A Successful Career with Personal Branding

Posted in books, Personal Branding on August 19th, 2009 by Olivier Zara – Be the first to comment

I’m really happy to announce the release of my 3rd book. Translation of the title could be:  A Successful Career with Personal Branding (Réussir sa carrière grâce au Personal Branding in French), published by Eyrolles, France, Paris. This is the first book published about the Personal Branding in French. Loïc Le Meur, blogger, entrepreneur & founder of Seesmic, wrote the preface in which he presents his view on the subject (see his bio at the end of this post).

If you are or if you know an English publisher, I’m interested! Sorry for not translating my French post in English, I’m too busy but I’ll be back ;-)

Your can order this book with Amazon FranceAmazon Canada

Couverture livre Personal Branding

Book summary


  • Qu’est-ce que le Personal Branding ?
  • Quels sont les enjeux du Personal Branding ?
  • Pour qui ?
  • Le choc des cultures : de l’utilitarisme à l’humanisme
  • La démarche ?

1ère partie – Mieux vous connaître – Connaissance de soi

Chapitre 1 – Définir votre mission
Chapitre 2 – Définir vos valeurs et vos passions
Chapitre 3 – Définir votre identité professionnelle
Chapitre 4 – Quel est mon public ? Qui sont mes concurrents ?
Chapitre 5 – Votre marque personnelle en une phrase

2ème partie – Mieux vous faire connaître – Être visible

Chapitre 6 – Personal Marketing First !

  • Quels sont les supports de votre marque ?
  • Quelle est votre ligne éditoriale ?
  • Les apparences comptent !
  • Comment se présenter en marquant les esprits ?

Chapitre 7 – Jamais sans mon réseau professionnel !

  • Pourquoi construire votre réseau professionnel ?
  • Tous les membres de votre réseau sont-ils égaux ?
  • Comment construire votre réseau professionnel ?
  • Que faire si on donne plus que l’on ne reçoit ?
  • Mettre en relation les membres de votre réseau
  • Créer un effet levier entre votre marque personnelle et celle des membres de votre réseau
  • Je n’ai pas le temps !

Chapitre 8 – L’impact de notre vie numérique sur notre identité et notre réputation professionnelles

  • Qu’est-ce qu’une vie numérique ?
  • Vie numérique Vs Identité numérique Vs Réputation numérique
  • Qu’est-ce que l’identité numérique ?
  • Qu’est que la réputation numérique ?
  • Quels sont les enjeux ?

Chapitre 9 – Sur Internet, êtes-vous présent ou visible ?

  • Quelle est votre visibilité numérique ?
  • Comment créer un profil en ligne ?
  • Comment créer un CV en ligne ? Un CV vidéo ? Ou un CV PowerPoint ?

Chapitre 10 – Comment optimiser votre visibilité sur Internet ?

  • Comment optimiser le référencement de votre profil à travers les liens commerciaux ?
  • Quelle est l’efficacité des liens commerciaux ?
  • Comment optimiser le référencement de votre profil à travers l’achat d’un nom de domaine ?

Chapitre 11 – Bloguer ou ne pas bloguer, telle est la question !

  • Quels sont les bénéfices d’un blog ?
  • Êtes-vous prêt à créer votre blog ?
  • Comment créer et gérer votre blog ?
  • En route pour le micro-blogging !
  • Quantité et qualité sont dans un bateau, qui tombera à l’eau le premier ?
  • L’alternative au Blog : le journalisme citoyen
  • Transformer votre blog en livre

Chapitre 12 – Identité personnelle Vs identité professionnelle

  • Pourquoi faut-il protéger votre identité personnelle ?
  • L’indispensable promotion de votre identité professionnelle
  • Êtes-vous une personne à risque en termes de vol d’identité ?

3ème partie Mieux vous faire reconnaître – Gérer votre réputation professionnelle

Chapitre 13 – Comment construire votre réputation professionnelle ? (montrer ce que l’on dit de vous)

  • Qui sont vos références ?
  • Comment travaillent les recruteurs ?
  • Comment vous préparer ?
  • Savoir gérer ses références

Chapitre 14 – Comment construire votre réseau de références ?

  • Qu’est-ce qu’un réseau de références ?
  • Comment retrouver vos références ?
  • Savoir définir une sphère de confiance, un contexte de confiance

Chapitre 15 – Quels sont les outils pour gérer votre réseau de références ?

  • Les réseaux sociaux professionnels en tant qu’outil de gestion de vos références professionnelles
  • Les services de gestion des références professionnelles et sociales
  • Comment choisir le service le plus adapté à vos besoins ?
  • Pourquoi faut-il créer un « profil de références professionnelles » sur Internet ?

Chapitre 16 – Comment rédiger une recommandation ?

  • Quelles sont les différents types de recommandations ?
  • Quels sont les différents formats de rédaction ?
  • Vos recommandations : de l’or ou du plomb ?
  • Est-ce qu’un manager doit demander des recommandations aux membres de son équipe, à ses collaborateurs ?
  • Peut-on se fier à des recommandations rédigées sur un profil en ligne ?

Chapitre 17 – Comment surveiller votre réputation sur Internet ? (savoir ce que l’on dit de vous)

  • L’anonymat sur Internet est devenu un mythe
  • Comment surveiller votre réputation sur Internet ?
  • Les services d’alertes gratuits
  • Surveillez la blogosphère !
  • Les services d’alertes payants
  • Que choisir ?

Chapitre 18 – Défendre sa réputation numérique – Mythes et réalités

  • Peut-on avoir une bonne réputation dans le monde physique et une mauvaise réputation numérique ?
  • Le droit à l’oubli est devenu un mythe
  • Etes-vous une personne à risque ?
  • Quand faut-il se défendre ? Sur quoi ?
  • Comment défendre sa réputation ?
  • Les techniques de nettoyage
  • L’arme absolue : changer d’identité !
  • Comment réagir quand vos « amis » portent atteinte à votre réputation ?

