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Managing your personal brand: an interview with Dr Andrew Makar

Andrew Makar

Andrew Makar

Today I’m interviewing Dr Andrew Makar, IT programme manager, blogger and author of Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy, about managing your personal brand at work and building a professional project management profile.

Andy, why is it important to have a professional project management profile?

Would you hire an individual dressed up in a bed sheet as a make-shift toga?

As much fun as attending a toga party could be, you don’t want any questionable profile pictures appearing on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform. With social media platforms, you don’t control the content or who has access to the latest picture you may have been tagged in. I’ve gotten into “trouble” with a few personal friendships when I didn’t even post anything to Facebook, yet someone else did and that was all that was needed to spark controversy.

It is important to maintain a clean, professional project management profile because in today’s times, your digital footprint becomes part of your resume that can be difficult to erase. Of course, I continue to use Facebook personally to share pictures, witty one-liners and check-in.

However, my LinkedIn profile is professionally maintained and reflects the image of a project management professional. You may want to think twice before you add your Live Action Role Playing Game blog to your LinkedIn Profile.  I’m a fan of World of Warcraft style role-playing games, but you won’t see it on my LinkedIn profile. Even if you have a blog that is related to your project management job, you may want to rethink posting your latest project management blog post to your profile. Your employer may not like your viewpoint regardless of when you wrote the blog post.

What about Twitter?

I use Twitter to connect with other project managers in the Twitter-sphere but I don’t tweet political rants or controversial opinions like many of Hollywood’s D-list. It is important to be transparent in social media although it can be a challenge being entertaining while tweeting about project management.

You can still maintain an engaging and professional online profile by sharing relevant news and constructively commenting on relevant status updates. Post relevant but sanitized presentations on project management topics. Post links to relevant project management article. Be a thought leader without compromising your personal and professional profiles.

All of this is publicly available information, isn’t it?

Your online profile is one of the publically available pieces of information a hiring manager or an existing employer can find without your permission. Which image do you want them to see? A project management professional speaking at a local PMI conference or a picture of you in a toga?

I see what you mean. How can individuals clean up their social media profiles to better present themselves professionally?

Conduct a professional edit of your Facebook page, Facebook photos, LinkedIn Profile, Pinterest and Twitter feeds. Cleaning up old posts on Facebook or removing questionable links to your LinkedIn Profile is easy enough to do. Twitter is more difficult since once the tweet is sent, the tweet is gone.

If you are seeking to be a thought leader in the project management domain, act like a thought leader. Add project management relevant content, websites, links to your profiles. Participate in the LinkedIn forums and professionally contribute to the questions. Even if there are some questionable tweets or discussion forum posts from a decade ago, by creating new content that is relevant to your profession, it will suppress the older content. However, once content is indexed it is hard to delete it permanently. Be careful and professional!

Do you have any examples of where individuals have either missed out on opportunities because their personal brand wasn’t appropriate for the company, or taken a step ahead as a result of having a professional outlook/brand?

Establishing a personal brand in your company AND in the project management community can be a challenge. I am careful promoting any external activities within my employer’s corporate culture. I still actively write articles, books, lecture and provide guest speaking services to external project management organisations. However, I don’t want anyone to believe there is a conflict of interest based on the work I’m hired to do and the work I contribute to the project management community.

I haven’t missed out on any opportunities however, promoting my blog on my LinkedIn profile did cause a few issues when one of my peers tried to damage my reputation at work. Developing and promoting a personal brand in your company and throughout the project management domain is important for new opportunities and new connections. Just be careful about the content your share, post and write on the internet.

That’s good advice, thanks. How can project managers promote themselves/their achievements within a company while not sounding too arrogant at the same time?

Help your colleagues.

No one wants to hear you brag about your accomplishments. Rather than promote yourself through your accomplishment, promote yourself by helping others with their project management challenges. For 8 years, I’ve written and published articles and tactical techniques on how to apply Microsoft Project realistically to real world projects. Instead of passing out copies of my article, I simply act as a helpful resource when it comes to Microsoft Project.

Of course, if someone wants a documented technique, I send them to the website where the article is published.

If your company has an established community of practice, then this provides another forum to showcase your knowledge without having to appear a braggart.

How can a strong personal brand help you outside your own company?

In a fluctuating job market, your personal brand is your safety net. Employees get comfortable working for their employer and suddenly they find themselves out of a job. If they haven’t developed their personal brand outside of their company, they simply become a reflection of a reworked resumé. If you have a strong personal brand, it may help you with job stability within your company. Even if you lose your job, a strong personal brand will create new connections, contacts and opportunities that lead to new career opportunities.

This is a longer version of an interview that appears as a case study in my book Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World (2nd Edition) which is due out later this year. Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT programme manager and the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. He blogs at http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.

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