Thing 4: Consider your personal brand


Photo credit: Erin Henslee

Your ‘personal brand’ is affected by online information and your online presence, whether you’re active online or not. The first thing many people (including potential and current employers) will do when they hear your name is Google you, and it’s important to learn how to ‘curate’ that brand, which should be considered part of your professional identity. A good way to think about it is as an extension of the professional you. A strong online presence can be a powerful tool in achieving your professional goals, particularly in promoting your work and reaching a wider audience.

Let’s explore a number of ways to manage and keep tabs on your digital footprint.  These represent some basic tools that everyone should be familiar with. If you’re pretty comfortable with the basics, we’ll provide some additional options you may wish to explore.

We’ll begin by taking a look at what content is associated with your name online. Start by Googling yourself. Type your name into Google (and/or any other search engine) and see what comes up (you may also want to try nicknames – Nic vs Nicola, for example). Do the same thing over at socialmention, which gathers data from social media.

You may want to try combining your name with certain key words (e.g. ‘biology’ or ‘physics’), or even seeing if what comes up when you search for keywords only (e.g. ‘electronic engineer researcher surrey’). Do you or your work appear on the first page or two? If so, is it content with which you’d like to see yourself associated?

Once you’ve analysed how you appear online, start to think about how you’d like to appear and what you might be able to do to make that happen. Quite a few of the tools we’ll explore in upcoming Things can improve and augment your online presence. For example, keeping your Surrey Online profile updated, or having a LinkedIn profile (coming up in Thing 6) are great ways to make sure you’re visible, but there are things you can do now.

First of all, think about online accounts and profiles you already have. Do they come up when you search? Do you want them to? Make sure accounts you already manage are up to date and reflect the persona you want to share – including your name and photograph, if relevant. If you haven’t already, fill out the ‘About’ page on your new or existing blog, and consider adding a photograph. Try to be consistent across all platforms.

Professional vs Personal
Do you want to keep your professional and personal identities separate online? Many choose a middle ground and let their personality shine through their professional presence. Keep in mind that if content is accessible to colleagues and professional contacts, you probably don’t want your latest holiday snaps or student party photos showing (although this may be fine for some people/accounts). You may also want to consider whether anonymity does or does not fit in with your professional goals.

Exploring further
If you feel you already have a handle on your online presence, or if you’d like to take what you’ve just done a little bit further, there’s always more you can do to ‘curate’ your online brand.

  • Consider linking. If you have multiple online accounts, find ways to connect them. If you have accounts on social media tools like Twitter or LinkedIn, you may want to provide links to them on your blog (see this WordPress help article if you want info on creating links). You might also like to try the opposite approach and include links to your blog on your Twitter profile. Google favours pages on domains, so include a link to your University profile or page (if applicable) from your other accounts.

Further reading



4 thoughts on “Thing 4: Consider your personal brand

  1. So I, as Sam Hopkins, am a PhD student at Cornell, an Artist who responds to the specific social and political context within which he is living, an 18th Century Theologist, a rugby league player and a singer who was better known as Lightning Hopkins (a nickname that I may adopt) . I am almost always male and get the feeling that with people as cool as this to compete with, I have no chance on the google algorithm!


  2. Well, Dr Lightning Hopkins, Carol Spencely is obviously a less interesting name as only stuff about me seems to appear when I google myself. Top is my LinkedIn profile (surprisingly because it is very neglected) and then various RDP offerings, followed by …and I am very excited by this … links for my forthcoming book, “What every postdoc needs to know” !!

    Think I will have to come up with a suitable Rugby nickname. Thunder is not the image I am going for, perhaps Storm Spencely?!! Will work on suggestions for the rest of the RDP team …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have Googled myself and so far I haven’t found ‘myself’ I have found that I am a make up artist, a Senior HR manager for a company called Nexant, a news editor on CNN, a Mormon wife who shares her husband with 6 other woman in Utah, and a woman who was charged with obstructing a police officer in his duties in 2008. I’ve been rather busy! And that’s only the first page of google search. I like the sound of the CNN news editor job best.


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