4ème partie : Pour aller plus loin !

Chapitre 19 – Quelques conseils pour réussir votre démarche de Personal Branding

  • Quel est le meilleur moment pour commencer une démarche de Personal Branding ?
  • Comment trouver du temps ?
  • Demander l’aide de votre entourage pour créer une émulation collective ?
  • Coaching et formations au Personal Branding

Chapitre 20 – Savoir faire la différence entre réputation commerciale, sociale et professionnelle

  • L’impact du niveau de connaissance mutuelle sur l’évaluation de la réputation par notation
  • Les principes de fonctionnement des concurrents d’eBay
  • Les conditions du succès d’une approche par la notation


  • Le Personal Branding, une innovation ?
  • Faire face aux défis des organisations du futur
  • Les 8 lois du Personal Branding
  • La loi de l’évolution et de l’évaluation
  • Résistez aux préjugés… surtout si ce sont les vôtres !
  • Le Personal Branding : un choix ou une obligation ?

Témoignages de quelques coachs spécialisés en Personal Branding

Interview de Pascale Baumeister, consultante en Personal Branding & Coach

Interview de Bernadette Martin, Career Transition Brand Strategist

Interview de Marc Traverson, coach et consultant en communication et marketing personnel

Interview de Lydia Meseguer, Strategist Personal Branding & Coach


Le blog associé au livre

Loïc Le Meur Biography:

Loïc Le Meur
serial entrepreneur & blogger

Loic is the founder and CEO of video conversation site Seesmic.com. Seesmic also makes one of the most popular Twitter and social software clients – Twhirl.org.

Loic also founded and hosts the #1 tech event in Europe, LeWeb.net, with his wife Geraldine. LeWeb gathers together 2000 entrepreneurs from 40 countries in December every year.

Prior to Seesmic and LeWeb, Loic started several other businesses such as Six Apart Europe, RapidSite, a web hosting service (acquired by France Telecom in 1999) as well as B2L, an interactive agency in 1999 (acquired by BBDO).

Recently, Business Week Magazine named Loic one of The 25 Most Influential People on the Web. Loic was also named “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum. He advises the World Economic Forum as well as covers the Annual Summit every year in Davos. Originally from the South of France, Loic lives in San Francisco, California and has three boys.


How to Create and Manage your “Personal Brand” on the Internet (Online Personal Branding)

Posted in Content Aggregators, CV 2.0, Definitions - Concepts, Personal Branding on August 20th, 2008 by Olivier Zara – 1 Comment

For most of us, job security and the possibility of spending our entire career at the same company are things of the past. Now we have to manage our careers in a different way. To sell their goods and services, most companies have a marketing department that handles everything from brand strategies and packaging to prices, slogans and advertising. Individuals, meanwhile, sell their skills on the job market through résumés and professional references. However, this is no longer enough.

The goal of this article is to help you shape the way you market yourself to advance your professional career. It’s about thinking like a marketing specialist to build your Personal Brand. The concept of “Personal Branding,” devised primarily by Peter Montoya and William Arruda, has been well developed in the United States for the past 10 years.

I. What is Personal Branding?

Whether you’re an employee, consultant or entrepreneur, you have a public image as important as that of any business. Personal Branding enables you to create and promote that image. It also helps you manage your career and think smarter about the strategies you want to employ to achieve your goals. Until today, only an elite group of executives and consultants with the means to pay for a personal coach or costly training courses has benefited from Personal Branding. However, new online services now enable anyone to develop a Personal Brand, and much more. With the Internet, Personal Branding is no longer limited to executives; it is possible for everyone. In the past, you had to be in the news to become known, but with the Internet, no one is unknown. It doesn’t matter if you unplug your computer and cancel your Internet service, because all it takes is for your neighbor, colleague or friend to publish information or an opinion about you and people will know about you. The Internet offers a global public forum for building your Personal Brand. Welcome to the wonderful world of user-generated content! Don’t worry, the information published by your friends will probably be positive. However, there is both “positive” information that reflects who you truly are, and that which does not.

You have values, personal qualities and talents. It is important to know how to effectively convey them to people who will have an impact on your personal and professional development. How can you get recruiters, employers, buyers and decision-makers who are deluged with applications and proposals to see what sets you apart?

Your professional and social references (managers, colleagues, clients, partners, friends,…) are the most important marketing tool at your disposal. What they say about you and your work is what people will remember. Your Reference Network is thus one of the most important keys to your “Personal Brand.”

Here are Peter Montoya’s Eight Laws of “Personal Branding” (see references at end of document):

1. An effective Personal Brand must be specific. You should express who you are in terms of a single concept: a strength, talent or personal achievement. What, at its core, is your business? A person who claims to know how to do everything…knows how to do nothing. In other words, a Jack of all trades is master of none – “It is better to excel in any single art than to arrive only at mediocrity in several.” -Pliny the Younger.

2. Your Personal Brand cannot merely be known; it must be recognized by your peers and associates (your professional and social references). This is the reputation aspect of your Personal Brand.

3. Your Personal Brand must be true to life, authentic. It must present you in a positive light, not make you out to be perfect.

4. If you don’t differentiate yourself, you’ll be just like everyone else and you won’t stand out from the crowd. You need to distinguish yourself from others.

5. You must be more visible than everyone else. The wider your circle of influence, the more credible you become (social networks, networking, etc.).

6. There must be no discrepancy between what you say and what you do, either in public or in private. Do what you say and say what you do (principle of congruence).

7. A Personal Brand takes time to establish itself. You have to be patient.

8. Your brand will achieve better results if associated with a value or an idea that is universally recognized as positive and compelling.

