By Clay Chandler

Clay is an author, editor and fellow at Hult International Business School where he follows technology, economics and global business. He is a former Asia editor at McKinsey & Company, and has held senior editorial roles at Fortune, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Twitter @claychandler

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6 steps to building a killer brand

1) Put it on paper

Yes, even in the age of email and LinkedIn, you need a resume. You should update it regularly and keep it ready to hand out in Word, PDF formats, and printed on paper. The conventional wisdom is that a prospective employer will spend no more than 15 seconds glancing at your resume, so keep things simple: a single page if possible, never more than two.

The first thing I look for in a resume is verbs. I create a “keeper” pile for resumes that use simple, active verbs (“built,” “led,” “sold,” “created,” “produced”), and immediately toss those with weak or passive constructions (“worked with,” “was responsible for,” “helped to”). Resumes with weasel words like “optimized,” “maximized,” “facilitated,” and “leveraged” go straight to the trash. And I will summon plague on the house of any applicant who uses “impact” as a verb. You can find additional advice for effective resume writing here.

In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of online services offering jazzy resume templates as well as editing and graphic-design consulting services. Among the most popular: Loft Resumes, which offers hundreds of colorful resume templates for as little as $4. Loft customers can fill out a template, and send it back to Loft for revision by a graphic designer. For an additional fee, Loft offers professional editing and re-write services to help clarify wording and clean up typos and spelling errors.

Younger job-seekers love Loft, and it’s easy to see why. The templates are cheap, efficient and snappy-looking. Many hope the colorful designs and playful fonts will help their resumes stand out. But be careful. A lot of employers see online resume templates as gimmicky or worse. Says Allison Green, proprietor of the “Ask a Manager” blog: “Here’s what I think when I see one of these I-hired-a-designer-to-make-this-for-me resumes: Does this person think that their skills and achievements won’t speak for themselves? Do they not understand what employers are looking for? Do they put an inappropriate emphasis on appearances over substance?”

Here’s what I think when I see one of these I-hired-a-designer-to-make-this-for-me resumes: Does this person think that their skills and achievements won’t speak for themselves?

No wonder so many recruiting experts urge sticking to the traditional format: a reverse chronological layout done in black and white, using Times New Roman or Helvetica font with no photos or other froo-froo design elements. This interview with Tony Beshara, a recruiter and author of Unbeatable Resumes, offers a good summary of the old-school view.

It probably doesn’t hurt to have a second version of your resume in high-design style that uses some color and non-traditional fonts and includes a photo—particularly if you’re angling for a job in advertising, marketing, media or tech. But make sure you know which style your prospective employer prefers; if you don’t, play it safe and go with the classic format.

2) LinkedIn, pimped out

Perfecting your resume will give you a leg up on developing your LinkedIn page, which can be one of your most powerful personal branding tools. While both resumes and your LinkedIn include summaries of your education and work experiences, it’s important to remember that the two things are fundamentally different animals. The key distinction is that a LinkedIn profile lives online as part of a social network, which means that: 1) while your resume needs to be short and targeted to a specific employer, your LinkedIn profile can be longer and more comprehensive; 2) your LinkedIn profile must include specific keywords that will increase the likelihood that your name will pop up when your target employer runs a digital search, and 3) you can boost visibility on LinkedIn by improving the quality and frequency of your connections with other influential members of the network.

The first step for creating an effective LinkedIn page is getting a good profile photo. Photos may be optional for resumes, but they are absolutely essential for LinkedIn—and they have to be done right. That means no passport photos, no crazy filters, no distracting backgrounds, no duck face and no selfies. I think LinkedIn profile photos are so important that it’s worth hiring a professional photographer to take them. You want a relatively tight head-shot that makes you look professional, personable and intelligent. Get a good night’s sleep, have your hair done, pluck your eyebrows, trim those nose hairs. Makeup, but not too much. Photoshop in moderation. Update your photo every three or four years. All this may seem obvious, but I’m constantly amazed by how often people screw it up.

Next is your summary. The site limits you to 2,000 characters in the summary box. Choose each one with care. Personal branding guru William Arruda says the LinkedIn summary box is the single most important tool you have to advance your career, “the ultimate place to tell your story” and create a “dazzling picture of who you are and what makes you great.”

