The Job Search: Elements of a Good Online Presence, part 2: Social Media

Ah, social media. The modern double-edged sword. On one hand, it can be a great tool to get your name and your work out in the world, and can help establish you as an expert in your field. On the other, it can act as a permanent record, and is a window for employers into your personal life, your views on your work and your career, and your views on others.

Used well, social media can be productively incorporated into a job-hunting and career-building strategy. Below are my tips to create a cohesive social media brand to use professionally. This may not be appropriate for your field, or for how you want to use social media, so take them as guidelines I’ve found to be useful for keeping professional accounts.

Unify your avatar
Avatars and photo icons that represent your accounts are the visual window into who you are, and should be treated accordingly. In order to maximize your professional branding, I would use the same photo (preferably the one I advised you to take for LinkedIn in my last post) for your avatar/image across accounts: LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. This builds visible brand recognition, and those who might gloss over your name will remember your face wherever you post.

That being said, I’m going to take a moment to speak to the creatives, since it’s a bit of a different game for you. Avatars and site images can be a great way to show off your art, but again, I would use the same image across all sites. This can be updated every so often as your art style evolves and changes, but the important point is that it should be a clear example of who you are as a professional and what your style is.

Whatever the photo or image is, should be memorable (in a good way!) — my professional Twitter account has an image of me fighting a dinosaur, which, when I was pursuing a career in game localization, made me stand out in the community. I was known by high-level professionals in my industry as “the dinosaur girl” — undignified, but useful for branding and breaking the ice at professional networking mixers! I put the same image on my business card for GDC, the premiere U.S.-based game development conference for professionals, and it worked to link my professional work to my Twitter account, where, at the time, I was posting often about game localization. Whichever image you choose to use, make sure it is the same, and working for your branding.

Post often
Social media tends to have returns that stack depending on how much you use them. The most successful users on various platforms are those who post often and interact with others. Because of this, it’s best to focus on only a few social media channels, prioritizing the ones you know will work for you. It doesn’t matter how good Instagram is for your field if you hate using it — if you hate using it, you won’t, and there’s no point in worrying about a stagnant account you’ll never go back to. So choose the social media you like to use, and build a brand on that. Most now let you schedule posts, so if you can’t or don’t want to be online all day, you can schedule them in advance.

Become an expert
The best posts are ones that have to do with your field, and retweeting or reposting counts as endorsement from you (as long as it’s allowed on the site and you give due credit!). In fact, the general rule of thumb is to post 80% of the time about other’s work and 20% of your own; otherwise, you can risk sounding like a self-promoter (self-promotion in moderation is critical, but in excess may seem like you’re trying too hard/aren’t interested in making genuine connections).

Many professional conversations are taking place on social media, in Twitter hashtags, on LinkedIn, in blog comment threads, etc. The key point here is to keep your contributions professional: Be polite, inquisitive, and ready to learn. The internet can be a breeding ground for hate and disparagement and it can be tempting to get down and dirty with the worst of them, but using social media professionally should always be treated as a soft interview…because it is. Employers or clients may know you from the reputation for expertise you build on social media, so they may be considering you for potential jobs or partnerships you don’t even know about yet, or that aren’t public. You want to make sure you conduct yourself in a way that you’d be proud for a future employer to see. For me, this means I don’t swear on my professional Twitter — I try to keep it as clean as possible. However, I do retweet articles and discussions promoting women’s rights and gun control, because if someone doesn’t hire me on account of my raging feminism, that’s probably the best for all parties involved. Set out some guidelines for yourself at the start, and try to adhere to them as much as you can.

Know your limits
At some point, social media can start to detract from your professional life, especially after you’re hired and at a job which doesn’t involve being on social media. It can feel like you need to be posting to maintain your street cred, your “influence,” your follower count, etc. This can make you less productive at your job, and may make you look unprofessional, if you’re always on Twitter/Discord/Facebook/whatever when you should be on the clock.

Well, here’s a strong opinion from me: Social media is a constructed space, and as such, your performance within it can be structured as well. Take time off when you need to. Close accounts entirely, if it isn’t working for you. Be conscious of how much time you’re spending each day on social media, and ask yourself if that time could be spent on other, more important aspects of your life. Social media was created with seduction in mind (remember, these apps profit because of their large user base — they’re designed to keep you on them!) so you’ll have to define your own limits on what serves you and what does not.


As I said, social media is a double-edged sword, but if you set out with self-imposed guidelines, you’ll be able to use it (most of the time) to your advantage. And if it doesn’t serve you, don’t use it at all — your time should be spent in ways that benefit you, not just your reputation.