Having a Personal Brand is not a choice. Everyone has one, be it positive, neutral or negative. Thanks to the Internet-or no thanks, depending on your point of view-sooner or later your Personal Brand will become publicly known and accessible everywhere in the world. If you fail to define your Personal Brand others will do so for you, and you may find their version to be distorted.

Personal Branding can be summed up as follows: know yourself better (conduct a full self-evaluation or ask for an evaluation from those around you – 360° feedback) in order to make yourself better known (using methods and tools such as directories, social networks, and networking). We will now look at these two concepts in closer detail.

II. How to get to know yourself better

Know yourself better in order to make yourself better known! Unfortunately, the suggestions offered here are no substitute for working with a professional coach or a friend with an aptitude for coaching. Taking a step back and seeing yourself objectively all on your own is actually quite difficult. Coaching helps people through this process of self-reflection. A coach asks you questions and helps you find your own answers, but doesn’t give advice (you haven’t hired a consultant). If, however, you have neither the time nor the money to hire a coach to assist you, the following tips might help.

As your own coach, you might ask yourself the following questions in an effort to be as objective as possible.

1. Who am I?

To devise a game plan, you must first define your mission, your vision for the future and your objectives.

What are my strengths? My values? My passions? My goals? What is my personality? What do I have to offer?

To help you answer these questions, you can use feedback from your annual performance reviews by your manager. Given how difficult it is to evaluate yourself objectively, you can also solicit the help of friends and colleagues. Decide what questions you would like them to answer, then invite them to do so either in an honest but friendly face-to-face talk or by email. If you send out an email questionnaire, it’s a good idea to call first—both to ask if this is okay and to encourage follow-through.

2. Who are my competitors? What advantages do I have to offer?

What audience do I hope to reach? Who are my peers? My competitors? Who needs to know about me if I want to achieve my goals?

You need to analyze your environment, determine what differentiates you from others, and define your added value. Ask yourself, “What makes me unique? How will I articulate this uniqueness?”

Compare how you perceive yourself with how your colleagues perceive you. This important step can help you come up with an action plan to improve your technical and behavioral skills and/or a communication plan that showcases your as-yet unrecognized strengths.

Your Personal Brand, like any other brand, is defined by the perceptions of others. Your goal should be to gather feedback about yourself from your network of friends and colleagues so you can create the most accurate self-portrait possible.

III. How to make yourself better known

Search engines are used millions of times a day to look up individuals online. People search for information about their colleagues, new clients, friends and others. 47% of American adults (compared to 22% in 2002) have already checked the Internet to see what is said about them; of these, 53% also admit to looking up their co-workers, neighbors or potential spouse (Source: survey of PEW Internet & American Life Project).

It will soon be possible to assert that if Google doesn’t know you, you don’t exist! Your future success depends on establishing your online identity and reputation. Recruiters are going to be increasingly proactive, looking you up on Google and business-oriented social networking sites. You’ll want them to find positive information that is in line with your goals. So you should have your profile online and get it indexed on search engines.

Type your first and last name into Google and see what you get. The information about you may be false, outdated, embarrassing, incomplete, or it might pertain to another person with the same first and last name.

The next step is to evaluate your current online presence and to determine the best strategy for managing it.

A. What is your online reputation? Do you have an online identity?

The simplest place to start is to analyze search-engine results. Type your first and last name into Google and Yahoo (and potentially MSN Search) with quotation marks: “John Smith”.

You can expand your search by looking up your nickname, maiden name or abbreviations of your first name (Jonathon, John or J.). For more details, check out Claimid.

Next, take a closer look at the results. Does the content (pictures and text) that you find on the Internet match the image you want to project? Does it match your Personal Brand?

B. Creating and promoting your online profile: self-referencing, sponsored links or domain names?

Once you know what is being said about you online, it’s time to actively publicize what you do want people to know—in short, to create and promote your online profile.

1. Self-referencing

a. Create one or more profiles on sites that specialize in Personal Brand promotion, such as CV 2.0, LookUpPage, Brand-Yourself.com, QAlias, Ziki, Zoominfo, Ziggs, Naymz, Spock and Wink. Their respective offerings will be covered in an upcoming article.

b. Add a link to your online profile in your letterhead, emails and blogs.

c. If you have something to say, start a blog! Try Blogger, for example. You have to be in it for the long haul, however. If you post content on your blog for three months and then stop, that won’t convey a very positive image of you (lack of perseverance, flaky). A blog can help you, but it can also work against you if your readers don’t like what you publish. Worse yet, if your blog is poorly written, people may think that you can’t express yourself clearly in writing. That said, a blog can bring a lot of value to your Personal Brand—value directly proportional to the value of the content that you publish.

d. You can also use video-sharing sites to publish clips of yourself in professional situations (speeches, presentations, interviews) or simply post a video résumé (who you are, what you are looking for, your experience, your skills). Here is an example of a video-résumé on Youtube.com: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=RAZ37YnYAiU

e. You can also publish your resume as a powerpoint presentation, here’s the résumé of Saranyan, the pioneer in this field: http://www.slideshare.net/saranyan/visual-resume

2. Sponsored Links

Most websites offering online profile or résumé services let you index your profile in search engines (either automatically when you create your profile or upon request). Some offer additional services as well.

QAlias, Naymz, Ziggs, Ziki (soon CV 2.0 & Brand-Yourself) offer subscriptions that take the profile you create on their site and index it as a commercial link in several search engines. Your Ziki or Ziggs profile will thus appear at the top, among the sponsored links (i.e. the commercial links above the web results or in the right-hand column).

However, sponsored links through such services will not redirect users to your blog or Viadeo profile. They link only to your profile on Naymz, Ziki or Ziggs.