The summary box is a kind of virtual billboard where you can plaster your personal narrative, highlight your skills and project a little personality. Andy Foote of the LinkedInsights blog argues the summary should always be written in the first person. (Here are some of his other ideas about what makes a good LinkedIn summary. ) If you’re looking for a model summary box, check out the LinkedIn profile of my old Fortune colleague Dan Roth—who now happens to be LinkedIn’s executive editor.

Third comes figuring out the right keywords and devising a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. You can find useful advice on keywords and LinkedIn SEO here, here, and here. One of the simplest and most common techniques is reverse engineering. Find someone with a job similar to the one you want who also ranks highly in your target employment category, study their profile, figure out which keywords they use and then mimic them shamelessly (to the extent you can without completely lying about your own achievements).

LinkedIn is all too happy to help. Premium subscribers in profile edit mode will find that when they move the cursor of their mouse over the summary box, LinkedIn prompts them with suggestions to “Optimize your profile to get found.” This is one of LinkedIn’s most maddening features. For starters, there’s that verb: “optimize.” And I hate it that the site nudges everyone to use silly management jargon. In my case, LinkedIn wants me to describe myself as an “influencer” and “lateral thinker”—meaningless terms I loathe and would never use. (Perhaps I should be flattered: “influencer” may have negative connotations to me, suggesting I might be a lobbyist or some kind of sinister foreign agent, but in LinkedIn’s lexicon, “influencer” is a term of high distinction.) I’m with Chris Matyszczyk, who says you should never, ever describe yourself on LinkedIn as “visionary,” “purpose-driven,” “successful,” or as a “thought leader,” “conceptual thinker,” or “inspirational leader.” Don’t do it–even if LinkedIn tries to seduce you with the prospect of getting “optimized.”

Never describe yourself on LinkedIn as “visionary,” “purpose-driven,” “successful,” or as a “thought leader,” “conceptual thinker,” or “inspirational leader.

3) Get social

Social media offers a great way to meet people who can help advance your career, and to demonstrate to them your skills, experiences and passions. Most people think of LinkedIn as a purely professional platform and see Facebook and Instagram as personal channels reserved for non-work communications with friends and family. Fair enough. But if you’re looking to find a new job, attract clients or build a professional reputation, remember: about 90 percent of your potential employers and clients are going to Google you, and many will hire an outside investigator to compile a digital profile.

Some experts recommend a “multi-channel marketing” strategy for promoting your brand on social media, and urge tailoring different identities for different audiences. For example, some suggest maintaining separate personal and professional Facebook accounts. I think the “alter-ego” approach is nuts: too time-consuming and confusing, and ultimately it will undermine your authenticity.

Twitter is a more complicated creature that trades in personal and professional content. I agree with Dan Schawbel, a popular personal branding blogger and author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, who says Twitter can be an extremely powerful branding tool. “The best thing you can do for your brand on Twitter,” he says, ”is to take your current interests and activities and establish a feed on Twitter to deliver that content to your audience again and again.” His other recommendations for using Twitter are here.

4) Offline networks matter, too

Even in our digital age, the old Woody Allen adage that “90 percent of life is showing up” still rings true. There’s no substitute for old-fashioned real-world networking. So put the screens down and get out there: Volunteer. Join. Play. Schmooze. Be someone interesting. The people you’ll meet in person will be your most powerful advocates and will work hardest to help you raise your profile and promote your brand.

5) What’s your “elevator pitch”?

One key for getting those real world relationships off on the right foot is to develop a compelling “elevator pitch” to introduce yourself to others. First impressions are crucial. So just like an effective salesman, who is always prepared with a short pitch in case the only time he has with the client is the ride up from the lobby to his office, you should work out a way to describe who you are and what you do that can be communicated in under a minute. An effective elevator pitch is simple, clear and leaves its listener wanting to know more. Career coach Nancy Collamer advises that a good pitch must answer three basic questions: Who are you? What do you do? What are you looking for? She offers these rules for getting your pitch perfect.

6) Accessorize!

Nine out of ten experts surveyed agree: pirate eye-patches, peg-legs and brightly colored parrots worn on the shoulder are indispensible for standing out in today’s cut-throat job market.

Just kidding, matey.