In today’s increasingly interconnected world your online presence can play a vital part in helping to land your dream job, reach new clients, build a professional network or otherwise promote yourself as a professional. You can choose to actively push yourself via blogs, personal websites and social media channels but, even if you don’t, you should be aware of what your online presence says about you.
The majority of employers now Google potential candidates during the selection process as a matter of course. There’s a debate to be had over the ethics of this but it’s still what happens and job seekers have to deal with the realities of the situation.
If what they find is a series of social media profiles that are open to the public and feature pictures of the candidate being falling-down drunk or spouting controversial statements, that candidate is likely to wind up in the trash, even if their résumé and experience is otherwise perfect for the role. Even if Google or another search engine of choice yields no results, that’s not necessarily a good result for you. Employers could assume that the candidate is either out of touch with an increasingly digitized world or that they have something to hide.
The best option is therefore to make sure your digital footprint presents you in the best possible light and also to make sure that it reaches the people it should.
Writing a blog
When blogging first started gaining traction at around the turn of the millennium, it was largely a means of creative and personal expression – essentially a journal put up there for all to see. Many people still keep very personal blogs and people blog on all sorts of niche interests but business and professionally oriented blogs are now seen as important online marketing tools.
Many businesses publish their own blogs. It can be a great way to raise brand awareness and it can help boost search engine optimization or SEO, which affects where you appear on the search engine result pages when users search for a relevant keyword. Individuals can also utilize blogs to highlight their own industry knowledge and professional credentials.
So what should you blog about? If you have hobbies or interests that you’re passionate about there’s certainly nothing wrong with blogging about them (as long as those interests aren’t controversial or otherwise present you in a bad light). It’s usually best to keep them separate however and to keep your professional blog focused on your own area of expertise. Patrick Dwyer, Merrill Lynch wealth advisor, regularly blogs on business matters with a particular focus on financial matters.
If you want to go beyond blogging platforms you could also set up your own website. This allows you to present even more of your personality, experience and credentials to potential employers, clients and contacts. You can also host your own blogs on it, incidentally.
According to Workfolio, a company that develops apps for professional visibility, 56% of hiring managers said they were impressed by candidates with their own websites, yet only 7% of professional-level job seekers actually have personal sites.
Workfolio’s founder and chief executive Charles Pooley said: “The employment market is an incredibly scary place to be right now as a job seeker—but a personal website offers several important things to improve your odds.”
A whole website gives you even more scope to express yourself than a blog. Everything from an ‘About me’ section to the design you choose can say something to potential employers and contacts. A website is also likely to be more visible than a hosted blog. There is more you can do to boost an entire website in SEO terms and you can use it as a hub to link any external blogs, posts and appropriate social media profiles you have.
Finally, hosting your own website shows dedication. There’s a certain amount of work involved but that in itself can demonstrate you are serious about your work, career and sector.
Most of us these days have at least one if not multiple social media profiles. As of the last quarter of 2015, Facebook alone had 1.59 billion active monthly users – more than one in five of the entire global population.
As already mentioned, many employers and even potential clients are likely to do further research online before offering work or exchanging contracts. If you have a professional blog or website then they will hopefully see those but they are just as likely to check out your social media profiles. It’s essential to maintain a professional image and, if you really must have questionable content online, consider keeping alternate profiles and ensure that your privacy settings are not set to ‘public’.
Beyond cleaning up your profiles, you can actively use them as another weapon in your professional armory. Link your profiles to your blogs and website, make posts that are relevant to your field and use your profiles to reach out to potential contacts.
The likes of Facebook and Twitter can be useful and YouTube can be a good place to publish industry-related videos. Perhaps the single most suitable platform for a professional profile however, is the very much professionally-oriented LinkedIn. With more than400 million members in over 200 countries and territories, LinkedIn is by far the biggest professional network on the web today. It’s purpose-built for networking but you need to adopt a proactive approach to really make the most of the site. Ensure you have a completed, keyword-rich profile so people can find you but don’t wait for them to come to you. Join industry-relevant groups, contribute to discussions, interact with relevant people and extend your list of contacts.
For better or worse, the Internet is now an integral part of all of our personal and professional lives. Giving off the wrong impression can hamper your chances without you ever knowing it but a proactive approach with your overall online presence can see you reach out and carve out your own opportunities.