In addition, you have to pay for this service since search engines charge for sponsored links. Ziggs and Naymz charge about $60 per year (or $4.95 per month) to put your profile in the sponsored links of search engines. QAlias charges about $120 for almost the same features. Ziki is currently offering this service for 30 euros per year (general public) and 180 euros per year (enterprises).

If you wish to redirect traffic to a particular profile (a blog, professional social networks, your company’s website, etc.), you can do the indexing yourself by opening an account on one of the following sites:

Google AdWords
: https://adwords.google.com

With Google AdWords, you only pay when Internet users click on your name in the sponsored links. In addition to listing your first and last name (which are essential to your personal brand), you can also add keywords related to your business, expertise or organization. This could be an interesting advantage over QAlias, Naymz, Ziggs and Ziki, all of which index just your first and last name. However, the more keywords you add, the more expensive your indexing will be!

Your first and last name appear next to or above the search results. There will probably be other web-page hits with your first and last name, though, and no one is required to click on your Google-sponsored link.

Here is an example using the name John Webb. If you look at the right side of the image, you can see the red arrow pointing to the link sponsored by Naymz (click the image to enlarge it):

John Webb

With Google AdWords, there is no minimum spending requirement (apart from the activation fees). If no one clicks on your name, you pay nothing. You can also set a maximum spending budget, say $5. In this case, your listing will be removed from the sponsored links once your $5 limit is reached. Want a sense of what those $5 will buy you? If the cost per click is $0.01, up to 500 people can click your sponsored link. Depending on how widely you are known, that could be how many people use a search engine to look you up in a single month…or over the span of a year or two! Ziggs and Naymz charge you $4.95 per month, but you receive placement on at least three search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) – Only in Google with Ziki. You have to calculate what makes the best sense for you according to your own notoriety and your needs.Note that the cost per click varies. The keywords “DVD” or “travel” used by businesses will probably have a higher cost per click than your last name. That’s the law of supply and demand. To manage your budget, however, you can specify a maximum cost per click, just as you can cap your total spending.

In USA, Google AdWords currently costs:

- Activation fee: $5.00
- Cost per click (CPC): minimum $0.01, more for popular keywords.

For more information, visit the Learning Center.

Cost per thousand impressions (CPM, from the Latin “Cost Per Mille”), used for placement-targeted ads, is an alternative to CPC. You choose the websites where you would like your ads to appear, and you pay each time your ad is displayed rather than for each click on your ad. Click here for more information.

Yahoo Search Marketing: http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com

Yahoo has a system that is similar to Google’s.

Microsoft adCenter: http://advertising.microsoft.com/search-advertising

Overall, Microsoft uses the same principle as Google and Yahoo. Here is an excerpt from its site: “Discover Microsoft adCenter, the online marketing tool that allows you to manage your sponsored-link campaigns on Live Search (MSN’s search engine). For a one-time $5.00 fee to create your account and as little as an additional $0.05 per keyword, you can make your company’s website appear above the list of Live Search results.”

Given that Google is the leading search engine, Google AdWords may be the best choice if you are going to pick only one service.

3. Buying a domain name

Buying a domain name is an effective way to permanently establish your online presence. Domain names now cost next to nothing ($7/year). The price often includes the creation of one or more related email addresses – which you won’t lose when you change Internet service providers. This becomes important especially if that email address appears on the hundreds of résumés you have sent out! Domain names often also come with space where you can publish content such as your résumé or profile. If you know how to use web publishing tools such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage, you can design your own web page. Better yet, have your domain name link to the website where your résumé, profile or professional blog is listed.

For example, on the site 1&1 (www.1and1.com) you can, for 7 US dollars/year, get a domain name, an email address and 5 pages of web space (you even get the software to create the pages yourself).  Also check out the offers on Godaddy (www.godaddy.com).

For your name to rank high in search results, your domain name should include your first and last name separated by a hyphen; otherwise, the search engine will think it’s a single word. For example: www.firstname-lastname.com (or .net, .org, .ca, .us, .uk, etc.). Domain name is one of the first indexing criteria used by search engines, and is analyzed before a page’s HTML code, structure or meta tags. By setting up your domain name this way, you increase the chances of your page appearing at the top of search results, although this is no guarantee; it also depends on the contents of your profile and how common your name is. If your name is Igor Pszczolkowski, you will get better results than John Johnson, Brown, or Smith.

Ziggs has just launched “Ziggs Name Manager.” You buy your domain name through Ziggs, then they handle getting your domain name redirect to your Ziggs profile. Naymz and Brand-Yourself.com have the same offer (coming soon with CV 2.0).

Managing your Personal Brand is not a one-shot deal, but a long-term strategy. You can’t be haphazard about building a truthful and effective Personal Brand. A permanent domain name can help.

IV.     Cultural hurdles: discretion, privacy, non-sharing of information, etc.

Is Personal Branding compatible with every culture? Are there generational differences: digital native vs. digital immigrant?

Promoting your personal brand is important. Still, you may very well be uncomfortable with the very idea of Personal Branding. You may sardonically be thinking, “…only in America” or “So now we’re reduced to ‘selling’ ourselves like a product?” How repulsive! No way! But wait…it is not about selling yourself. It’s about knowing how to sell what you can DO, knowing how to better communicate the qualities that you can bring to a company: your qualifications, expertise, experience, know-how, way of being…

However, this isn’t the biggest problem. In places like France, people will be reticent to embrace Personal Branding because of the information sharing and necessary transparency it involves, especially given the personal nature of the information. For many, the idea of making one’s profile or résumé publicly available on the Web simply doesn’t compute culturally.

