news and research about that area or issue.
Look for online groups and resources to help you keep abreast such as forums, LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Industry news sites are also handy as they often have email newsletters with the latest news in your inbox.
The media is your friend
Once you have worked out your passion and what area you’re particularly interested in, you can now embrace the media. Not everyone will be able to do this as it will depend on your employer, but a lot of people will be able to.
For instance, working in public relations, my role is to represent finder.com.au, so it’s a conflict of interest to spruik about an irrelevant company or topic. Some people also work in fields that are sensitive, which will limit their ability to have a public presence.
But for the rest of you, the media is the most powerful tool you can leverage to become an influencer. The key to embracing the media is to find journalists who have written about topics of your field or industry, and contact them.
If you’re employed, you will need to get approval from your boss or the head of your PR department. For some PR professionals, you will be a dream employer, because you want to do our job for us! For others, (and I can speak from past experiences!) this can also be a nightmare if you go about it the wrong way, such as hassling journalists, sending them false information or an opinion that conflicts with your employer.
Be a celebrity
Social media is your way to create the perception of who you want to be, because your social media accounts reflect your public profile. It is through your associations with people, groups and the information you add to your profiles that ultimately create a platform for your public voice.
The important thing to remember about social media is that everything you write, everyone and every group you associate with, and every image, video and content you upload and share, can be publicly viewed and potentially used against you.
So if you want to be taken seriously, you need to be professional with all of your social media accounts, even your personal accounts. Don’t write anything you could live to regret.
Have the mindset of celebrity status to help you be more conscious of what you say in public.
Be your own ambassador
Your knowledge, skills and experience are all you need to be your own ambassador.
Start blogging on social media accounts and other publications about something you have learnt that you want to share with the world. Connect with people by posting messages or links on their wall about topics they might be interested in, or ask a question or respond to something they have shared.
You have an opinion and advice to share, so be honest and insightful – without being politically incorrect – and you will naturally grow your following.