Take Control of Your Online Identity – Go on the Offensive

In a previous article, we talked about how important it is to ensure that you’re taking control of your online identity. We looked at strategies that involved taking a defensive stance – ways of preventing your use of social media from damaging your job search. Today, we’re looking at ways to use social media to your career’s advantage.

Go on the offensive:
You may have heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” when it comes to finding a job. I don’t entirely agree with that statement, but I do believe “who you know gets what you know noticed“. For example, you may be the best event planner this side of the Rockies, or you might be the finest makeup artist in your state, but if no one knows about it, you won’t get a job. On the flip side, if you know a lot of people in your field, but aren’t particularly good at your profession, sooner or later, everyone in your field will figure that out. And again, you won’t get a job. You may be wondering what this has to do with managing your identity online. Social sites are a great tool for helping people in your field, and beyond, get to know you; they’re a great venue for demonstrating your knowledge, talent, and passion for your field. We know that up to 92% of recruiters say they use social media to find talent. So when an employer searches your name, don’t just hide the personal stuff from them, showcase the professional you!

  1. Join and get active on LinkedIn
    If you aren’t already a member, join LinkedIn today, then get active on the site. By active, I mean completing your profile to 100%, joining and participating in relevant groups, following professionals in your field, conducting information interviews with professionals, and asking/answering questions. Having a LinkedIn profile will help to ensure that any potential employer that Googles your name will find your LinkedIn profile. (In this case, you want your privacy settings to make you discoverable, as opposed to hiding you.)
  2. Go Google+
    G+ may not yet have the following of Facebook, or the networking potential of LinkedIn, but it’s still the fastest growing social network in history. (And yes, I know that Google doesn’t consider G+ as a social network, but you get what I mean.) In fact, recent stats are showing Google+ growing faster than LinkedIn. Because Google+ is integrated with all of Google’s products, having a complete, and professional, Google profile helps to ensure that searches of your name returns results that you’d want employers to find. Moreover, if you actively use Google+ by posting and commenting on topics about your field, participating in hangouts relevant to your profession, and sharing/liking articles that are related to your discipline, employers that are searching for talent in your field are more likely to encounter your digital “footprint.” They are also more likely to see you as an active, contributing member to your professional community.
  3. Don’t overlook Facebook
    In our previous post, we encouraged you to be cautious about letting personal information go public. We stand by that approach, however, it is possible to use Facebook both personally and professionally – but do so with caution. It may be wiser to simply say that Facebook is only a personal site and only friends and family can see any of your status updates and pictures. If you choose to go that route, that’s fine, especially if you’re using LinkedIn as your professional networking site. However, you can set certain portions of your Facebook profile, such as your education and work experience, to be discoverable. That is, people who aren’t your Facebook friends can see your education and work experience when they click on your name, but nothing else. To be sure, check how your profile/timeline looks to different friend lists and to the general public.

    However, you can take it further – again, with caution. You can choose to friend your professional contacts on Facebook. In this case, place your professional contacts in a special friend list; you could name it “Professional Contacts”. When you share professional content, make sure this list is selected. However, when you share any other content, ensure this list is not selected. Also, keep this list restricted from seeing your photos, unless the photos are of a professional nature.

  4. Blog, tweet, pin…
    Of course, you can use many other social sites to share your passions with your professional world. Depending on your field, a blog might be an excellent venue for sharing your experiences, insights and opinions about your field. Keep in mind that blogging is hard work and takes a lot of time to do right, but it can be a really powerful outlet for your professional passions.

    Tweeting can be another option; just like blogging, your focus should be on tweets relevant to your field and profession. The currency of Twitter is the retweet – when you see content that interests you, re-tweet it. Doing so is beneficial in a few different ways. First, you are sharing relevant content to your followers. Second, you’re helping out the original poster by sharing their content. Third, you’re aligning yourself with other professionals who have similar interests. Fourth, you’re providing evidence to fellow professionals, (and prospective employers), of your professional passions.

    Similar to Twitter, Pinterest can help you express your professional interests, but in a way that is more visually appealing. However, Pinterest can also give you a venue to share portfolio work and even your resume. Pinning and sharing content you find online, as well as pinning your own relevant content can, again, positively impact your digital footprint.

There are many other social sites that can be used to share your professional interests. However, simply creating a social profile is not going to guarantee you a job. Nor is it going to be a quick process. The key is to be consistent, professional and passionate. You want to demonstrate to employers that you care about your professional aspirations; in the mean time, you’re actively contributing to your field and networking with like-minded professionals. This will help employers who search for your name find relevant information about you, and will increase the likelihood that they will run across your name when conducting searches relative to your field.

Have you found employment by using social media? What sites do you prefer to use for professional purposes? Tell us in the comments.

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