According to Pascal Baudry, president of WDHB Consulting and an expert on cultural differences, “The importance of explicitness in American culture is consistent with the Protestant idea that the community—and, as a consequence, the individual—has more to gain than to lose by making as much information as possible available to the public. Conversely, the French protect themselves against such dissemination, which they regard as excessive and potentially hazardous, for instance through their law on Information Technologies and Liberties. Americans see what they have to gain by sharing, whereas the French see what they have to lose by it.” (“French and Americans, the Other Shore” by Pascal Baudry, translated in English by Jean-Louis Morhange. Les Frenchies, Inc. 2005, p. 44. I recommend the book, which you can download for free at http://www.pbaudry.com/cyberlivre/ in PDF format).

What is true for the French culture is of course also true for many cultures worldwide. These obstacles may gradually disappear as companies understand the benefits of encouraging their employees to create their own Personal Brand. In his excellent article, “Quelle marque voulez-vous tatouer sur votre corps ?” (What brand do you want to tattoo on your body?), Gilles Martin approaches Personal Branding from the angle of what companies stand to gain: “It’s the sum of employees’ strong Personal Brands that creates the force and durability of the company brand. For people who have nothing to say about themselves beyond talking about the company they work for, the question to ask is not ‘Are you proud to work for your company?’ but ‘Is your company proud that you work for it?’” I recommend that you read his whole article (in French… sorry!).

This is a win-win situation. Employees who are well known and recognized in their own right add to the prestige of the company, just as a well-known and recognized company adds to the prestige of its employees. Visionary companies should therefore encourage their employees to develop a strong Personal Brand.

The first step is to know yourself better in order to make yourself better known. That’s the first step of your Personal Branding. But then you also need to become recognized, that is, renowned for your qualities. And that means managing your online reputation.


Key authors on Personal Branding in the United States

Site for the book Career Distinction. Stand Out by Building your Brand by brand strategy experts William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson:

Website of Peter Montoya (expert in Personal Branding):

Articles for further reading:

Personal Branding to Win the World” by Kishu Gomes.

The Brand Called You” by Tom Peters

Web 2.0 and Personal Brand Development Presentation” by Boris Mann.


Personal identity vs. Professional reputation

Posted in Definitions - Concepts, Personal Branding on July 27th, 2008 by Olivier Zara – Be the first to comment

It is important to protect your personal identity and to promote your professional reputation on the Internet.

I. Why should you protect your personal identity?

Your personal identity isn’t just made up of your first and last names. It also involves the following information:

- Mailing address
- Date of birth
- Personal telephone number
- Personal email address
- IDs / Passwords
- Social security numbers
- Maiden name
- Tax ID
- Driver’s license number
- Credit card number

Thanks to search engines, aggregating data spread out over multiple sites is very easy. Some data is available on your public profile hosted on Plaxo, Myspace, Facebook or Linkedin,… Your date of birth or contact information can be found on social networks but also on services such as Skype for example.

Yet, the aggregation of this personal data is an open invitation to identity theft. A crime that is experiencing tremendous growth in Europe and which already affects millions of Americans and Canadians each year. Here’s what can be done in certain countries with information such as your name, your address and your date of birth:
- Open a bank account in your name in order to take out loans, write bad checks, request credit cards,…
- Buy vehicles, travel, …
- Have phone lines installed
- Create false IDs or passports
- Set up a fake marriage in your name
- …

Thanks to the information that’s available about your personal identity, it is also possible to try to guess your passwords or find the answers to the secret questions that are used to secure access to bank and administrative sites.

There is no need to hack your computer. Collecting the information that you or others have made public on different online services makes all of this possible.

Here are 2 very simple rules to protect your personal identity:

Rule number 1: Do not post your home address on public profiles. Someone could then use it to come and rifle through your trash or your mailbox so as to get the missing information they need to steal your identity. By contrast, you can go ahead and give your address during secure, private transactions, to set up delivery from an ecommerce site for example.

Rule number 2: Do not post your date of birth on the Internet. Some sites allow you to hide your date of birth on your public profile or enable you to specify who may have access to it. There’s always the risk, however, that databases or your ID/password will be hacked. Some services make the date-of-birth field a mandatory one so as to deny access to minors or to enable your friends to wish you a happy birthday. But in reality, the main reason for asking you your date of birth is to be able to send you targeted, age-specific ads. If you find that the date-of-birth field is indeed mandatory, simply fill in bogus information, such as January 1, 1910, just to make sure that your friends understand that that’s not really your birthday!!! In any case, your REAL friends already know your real date of birth ;-)

Protecting your personal identity on the Internet is just online common sense!

II. The very vital promotion of your professional reputation

While you need to hide your date of birth and home address, it is important that your first and last names show up in the results pages generated by a search engine query. Having read the first part of this post and understandably daunted by the prospect of identity theft, you could be tempted by total anonymity, absolute invisibility:
- Lack of an online profile or biography detailing your skills or reflecting aspects of your career path
- Use of a pseudonym to participate in online forums, blogs or networks.

If this is your choice, then try to answer the following questions: How will a recruiter react when he can’t find any information about you? Your namesakes — sharing your first and last names — will occupy the space you’ve left vacant. What will be the consequences for you? How will your invisibility be interpreted by your social or professional circle?

In our online life, just as in real life, we have personal and professional spheres. Being anonymous may be useful in our personal activities. The ability to post anonymously allows us to freely express our views on sensitive topics: politics, religion,… Anonymity also allows us to hide our identity while using dating sites or simply preserve our private space.

However, unless you’re retired, have job security for life (e.g. civil servants,…) or are working in a job where your reputation is not at stake, it is essential to have an online professional reputation. The main gateway to your reputation is “Your first name + Your last name” being visible in the results pages of search engines.

Leaving a trail in a blog or a forum, that may hurt your reputation, wouldn’t be the worst thing which could befall you. The worst thing would be to have people be unable to find any traces of you, to not have an online reputation. 77% of US recruiters perform online searches about applicants. 7% of all queries entered on search engines are about a person’s name.

