Brand for Hire: Crafting Your Professional Persona Online, Or, Have You Googled Yourself Lately?

Make sure you like what you find! source: www.dailydawdle.com

Make sure you like what you find!
source: www.dailydawdle.com / 30 Rock, NBC Universal

Let’s start with a simple task: Google yourself.  Do you like what you find?  What appears on the first page?  Will it help you professionally?

Many of us are already using social media technologies like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to communicate and keep in touch.  We must be cognizant of the fact that these online activities link back to our ‘real’ lives and professional reputations.  There are too many cases of celebrities on Twitter gone wrong for us to ignore the impact of our digital footprints. As I go on the job market, I am increasingly aware of the professional image that I present online and the role I have in managing that image.

My approach to professional social media practices is informed by teaching college students at Northeastern over the last few years.  Each semester, I had my students in Advanced Writing in the Disciplines create professional personas online by using social media tools like LinkedIn and Twitter. The class used these tools to build professional profiles, engage in conversations with peers and experts, and to reflect on the pervasive role of social media in our professional and personal lives.  At the end of the semester, we conducted a social media audit, evaluating one another’s profiles to assess and revise the kind of presence we had online.

Manage the Message

The class yielded many conversations about the advantages and limitations of branding yourself online.  Many students were uncomfortable with the term “brand” and the corporate associations it conjures. We preferred thinking about these activities as crafting a professional persona. We treated our online activities as one of the many public performances that constitute our workplace selves. Employers are searching applicants’ names to make hiring decisions. Some hiring managers believe that having no online presence can be as harmful to your career as having a negative one.  I asked students, what kind of professional would you like to be? We used this guiding question to help shape our social media strategies.

Share as a Professional

Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can be powerful tools to connect you with colleagues across the world.  Twitter helps me keep updated on recent news and trends in my field, build a professional network, and contribute to the relevant conversations of our day.  Getting set up with Twitter is relatively simple, though new users can find the sheer mass of information initially overwhelming. Ryan Cordell, Assistant Professor in the English Department at Northeastern, advises to treat Twitter like a river, dip into the stream for a moment, enjoy the water and then step back out.

LinkedIn operates much like Facebook, but should be devoted to strictly professional content.  Think of LinkedIn as a more dynamic version of your resume.  You can add samples of your work, receive and give endorsements from employers, join networking groups like alumni associations, and share updates. Another option About.me is a short version of LinkedIn; think of it as a digital business card.

Know Your Audience

I treat my social media identities as concentric circles with closest friends and family at the center, extending outward to colleagues, acquaintances and unknown followers.  Or, we could think of these groups as networked nodes, comprised of categorically distinct, yet interconnected clusters.  Whatever your organizational metaphor, find a way of separating out your audiences and tailor content and privacy settings accordingly.

Showcase Your Work

Personal websites can be an essential home base for your professional brand, as Lindsey Sampson recently discussed on The Works. Like LinkedIn, my website operates as a multimedia resume with examples of recent projects and research activities. Unlike LinkedIn, I have complete autonomy of what appears on the site.  A personal website is a space where you can control your self-presentation, highlighting your accomplishments and goals for your audience.

Find Your Limit

In the age of Instagram documentation, we know it can be easy to overshare. We begin to feel as if every thought should be tweeted, ever inspiration captured, and every relationship tagged and accounted for.  But, what are the limits? Digital identities need to be carefully monitored and maintained to prevent outdated content, mixed messages, or even imposters.  Online branding can also be time consuming. Social media managers like HootSuite, which allow me to schedule posts on multiple social media accounts ahead of time, help me to “unplug” on weekends.

Define Yourself

Professional branding will take on different resonance depending on your field, but, for many, social media can be an important tool for professional definition and promotion. People will inevitably form impressions of your professional persona from your daily activities in the workplace.  Taking conscious control of that image by crafting a clear and consistent professional persona online will only further your career by helping you to identify strengths, build a career portfolio, connect with peers, and better target long term goals.

Next month I’ll discuss networking strategies and the role of mentors during the job search. Join me the first Thursday of the month here on The Works as I countdown to graduation.

Lana Cook - HeadshotLana Cook is a Ph.D. candidate in the English department  at Northeastern University. Her dissertation traces the development of the psychedelic aesthetic in mid-twentieth century American literature and film. Lana is a 2013-2014 “Viral Culture” graduate fellow at the Northeastern Humanities Center.  She received her bachelors of arts at University of New Hampshire.  You can follow her on Twitter @lanacook or Linkedin. You can view her portfolio at LanaCook.net.

Social Media Tips For Job Searchers

Cant. Stop. Pinning.

Cant. Stop. Won’t. Stop. Pinning.

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works. Follow her blog here and/or tweet her @lindseygsampson.

Co-op application time is upon us – it’s time to get nervous, people. This time of the semester is also a great time to work on your professional appearance. Make new business cards. Update your LinkedIn like it’s no big thing. Social media is a powerful tool for the modern professional. It is connecting people around the world like never before, and rocking it on social media can be a huge asset to your career.

Twitter

Start strong. You know how embarrassed you get when you look back at your old e-mail addresses and usernames? guitarchix, beachbabe88, the list goes on and on. So spare fellow Tweeters the embarrassment and keep it simple on Twitter. The ideal Twitter handle? Your name. Just your name.

Tweet at everyone. Retweets are important for getting your name out there as an authority on a particular subject. So don’t just Tweet links — they look spammy and won’t create much noise. Pull out a short quote from the article to increase RTs, and be sure to Tweet at the article or publication. For examples, instead of:

“Cool article.  http://www.fastcoexist.com/node/1682236”

try something like

“S’Well produces a “sleek and clean” reusable water bottle to curb plastic consumption.http://www.fastcoexist.com/node/1682236 via @FastCoExist @swellbottle.”

That’s right, the CEO of S’Well Bottle just followed you. Why? Because you’re awesome.

Don’t be a stranger. Follow and interact with mentors, colleagues, and other professionals in your space. It’s okay to establish professional crushes. You know, people who have the job you have always dreamed of? Ask them a question or Tweet an interesting article at them.

Tweet when the world is active and paying attention. 4pm is the most retweeted time of day, so if you only Tweet once, this should be the time.

LinkedIn

Congratulate. Don’t ignore the LinkedIn updates that notify you when your contact has a new job. A job transition like this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with a contact. A quick LinkedIn message keeps you at the top of your contact’s mind. You don’t have to stay up to date on the intricate details of their life, but a quick congratulatory message can be a powerful tool in strengthening your network.

Source: socialappshq.com

Source: socialappshq.com

Facebook

Just keep it classy. Facebook is one of the largest social media outlets, and future employers will definitely check you out before hiring. While some people use Facebook strategically to build their businesses and professional brands, many use Facebook solely for personal use. Whatever you use Facebook for, avoid albums full of blurry drunk pictures and passive-aggressive status updates. We’re no longer twelve and that is not cute.

You don’t have to be a social media whiz and you don’t have to have hours every day to rock it on social media. Put your best and truest self out into the world of social media and you will attract people with similar interests and values. So get out there!

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and/or tweet her @lindseygsampson.