The internet is the new battlefield for job seekers. 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates, and a staggering 57% percent decided not to hire someone because of what they said online. And if you’re not online, you’re less likely to be called in for an interview.
But employers aren’t looking just for faults. A well-crafted online presence that looks professional and showcases skills and experience will help your chances to land an interview.
So how exactly survive being Googled by employers and turn it to your advantage? Here are 8 ways how you can build a strong and professional online presence.
1. Make a LinkedIn account
LinkedIn is the bread and butter of a professional online presence. If you don’t have one, go ahead and make an account right now. If you have/will have a career, you should have a LinkedIn account - that means everybody: employees, students, and especially job seekers.
While it may be called “Facebook for careers”, LinkedIn is not Facebook. This is where CEOs and recruiters roam, so if you think something isn’t appropriate to talk about in front of them, don’t post it. What you post on LinkedIn should reinforce your professional image, so leave the sarcasm and memes on Facebook.
A true professional
Your LinkedIn account shouldn’t be empty, either. Take the time to fill in your information, education, experience, skills, etc. A well-made LinkedIn account can support, if not replace, your traditional resume.
2. Keep private things private
You can turn your Facebook page into a professional one if you want, but then where would you post all the memes? There’s nothing wrong with living a little and using social media for socializing, but keep private things private.
During online screening, employers may look at your Facebook page where there may be things that you don’t want to show up in your job search. This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have fun, however. Set your personal social media accounts to private, not public.
This is useful not only professionally, but also for general privacy control, since you don’t want your information to be too public anyway. That way, you can still share and socialize with the people you intended and differentiate your personal and professional profiles.
3. Use Twitter
What is Twitter even supposed to be? Other than a place for rants, jokes, and updates, a professional Twitter account can be used as a platform for ultra-lightweight networking if used properly.
Designed for short posts, Twitter is a hub for bite-sized news and quick communication, and it’s easy to start engaging with the community relevant to your industry. Look up the industry leaders and people with similar interests to follow (you can use TweetDeck for this).
Just start retweeting or replying to posts that pique your interests. Start discussions, exchange ideas. Tweet about your thoughts on recent news or your experiences attending recent events, throw around ideas and share your experiences.
Using Twitter this way can help boost your professional image, but it’s true strength comes from networking and engaging with leaders, smarter people, and new ideas.
4. Get a proper profile picture
This applies for LinkedIn, portfolios, your website, and any other professional media. Your profile picture should clearly show you in a professional light. Not you with your pets, with your friends at a party - just you. And certainly not an empty profile picture.
Nice pic, I didn’t know you were a car
That means (semi) formal clothing, clear face, approachable expression, and focused on you. People want to see who they’re connecting with, especially in a professional interaction. Unprofessional profile pictures would just hurt your chances.
Your profile picture should be make it easy to identify who you are and gives off a professional vibe. If you’re serious enough to take a proper picture, then you’re probably serious enough about your job application.
Also, keep your profile picture consistent across platforms. It’s easier to know it’s you when you have the same picture in LinkedIn, Twitter, and everywhere else.
5. Keep a portfolio
A portfolio is a showcase of your past work and projects, and is a must-have especially for creative professionals. This is very useful in supporting your claims in your resume and providing a firsthand taste of your expertise and impress potential recruiters.
If you’re a writer, maintain a blog. If you’re a designer, be active in Dribbble and Behance. A musician? SoundCloud and Bandcamp are your go-to sites. Non-creative professionals can and should maintain a portfolio as well - there’s Gitlab for developers, and Quora and StackExchange is useful for any field.
6. Make your own website
While there are many free sites for specific portfolio purposes, it’s even better to make your own website from scratch. It would be more impressive to go to yourname.com and it’s another way for web developers to show off their skills.
Alex Tew paid off his tuition fee by building his own website.
Making your own website isn’t as hard as it sounds, and there are loads of tutorial videos for complete beginners. Even if you’re not in the tech field, web development is a really valuable skill to have. WordPress is a popular choice due to its ease of customization.
Just like portfolios, writing is not limited to just writers. Write articles to express your thoughts and share ideas, and engage people in your industry. There are many sites meant to help your writing get more reads, such as Medium. If you’re popular enough, you might want to post it in your blog, too.
Writing can take form as making significant posts in your LinkedIn profile to writing for a column in the newspaper. This is a good way to show off your expertise in your field and get your name more known out there.
8. Connect all your profiles
Now that you’ve developed some strong accounts across many platforms, it’s time to link them to each other and strengthen your overall profile. List your portfolio and website in your LinkedIn profile. When publishing an article, refer back to your LinkedIn and Twitter, etcetera.
Paired with a consistent (and professional) profile picture, connecting your profiles makes you easier to discover and reinforces your professional image, making your name more marketable.
Beware your digital footprint
The internet never forgets. Anything and everything you post will never be truly deleted, so think twice before you post something that might bite you back later. This is especially relevant during job searching when potential employers might Google your name, but is also important in everyday life nevertheless.
That said, making good use of your online presence is invaluable for your job hunting efforts and your career in general. When the recruiter looks up your name online and finds proof that you know what you’re doing, the hardest questions in the interview should be a breeze.