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

Make sure you like what you find! source:

Make sure you like what you find!
source: www​.dai​ly​dawdle​.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 Lana​Cook​.net.