By CareerActually contributor, Julie Preston
Have you ever Googled yourself? You can be sure potential employers will, so it’s worth considering your online presence and what it says about your professional brand. In this post I’ll introduce the tools I use to showcase my brand. I use only a few of the many hundred of website and applications available. I hope they will be useful or spark a new approach to your online presence.
For many years, LinkedIn has been the default for our professional online presence, and with good reason. LinkedIn reports over 300million worldwide users, with over 6 million in Australia. Jobs are advertised on LinkedIn, recruiters will almost certainly look at your profile before offering you a job, and headhunters reportedly use the site to find new staff.
Unlike a resume that lists where you’ve been, LinkedIn is a great place to show where you want to go with your future career. Like most things in life you get out what you put in. There is no point having a profile just because it’s expected. If you choose to join LinkedIn, create a good profile and keep it up to date. Importantly, don’t get caught up spending hours on LinkedIn. It’s a useful tool, but shouldn’t consume all your time.
Does your current employer have employee profile pages online? Is there scope for you to contribute to the content of your profile? This won’t be an option for everyone, but because we so often introduce ourselves with “I work at X” a good profile on your company website is worth investigation.
I’ll be honest. I created a Twitter profile in 2011 because I wanted to follow Steven Moffat (Doctor Who lead writer). Unfortunately he’s no longer on Twitter, but I’ve found a much more valuable reason to tweet: professional branding. Twitter is a great place to show who you are and what you’re interested in, as well as connecting with people who have similar interests.
Twitter is useful for sharing and connecting on both professional and personal topics. You will need to consider whether your tweets will be purely professional, or to what extent you engage in non-work related conversations and interests. I do a little of both.
I show my professional interests by sharing links to stories in my field. I join live chats about topics that interest me; sharing my insights and learning from others. I tell people about professional events I’m attending, and (when appropriate) live-tweet thoughts and insights during the event. I also have side conversations with Twitter-friends that are not directly about my professional interests, but I consider that to be part of maintaining good networks.
A professional blog provides opportunities to engage with a wider audience in a way that 140 characters of Twitter won’t allow. A good blog will get your name out there and establish you as an expert in your field. Your blog could be a source of information, support and resources for potential clients. Active blogging demonstrates commitment, and good blog posts can be used as evidence of writing ability when applying for a job.
Maintaining a blog takes time. Regular posting is important to keep your audience engaged. At this point in my career I don’t feel that I have enough ideas to fill an entire blog on my own. Instead, I write guest posts for respected blogs in my field.
With so many options for presenting your professional brand online it’s important to have a single point of contact. The ‘about’ page on your blog or private business website might be the place to do this. I don’t have my own blog, so instead I use a service called About.Me to collect all my online content (thanks to Dr Inger Mewburn of thesiswhisperer.com for the suggestion). My page contains links to my LinkedIn account, guest blog posts, Twitter feed and company profile, and at the same time allows for a little personality.
Facebook seems almost ubiquitous, so it would be remiss of me not to mention it in a post about online presence. For me, Facebook is purely personal. I don’t use it to actively promote my professional brand. However, I do share professional links and thoughts on the site because I know some of my friends are interested in the same topics. I know social media, including Facebook, is a useful way for businesses to connect with clients, but this isn’t something I do so I can’t really comment either way.
A word of caution
The online world is a powerful way to present your professional brand. However, it must be done with caution. Before posting, assume that everything you post online will be there forever. Even if your privacy settings are up to date, you should assume that everything you post online could potentially be viewed by current and future colleagues and employers. Be honest but also mindful of your posts, tweets, images and comments, and the impression they will give to others.
Take control of your brand
By using the tools outlined here, I have created the profile I want employers to see. It’s a little more challenging with a relatively common name, but I am confident that my online profile presents the best side of me, because I shaped it. Presenting a consistent, professional online profile has also allowed me to make new connections and share thoughts on career development and researcher training.
Try it. Google your name and see what comes up…
Julie tweets at @julzpreston