Dr. Lindsay Bira, clinical health psychologist and owner of Dr.LindsayBira.com spoke to UT Health Science Center graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at Tuesday’s Career Advisory Council workshop on professional branding and social media.
During her postdoctoral training, she successfully transitioned into entrepreneurship through the art of career branding. She explained that as a postdoc, she was thinking about how to consolidate her training and passion for her field to reduce stigma related to mental health.
“I thought, why not work on that now,” she explained to the students. “I felt that my name was the best representation of my profession as a psychologist so I formed an LLC using my name and credentials what’s powerful about creating a personal brand is that it allows you to articulate your professional skills along with the your personal values to effectively communicate what you represent.”
Dr. Bira explained that since opening her own clinical practice a few months ago, she hasn’t had to actively recruit clientele.
“People contact me mostly through my website; they search for what they need, come across my site and can quickly understand what I might offer them,” she said. “My message is also reiterated on each of my social
media platforms which, serve as credibility touch points that reinforce what I do and the services I offer.
Here are some of Dr. Bira’s top 11 tips for students interested in branding themselves.
1) Start Now
Don’t be afraid to start branding yourself while you are still in school. You might be in the same program as 20 others, but you still offer something unique. Publications are a way to create your own brand but there are many other ways to make yourself stand out. Identifying and then solidifying what you
bring to the table is an important step in professional development and
branding helps you do just that.
2) Build a Mission Statement
The first thing you should do is sit down and think about what you do, why you do it, and what you can offer people. For me, I’m passionate about improving people’s lives through coaching and therapy, articulating mental health research to the public through my blog and speaking in the community, and leading workshops on mindfulness to break barriers and reduce stigma.
3) Use Social Media To Build Relationships
Facebook and Twitter are where you get to open up more personally with people to establish meaningful connections. Find people with similar interests who are posting about research in your field, comment on those posts, and build relationships with them. Via Twitter, I found someone in San Francisco who was doing something I envisioned for myself but didn’t quite know how to get there; I reached out to her, asked if she would mentor me, and she said yes. She really helped me carve my path.
4) Social Media Does Not Need To Take Over Your Life
Social media can be time consuming, especially if you have more than one platform to manage. It’s ok if you are not the best at managing them. When I get busy, I am less active and that’s fine. It’s an ebb and
flow. My followers are still there and then I come back again when time allows. What’s most important is that you have the accounts for a consistent presence. That will create credibility and a provide consistent message so that people can understand what you’re about.
5) Separate your Personal and Professional Social Media
Remember that professional social media is exactly that: it’s for communicating your brand. Be consistent with your mission statement across all platforms. If your friends accidentally tag you in something more personal on your professional account, it’s ok – just be sure to go through it and clean things up.
6) Realize you are a professional
Self promotion can feel weird but part of it is realizing your own image and standing strong in your training. Professionals need photos. Photos attract people to engage and increase the impact of a message. I use photos a lot and have a blog, where I write about recent events using a mental health perspective.
7) Expect to feel nervous
Expect to feel exposed when you self-brand, it’s normal. I was a little afraid of starting a website so early on in my career. I didn’t know what I would do with it exactly, but as I laid one stepping stone, another would appear to guide me. We are programmed to feel fear and anxiety so that we can stay alive from life-threats like bears, but our stressors are different now and might not actually be that dangerous. You have to ask yourself if the fear that is holding you back is logical and helpful. Maybe it is maybe it’s not. Usually, it’s just based in the unknown.
8) Fake it Till You Become It
In psychology, we say “Fake It atil you become it.” This means that the more you do something, the more you will feel comfortable doing it and it will then become a more automatic pattern for you. Feeling like an imposter is normal but it doesn’t mean much at all! Step into the role you want to have and practice being in it over and over until you become it. Don’t wait until you feel completely “ready” for something because that will probably never happen!
9) Communicating Your Passion Will Get You Somewhere
We are researchers because we want to impact people and things. Communicating what you do in a clear and simple way will help you now and later in your career. Think of your website as another CV that gives you double credibility. It also adds another layer: your website allows you express more personality and passion than your CV or Linkedin site might. If you create web content that reflects what you do and integrates who you are effectively, you be viewed as a better job candidate. It’s 2016. Web presence is important in any field.
10) People will Google You and Make Assumptions
People will undoubtedly search your name. It benefits you to control what they find and fill in the blanks so they don’t fill them in for you. Fill in those blanks with your website, professional Facebook page, or Twitter account.
11) Make sure you have a good profile photo.
Some people don’t put a photo because they don’t want assumptions to be made, but assumptions will always be made regardless, so why not represent your true self? Having no photo might communicate something worse, like lack of effort, low confidence or poor self-presentation. Maybe you don’t have a good photo. If that is the case, take action to get one, even if that means spending the money to get a photo you can use for years to come.
To see a copy of Dr. Bira’s presentation on Professional Branding and Social Media, click here.