This lack of an online professional reputation could be interpreted as:

- A lack of transparency
- A refusal to share information
- A person with nothing to say
- Technophobia
- Risk aversion

Of course, it’s possible that a recruiter wouldn’t see it that way and that he would simply deem your online invisibility as neutral, unimportant, even insignificant factor. But how will he react if you’re the only invisible person in a pool of 10 applicants? What would you do in his place? This now becomes a question of risk management.

Your professional reputation on the Internet sends back an indirect brand image: the capacity and willingness to take risk, your personal initiative, the ability to share information, to put forth ideas or use the information technologies that are the core competencies of today’s organizations. The day is fast approaching when the choice between two candidates will come down to how easily their reputation can be evaluated, the losing party being the harder person to evaluate. Promoting your online professional reputation is thus useful in:
- looking for a job, making a name for yourself
- offering services (consultants, freelance,…)
- highlighting your expertise
- boosting your career
- building and promoting your brand image (Personal Branding)

Besides, you may have namesakes. Your Internet invisibility leaves the field to these namesakes. An anecdote may shed light on the problem. A consultant who had grown tired of having his clients ask him how long he had been making pottery, finally discovered on Google that a namesake was an expert … potter. Nothing serious and rather amusing as an example. But what if your namesake was also a consultant himself in your field. In this instance, you would run the very real risk that his reputation would become yours!

Just as in real life, our online life is made up of risks and opportunities! No more, no less. The Internet is a space in which one must adopt a specific code of conduct in order to avoid identity theft. It is also a place which enables professionals to emerge from anonymity and effectively differentiate themselves.

To dig deeper into the topic of identity theft, here are a couple of complementary reads in their order of relevance:

A government website (Ontario, Canada): What information identity thieves look for and how they get this information?

Identity theft (Wikipedia)

Identity Theft – A Primer (Canadian government source)

Identity Theft Resource Center: a nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to the understanding and prevention of identity theft.


Tools to build and manage your reference network (3/3)

Posted in CV 2.0, Personal Branding on July 26th, 2008 by Olivier Zara – Be the first to comment

Post 1/3: How to manage your professional reputation

Post 2/3: Building your Reference Network

Post 3/3: Tools to build and manage your reference network

Your read post 3/3. The 2 previous posts dealt with several concepts:

- professional references
- social references
- recommendations
- contacts network
- reference network
- sphere of trust or context of trust

If you don’t feel like reading or rereading these previous posts, here’s a summary:

1. Recruiters and employers evaluate a professional’s reputation based on their references and recommendations (either oral or written).

2. You have professional references. These can be found among your former or current managers, colleagues, associates, clients, suppliers or partners. You also have social references (friends and people in your social or voluntary-organizations network).

3. Numerous professionals are faced with 2 major problems:

1st problem – The loss of their references. Both your professional mobility (change of identity, of duties,…) and geographic mobility (country, region,…) contribute to this loss of references, the more so the greater this mobility is.

2nd problem – The use of references in crisis mode (when everything’s gone awry). Why only call upon your references to help you in a job search? Your references could help you land a promotion, a raise or a new position! It’s often too late to start managing your references when everything’s already gone wrong.

4. As a professional, it is important to build 2 networks:

a. Your contacts network – This is your address book: all the people with whom you’ve been in contact at least once, face to face or virtually. This network will help you to make connections and probably to find your lost references again! What matters in this instance is the size of your list of contacts so as to reduce the number of intermediaries between you and the person with whom you’d like to connect.

b. Your reference network – This is your network of social and professional references, which we could also call your trust network. This network will help you with your career within your company, help you to win contracts if you’re a consultant, and of course help you in any future job search. This is a qualified network (strong mutual relationship) and a qualitative network (here, the name of the game isn’t quantity!).

5. A reference network or trust network = Those in whom I place my trust and who trust me in return (mutual trust). A sphere of trust is defined for each person within this network. This sphere of trust can include duties, expertise, skills and human qualities. These are the elements upon which you base your trust in a person in your network. These elements will be described through the recommendations of your references, either orally (during interviews with recruiters) or in writing (letters of recommendation). Conversely, outside of the sphere of trust, you’re not comfortable saying that you trust this or that person even if they belong to your reference network. In reality, it is exceedingly rare to have an unlimited and absolute trust in people belonging to our professional and social circle.

This brief summary of the previous posts allows us understand the stakes associated with the management of your professional reputation. There are 2 types of tools to build and manage your reference network:

- Professional social networks such as Linkedin, Ecademy or Viadeo (Xing doesn’t offer any recommendation system). These networks specialize in connections and the management of your professional contacts network. But they also offer functionality to allow users to gather recommendations and testimonials. Through the list of people who’ve penned recommendations on your behalf, it is then possible to get a glimpse of your reference network.

- Tools to manage professional references such as CV 2.0, Naymz, Repvine, iKarma, Rapleaf, TrustPlus or Gorb. These have not all been designed to serve as “reference networks” but they in fact enable users to create such reference networks through the list of people who provide recommendations, feedback or testimonials. iKarma, Rapleaf, TrustPlus and Gorb also offer sellers rating systems, varying in sophistication, modeled on eBay’s system.

I. Professional social networks

The principle underpinning professional social networks is simple: to make connections by putting your address book online in order to be able to use the address book of your contacts. It’s a winning proposition for all parties. You make your address book public so as to gain access not only to your contacts’ address books but also to those of your contacts’ contacts up to 3 or 4 degrees removed.

On a personal note, my 259 Linkedin contacts enable me to connect with 85.600 people (2 degrees removed). These 85.600 people can in turn connect me with 4.263.600 people (3 degrees removed). These numbers change every day. The more contacts people in your contacts network add to their own network, the greater the number of people you can contact… provided you’re a paying subscriber. That’s right, this isn’t free, or at least not completely, depending on the services.

