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Most of us know the basics of proper job interview behavior: dress professionally, ask smart questions and bring a positive attitude. Yet, your personal brand could be telling a potential employer more than you’d think — before you even walk in the door.

As a career counselor, I work with many adults returning to the job market for the first time in years, and I’ve seen what works … and what doesn’t. Here are a few tips that can help you build or refine your brand:

1. Take control of your personal brand

You might think that you don’t have a brand, but actually, you do. You just might not be aware of it. Madison-based personal branding coach Dana Zurbuchen finds herself demystifying the concept with people all the time.

“We as individuals are no different than organizations,” says Zurbuchen, who owns the personal branding, marketing and coaching firm DZ + Associates. “We stand for certain things, provide certain skills, and have certain experiences and values. Just like any organization has a brand, having a clear personal brand helps us understand ourselves so that others can understand us as well.”

Work to define your brand so others don’t have to guess what it is — or worse — define it for you. If you’re not sure what your personal brand is, try searching online for personal branding tips. Try QuintCareers.com and Careerealism.com for more in-depth tutorials.

2. Update your online presence

Once you’ve identified your personal brand, make sure your online presence reflects it. Take time to update your LinkedIn profile with your personal brand by including a professional photo, editing your headline, branding your summary, clearly identifying your skills, and showcasing your experience and projects.

Double check that your Facebook profile is private and that your public profile picture is one you wouldn’t mind your boss or other professionals seeing. Consider getting a Twitter account if you want to publicize your brand and be more involved in social media. You can share and connect with others who have similar interests.

3. Spread the word about your brand

Make connections on LinkedIn, and post articles that are relevant to your network. Find a topic that you can contribute to as an expert and write about it. Tweet about your industry and professional interests.

Portraying a consistent brand across all social media channels is also important, says American Family Insurance talent acquisition manager Jeff Close.

“We leverage LinkedIn as one of our primary recruiting tools,” Close says. “An individual’s LinkedIn profile should communicate the same personal brand message as their resume, for example. A mixed bag of messages across various platforms will leave employers confused as to the true nature of that person.”

But, make sure you think beyond the digital realm. You can also cultivate your personal brand while networking and engaging in other face-to-face conversations. Spread the word about what have to you offer!

April McHugh is a career and educational counselor for the Division of Continuing Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. McHugh helps adults with career transitions and continuing education through individual sessions and workshops. Contact her at amchugh@dcs.wisc.edu.

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