In the age of ubiquitous social media, the great majority of job seekers (certainly urban millennial job seekers) have, at the very least, some online presence and a passing familiarity with how digital social networks work. This change is continually affecting how the job search is evolving, and conventional wisdom is being thrown out the door in favor of innovation, bold chances, and/or best practices.
What do I mean by all of that? Well, ten years ago, it would have been impossible to find Instagrammers with brand sponsorships, as Instagram itself didn’t exist. Or take Nina Mufleh, who in 2015 successfully created her resume in the style of an AirBnb listing in order to get herself noticed by the company. Her bold choice may not have been appreciated at a more traditional company, but was perfect for the tech-savvy, branding-oriented AirBnb. And though when I was growing up, I was taught never to post things online that I would be ashamed for an employer to see (still not bad advice, in my book), many now are growing up without that advice, and social media accounts, while searchable, may not be the end-all to a job or career (unless something distasteful goes viral…always think before you post publicly!). In fact, in certain artistic careers (especially for writers, artists, designers, actors, and video game folks), having a more personally-oriented Twitter or Instagram feed may create a larger, more invested follower base.
So, in light of all that, I want to talk about what goes into making a good online presence, starting with the where. Which social media networks and other online tools should you be using? How can you maximize the returns of any effort you spend online?
This post is mostly geared toward the “traditional” job seeker; I’ll be covering other tools geared specifically toward creatives in future posts.
For job seekers, these are what I think to be the most useful ones, ranked and explained. Am I missing some? Please let me know!:
LinkedIn: Love it or hate it, find it useful for your industry or no, LinkedIn is the online portal for professional networking and recruitment. You can use it as a hub to keep and update all of your relevant education and career history, keep in contact with your professional network, and search for others based on past education or companies you both share. I like LinkedIn because it lets me connect with people in a setting we all understand to be professional, especially as I keep Facebook just for close friends and family. LinkedIn has features built in that, if you allow it, will alert your network anytime you update your profile, and can show that you’re available to recruitment and hiring managers. Also, many hiring sites will allow you to import a LinkedIn profile, making the job search that much easier (though it may require some reformatting once imported!).
Personal website: A personal website can act as a hub for all your social media, and can function as a combination resume/portfolio. For creatives, a separate portfolio may be more useful (and we’ll get into what goes into a good professional portfolio in coming weeks), but for most people, a personal website should function as a one-stop shop for you. However, personal websites can be difficult to maintain, and do come with a monetary cost (unless you have a free website). It can be a tradeoff, but for certain industries, having a personal website can be a great way for potential employers to get to know you.
Published work: I was initially going to call this category a “blog,” but that’s too narrow. Having your work online, in a portfolio or as part of your LinkedIn profile is great, but what I’m getting at here is having work you’ve done in your field “published” in an official way, even self-published on your own blog, can lend you credibility, and can give potential employers a low-stakes insight into your thought process and values. Blogging takes extended time and effort, and the rewards can take a while to show, so if you aren’t interested in blogging, see if you can guest blog somewhere, or post (hopefully sell!) an article on another site. This goes for other media too — illustration, video, etc. The idea is to have searchable work that leads back to your name.
Twitter: Twitter can be extremely useful as a networking tool, but it comes at the cost of time and effort. I like using Twitter primarily as a tool to keep track of goings on and information about my industries—because Twitter is a short-form platform which is able to quickly disseminate targeted information, it’s easy for people to tweet and retweet events, news articles, and other important information. By building dedicated lists, you can keep a targeted eye on the hashtags and news accounts relative to what you’re looking for. It can also be a way to connect informally with important people within the industry, through engaging with them in discussion. Just remember: keep everything polite and professional, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in front of a hiring manager, boss, or colleague. Twitter interactions are just as real as face-to-face, and the reputation you build on Twitter can have a lasting impact on your professional reputation.
Instagram: Instagram, for job searching? Well, even if you aren’t looking to become a professional Instagrammer, Instagram can be used to showcase your visual skills. It’s a great, informal portfolio for artists, fashion and interior designers, creative designers, videographers, and others whose skill can be demonstrated in photo or image. By posting often, and posting things you’ve put care and time into (or even sketches and quick clips!), you can gain the attention of others in your field, or find a fan base for your work that you can use as leverage for getting your next gig.
A word on social media: Social media is as useful as you make it. For some, it will never be useful or enjoyable, and that’s totally fine. It is! Honestly! The best returns on social media come when you post original content frequently on the same channels, and spend time interacting with others on the site. Because of that, find just a few that you like, and stick to those. Or don’t! Social media can be a time sink and can be very emotionally draining, so figure out what level of engagement works for you.
You only have a limited amount of time, money, and mental energy, so concentrate on LinkedIn to start. The other options can be useful if they interest you, but if not, that’s fine! Take a day to really flesh out your LinkedIn profile as robustly as you can, and if you feel LinkedIn doesn’t offer you enough, then move on to other sites.
Have I forgotten something? Have you built your brand on a different site? Let me know!