Best Practices: Your LinkedIn Profile

Now that I’ve talked a little bit about LinkedIn, I want to go into what makes a good profile:

Your photo
Have a photo. This is, in my opinion, a non-negotiable. Show people what you look like, unless there are legal reasons why you should not (or if your professional identity is intentionally divorced from your image and/or real name). The practice of getting professional headshots done seems to have fallen by the wayside, but I think they can make your profile stand out, especially as a job seeker — it shows you put effort into yourself, and by association, into your professional reputation. That being said, if you can’t afford a professional headshot, ask a photographer friend, or even ask a friend to take some decent photos of you, even on a phone — photos for which you’ve dressed up, as these will be your first impression to potential employers and those with whom you’ll be networking. I don’t think you necessarily need to wear a suit, unless you’re in an industry in which the suit is the standard dress code, but you will want to look the part for your job, in a way that makes you feel (and by association, look!) comfortable and confident.

Want more tips? A quick Google search yields plenty of articles, but this post by Lydia Abbot about photo tips is a good place to start.

Headline
The headline is a feature that may strike some as odd, but can be a useful tool, especially for job searching. Of course, you can just fill it with your current role, but if you’re searching for a job, this is a great area to write a short elevator pitch about who you are, what you do, and (if you aren’t worried about alerting a current employer to your job-searching status) what you’d like to do in your next role. Someone looking for job in character art for online games might write:

3-D Character Artist with four years of experience looking to crush a role in online games.

It’s punchy, fun (which is often appropriate for games), and shows drive, while also including a concrete goal and keywords. These keywords are searchable, so including them here is a great way for potential employers to find you.

Keep your contact info updated
A great tip, and one this article from Cision.com goes a little more in-depth on. If employers can’t get in touch with you, you’ll miss out on all the opportunities you’ve worked so hard to develop. This is especially important if you’ve moved, changed your email or your number, or have recently left your job.

Fill out your job and education history
This is crucial. Depending on where you are in your career, I don’t think you need to include every job, volunteer experience, award, or skill, but having at least two or three fleshed-out job histories from your most recent and most relevant jobs is huge, along with at least one school (high school, college, or graduate school, whichever shows your most current level of education). If you’re newer in your career history, it’s okay to use some padding — do complete those Classes or Volunteering sections.

There’s some discussion on how these areas should look, whether they should be in first or third person, and whether they should be paragraphs or bullet points. I’m not sure I have a particular preference, although I think bullet points (or a combination!) can be easier on the eye for someone who is reading profile upon profile, and first person is more engaging than third. Just make sure each bullet point is fleshed out, and your tone doesn’t get too conversational — though online, this is still a professional setting.

Here are two examples — both in first person:

1.

As a receptionist at Stark Industries, I was responsible for many crucial tasks, such as keeping track of appointments, coordinating security checks for high-risk visitors, and finding ways to keep The Hulk busy until Dr. Banner was able to collect himself for his lab hours with Mr. Stark.

2.

In my role as receptionist at Stark Industries, I:

  • Kept track of appointments with top-of-the-line proprietary software
  • Coordinated security checks for high-risk visitors
  • Used my customer service skills to relax The Hulk so that Dr. Banner could make his appointments

Goofy examples, I know, but I hope it shows you the merits of either version. Whichever you choose, remember to keep it consistent throughout your entire profile.

By keeping your education and job history neat and up-to-date, you’ll be able to easily remember when you did what, and employers will be able to see your roles and responsibilities.

Skills
This can seem like a throwaway area, but there’s no reason not to fill it out. Just keep an eye on it – others can endorse and influence these skills, and while it can be very flattering for someone to think you’re better at something than you are, that doesn’t actually help you or your potential employer. So make sure your skills are ranked and appear according to your preference. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to include, look at the profiles of others in your industry, and curate your own accordingly.

Recommendations
Recommendations are one of those things that feels very difficult to ask for, but at least in my experience, people are usually willing to write them, especially if you reciprocate. It also doesn’t matter as much what they say in your recommendations (though you do only want to include the positive ones!), but the fact that you have written recommendations from others you’ve worked with is a vote of confidence in and of itself, as your coworkers or others in your network have staked their own reputation on endorsing yours. So get a couple on there! The best come from current or past managers or reports, though colleagues, clients, and others can be great, too. If you are just starting out, professors and fellow club members (really, anyone with whom you’ve worked in a professional setting!) are fine, too. Just update once you’ve got some work experience under your belt.

Network
As with all social media, LinkedIn is as useful as the work you put into it. However, the strength of LinkedIn is networks — it capitalizes on information and connections created through your weak ties. If you’re just starting out, send out invites to your friends, family, and colleagues to form your base relationships. From there, remember to add people you trust when you meet them in the future, through jobs or networking events. Adding people just for the sake of numbers is not particularly helpful. Instead, treat your network like an online directory of people with whom you’d like to keep in touch, and with whom you may want to work someday. Pop on to LinkedIn every so often and drop lines to people with whom you’d especially like to keep in touch, or even just casually like and congratulate others on their status updates to keep your name fresh in their minds. If you see an opportunity someone you know may like, send it to them — even if it doesn’t pan out, people remember favors, and will appreciate the thought (just don’t go overboard).


LinkedIn profiles aren’t easy, and need to be updated and curated every so often (4~6 months), but are a great online landing pad for your professional experience. A little work (and a little proofreading!) can go a long way, so start now, and develop your profile along with your career.

Have a different experience? Absolutely let me know!