Professional social networks were designed to manage your contacts network and to facilitate connections, but they can also be used to manage your reference network. Here’s an overview of the market’s major players:

Linkedin is the worldwide leader with 20 million users. Until now its presence outside USA has been limited but, in France for example, its newly signed partnership with APEC — a French non-profit organization which acts as a jobs portal — should help it to grow rapidly in the country.

Xing is originally a German service. It’s the European leader with 5 million members, but it doesn’t offer any recommendation system. It cannot be used to manage your reference network.

Viadeo is the leader on the French market, with 2 million users. It’s most useful if you live and work in France. The service, however, has global ambitions.

Ecademy is a British service with a userbase of 300.000. Very useful if you work in the UK.

6nergies is a French service, 20.000-member strong, which offers original applications without any ads.

Just like dating sites, the added value of these professional networks increases in step with their membership. The more members sign up, the greater the number of possible connections becomes. In theory, it would thus be preferable to register with the market-leading services. But nothing’s stopping you from registering on several services.

Conversely, tools to manage your references don’t have to grapple with the issue of reaching critical-mass. The objective isn’t to put you in touch with anyone but to manage your professional reputation. If you ask 10 people to become your references, the total userbase of the service is of little importance to you!

Most of the professional networks offer a recommendation system. You thus have an all-in-one offering: management of your contacts network and management of your reference network. There are, however, some drawbacks:

- Can one invite a person into one’s reference network and into one’s contacts network in the same fashion (most often through an impersonal message automatically sent to your entire address book)? As a general rule, a contact and a reference are not managed in the same way.

- Is it appropriate to let your contacts freely access the names of your references and vice versa? Being in an address book, in this respect, is a lot less attractive than being on a list of references. Confidentiality may be very important for some people. It is therefore better to have a dedicated space.

- Some people may agree to become references by writing a recommendation but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they want:
1. to make their address book public
2. to act as intermediaries or trusted third party in response to multiple connection requests
3. to receive commercial offers or offers from recruiters via the direct-connection offerings associated with Linkedin’s or Viadeo’s Premium subscription package for example. These offers allow anyone to contact your references directly without the involvement of any intermediary. Some have dubbed this “social spam” as a way to describe the spam messages from social networking sites. Social spam is also linked to invitations you receive from unknown persons who want to be added to your contacts in order to reach the list of your contacts. You can read the following blog post to understand this phenomenon Social Media Spam — I Want to be Your Friend. This nuisance could lead your references to shut down their accounts.

- How can you show the recommendations attached to your Linkedin profile on your Viadeo profile or vice versa? If you move to a new country and need to register with a new service, you may well lose your recommendations (for example, Linkedin has a strong market share in the US and so does Viadeo in France).

- If you leave one service to join one that is better suited to your needs, will your references follow you with each new change?

- How can you show your recommendations without requiring that the person you’re talking to register with your chosen service? Currently, a recruiter or a prospect must first register with your chosen service before gaining access to your recommendations and most importantly the profiles of those who made these recommendations.

The above constraints can be partly explained by the ultimate aim of each service’s recommendation system. Recruiters, consultants, salespeople pay subscription fees to be able to contact job seekers or prospects. Since one must pay in order to be connected, it is important to be able to evaluate the reputation of the professional one wishes to contact. The recommendation system provides an answer to the following question: Is it worth it to pay to be able to contact you?

Moreover, on the topic of constraints, it is doubtful that Linkedin would find it in their interest to let you use your recommendations on Viadeo or Xing, just as it’s not in eBay’s interest to let you use your reputation as an eBay seller on competing ecommerce sites. These are closed systems.

New services have appeared to mitigate the problems associated with « All-in-One » services (contacts + references), and they specialize in reputation management.

II. Tools to manage professional and social references

Since they’re not designed to help make connections and manage your contacts, the tools to manage professional and social references complement professional social networks.

They allow you to create a public or private profile alongside which you can display the names of your references and their recommendations. All that’s needed to promote your reputation is to then direct people to your online profile. Additionally, you can print out this online profile and append or integrate it to the hard-copy of your résumé.

I have designed a service to help manage references (CV 2.0) and I head the company offering this service. Since November 2007 (in French), this blog has allowed me to share with you my years of research and development in the area of identity and online reputation. For this particular post — given the inherent conflict of interest between my role as a blogger and my role with CV 2.0 — I recommend that you subscribe to the services mentioned so that you may form your own opinion. Bearing in mind this caveat, here’s an overview of the current available tools:

1. Repvine is a service entirely dedicated to the management of your references. You create a network and only those people belonging to it may write recommendations. Once connected with a person, however, you no longer have control over the content of their recommendation, the only recourse is to launch proceedings through a special form. Here’s an excerpt from the site’s FAQ explaining the reasons for this choice:

“With Repvine, you get to decide who contributes, that is, who makes up your community, but you do not get to decide or change what your community says about you. If you invite a friend or a customer to contribute, or accept a request for contribution from a friend or customer, they will most likely say good things, but they might also say something slightly neutral or perhaps something that you think is a little too honest or even negative. None of us are perfect, and our references will reflect that. […] ” Source http://www.repvine.com/footer/faq.php#D

To offset the potential posting of negative content, but also to ensure the reliability of publicly-available content, Repvine offers a rating system for each recommendation. Each member of your community may vote on the public content posted by the other members of your community. If you receive a recommendation, be it positive, neutral or negative, members of your community can decrease or increase its value or relevance by voting for or against it.

Repvine allows you to bring into your reference network people who fall into 4 relationship categories: friends, family, professional and dating. The video entitled « Dating » is no longer available on their webpage (click here to see it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NcUQAd-YuA); if you’d like to take a break, you can also watch the other 2 videos that are available: http://www.repvine.com/videos/.

