Who are you? It depends on who’s asking. Employers don’t care about our roles as parents, friends, weekend athletes, or church-goers. They want to know how we can help their business. They also need to know that we will be good workers, reliable employees who won’t cause problems.
We have all read stories about employers not hiring – and even firing – employees who have posted unprofessional photos on Facebook and other social networking websites. That’s the fear side of the equation. Let’s turn this conventional wisdom around: how can we present ourselves online in a way that makes us attractive to potential employers?
Should you be online? Yes. It is a great way to let employers and your professional network know who you are and what you have to offer. Moreover, it’s usually free.
Think about how people will see you online as your brand. Just as McDonald’s has the arches and Nike has the swoosh, you want to craft an identity that sells your strengths in the most unique way. If you sound like every other person who does what you do, you will be invisible to potential employers. What do you bring to the table that is different? That is your brand.
How should you be online?
1. Start with LinkedIn. Build a public profile that demonstrates your professional experience, skills, and achievement. Don’t skimp on the details. Unlike a resume that needs to be concise (1-2 pages), a profile gives you more room to breathe. Ask your references to post recommendations for you.
I’m providing links to threes sites (here, here, and here) that can help you build a good LinkedIn profile.
2. Blogging and tweeting – and responding: Social media gives us platforms to show our expertise. Consider starting a blog that explores your professional expertise. Some people can do this on Twitter (I can’t). Again, it is easy to have a free blog. If you want more bells and whistles, the cost is very reasonable.
3. If you are unemployed, post your resume online. Many of my clients are probably saying, “Wait a minute. You told me not to do that.” In the past, I did find posting a waste of time. And I still think it should be a lower priority behind networking and pursuing companies that post openings. That said, I now recommend posting for two reasons: A. There are industry specific sites like Dice.com [for programmers] that will be targeted by HR departments. B. Large job boards like Monster and Careerbuilder have improved your ability to search, control, and track what happens with the resumes you post.
Some words of caution. Posting is likely to lead to spam and calls from companies offering junk jobs. Set up and use a separate email account for your job search. A second and more serious point to consider: if you are currently employed, be careful how you post. In many states (ironically called “Right to Work”), an employer can fire you simply because you are looking for another job. Look for options to block your current employer or post the current job as “anonymous” or “confidential.”
A well-crafted online professional brand will let a stranger quickly know who you are and what you have to offer. It is equally important to represent your brand when you meet people or communicate with them via phone or email. What makes you special? Let others know – don’t hide your gift.