To get a glimpse of the service, you can visit the profile of this user who could be one of the founders of Repvine (it is nigh impossible to find the names of the project leaders):

2. Naymz was originally designed as a content aggregator to be hosted on an online profile (based on your RSS feeds). Naymz enables you to promote your profile in the sponsored links of search engines. At the end of 2007, Naymz added new functionality aimed at managing professional reputation. You can ask for recommendations and create a network that mixes contacts and references. The difference between a contact and a reference is the writing of a recommendation. Contacts do not write recommendations.

Here’s a list of the features offered:
- Creation of an online profile (photo, presentation, contact information,…) and your reference network (limited to 10 people for free accounts),
- Aggregation of the RSS-feeds (photos, videos, blogs, favorites,…) of the services you use (Flickr, Youtube,…);
- Creation of your Naymz Reputation Network. This is your network of contacts and references, just as on Linkedin;
- A people search engine to search through all of the Naymz members for partners, clients,…
- Advertising of your Naymz profile in the sponsored links of the 3 biggest search engines (for $4.95 USD a month);
- Monitoring online postings about you (Reputation Monitor)

Naymz has also set up its own system to evaluate your reputation (your RepScore). The more transparent you are as measured by the quantity of information you post in your profile, the more points you receive. For example, you get 5 points for every web link you add to your profile, 5 points for every tag and email added,… Your RepScore is displayed on the right side of your profile with a rating from 1 to 10.

Your profile is publicly displayed, but you can hide your contact information. Only users registered on Naymz may contact you through a form or through your contact information (phone, address,…). If you have a Premium account, people not registered on Naymz may also contact you. This subscription level not only enables non-registered users to contact you, it also removes the banner ads that surround your profile’s content.

When a person belonging to your contacts network writes a recommendation about you, you can not turn down or modify its contents. But if the content doesn’t suit you, the quick solution is to remove the recommendation author from your network (their name and recommendation disappear from your profile and network).

To get a glimpse of the service, you can browse through the profile of one of the 3 founders, Nolan Bayliss: http://www.naymz.com/search/nolan/bayliss/5

Recommendations can be found in the “Endorsements” box below the contact information while the list of references is in the right-hand side column.

3. CV 2.0 offers a solution for managing references that allows you to integrate the recommendations written by your professional and social references into your hard-copy or online résumé. CV 2.0 is an open system (non exclusive) which allows you to collect your recommendations in one place and post them to all the services and formats of your choice, including Naymz and Repvine!

Collecting your recommendations in one place is especially useful if you’ve registered with several professional networks. CV 2.0 allows you to keep complete control over the content produced by your references. If the content of a recommendation is not to your liking, you can suspend the user from your network (they become invisible on your public profile). You may then launch a review process to adjust and discuss the content of your recommendation with its author. The main goal isn’t to set aside negative or neutral content but to bring the text around to certain actions rather than others so that your recommendations may be consistent with your future career plans. This way you can describe the skills and achievements most important to helping you implement your plans. CV 2.0′s approach is thus one of Personal Branding.

Here is the list of features offered:
- Online profile in the form of a mini website (which can be either public or private);
- Choice of several different color schemes for your profile’s template;
- No ads displayed on your profile, even for free accounts;
- People visiting your profile do not need to register on CV 2.0 in order to contact you or look at your recommendations;
- The option to display your mini website in 2 languages of your choosing – the translation of your content, however, is left up to you;
- The possibility of adding a video to introduce yourself (via a hosting service such as Google Video);
- A password system to protect the security and confidentiality of your pages. You may, however, set your profile to open access and even list it on the main search engines and in specialized directories.

Some options described above require a Premium account. During the launch phase, however, the Premium-level service is free. What’s more, if you gather 2 recommendations by the time the launch phase closes in a couple of months, you will get a free Premium account for life. After all, early adopters and above all the readers of this blog should be rewarded ;-)

Directories will be added to the current service in a couple of weeks to allow you to list your CV 2.0 in several kinds of specialized directories.

You can visit www.mycv20.com to see an example of a CV 2.0!

4. In closing this overview, here’s a group presentation of 4 services: iKarma, Rapleaf, TrustPlus and Gorb. These services all draw on eBay’s reputation management system. You can find a description of how these services work in a previous post, which you may read here:

That post will help you to evaluate the relevance of these tools when it comes to managing your professional reputation. If you don’t feel like reading the post or simply don’t have the time, here’s a brief summary:

iKarma, Rapleaf, TrustPlus and Gorb are relevant for evaluating your reputation as a seller or buyer. They are, however, ill suited, and even dangerous, for evaluating your professional reputation. Indeed, they allow neutral or negative testimonials to show up on your profile and some even allow anonymous postings. As a result, you run the risk of ruining your professional reputation in short order.

III. How to choose?

If you find that the choice isn’t obvious for you or if you have trouble evaluating your own needs, here are a couple of questions to help get you started:

- Given my availability and career plans, should I use a professional social network (an « all-in-one » service, meaning contacts + references) to save time or an additional specialized service?

- Will my preferred service meet my current and future needs?

- Is the service available in my native tongue or in that of my profile’s visitors (recruiter, prospect, references,…)? Is the service local or international?

- Are the ads displayed on my profile, alongside my references, acceptable to my page’s visitors? For example, what if you apply for a job at Ford and your profile displays ads for Toyota.

- Does the service force my profile’s visitors to register in order to view my references and their recommendations? Must people register in order to contact me?

- Is it possible to export or to grant easy access to my references on other sites or in a hard-copy, paper format? In other words, is it possible to show my Linkedin recommendations on Viadeo or my Viadeo recommendations on Ecademy?

- Is the design of my online profile consistent with the demands and expectations of my page’s visitors? (Usability, layout,…)

We are all unique and your choice will be as well! Don’t hesitate to share your advice or findings in the comments. Your opinion, buttressed by your arguments, will help to move the debate forward and to improve all of these services ;-)