Would you do business with a company that wasn’t online? That’s how employers feel about you
If you’re a twenty-something, you can probably stop reading right now. Not that I want to shoo you away, but what I’m about to tell you is information you were practically born with. But since you’re here, why don’t you help out the jobless thirty, forty and fifty-somethings by tweeting this article. One of your friends might retweet it, another might mention it in their blog and still others could share it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Tumblr and eventually someone will email it the folks who aren’t on these services. If, however, that last bit describes you, don’t move a muscle (well, other than your index finger); you need to familiarize yourself with the best ways to create an online presence.
Why, you ask? You’ve lived this long without tweeting, following or sharing your every move with the world and you’re not about to start now, amiright? Well, start getting ready to re-think that position because the reality is, employers are looking at resumes for only 11 seconds and are turning to the web in ever higher numbers to research prospective new hires. And while it’s true that the wrong kind of online presence can tank your chances of getting that job, no presence whatsoever can be equally problematic.
Here then, are the top tools for building an online presence that lets employers find you and develop a positive opinion of you.
Create your own blog
Top tools: WordPress.com, Blogger.com, TypePad.com
They’re free, they’re fast to set up, and, with just a little practice and patience, they can become a one-stop shop for people who want to learn about you.
A blog can have a very specific focus, such as your career – e.g. guidance counselor – or it can simply be collection of random entries that showcase your insightfulness, creativity or passion.
Employers will likely find more value in professional or industry-based posts, but as long as you stay focused on building a positive collection of ideas, a personal blog will speak well of you. Not sure what to write? Start by becoming a daily reader of respected websites that discuss topics you’re interested in. Whenever you read an article that hits a nerve, rings especially true or that might have missed out on an important fact, write about it. It doesn’t have to be long. Just introduce the article with a synopsis, link to it and then write two to three paragraphs with your thoughts and opinions.
In an ideal world, you should write at least one blog post per week, but don’t let that stress you out. More is better (as far as Google is concerned) but don’t make the mistake of posting low quality content – remember this is about making you look good.
Don’t forget to add relevant info to your “About Me” page as this will become one of the first results people see when they Google you. Also, try to include an image with every post, (you can find plenty of free-to-use images on Flickr.com as long as you pick from the Creative Commons area and give attribution accordingly), or embed a YouTube video.
Top tools: Twitter.com, TweetDeck, BioIsChanged
If you’ve been reticent about Twitter, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that Twitter isn’t going away any time soon so you really ought to learn about it. The good news is that it has become an incredibly powerful tool for people who want to stay connected to the people and companies that carry the most influence in their area of interest. Yes, you could tweet about how you just had a great workout or how you’re dying to see the latest Darren Aronofsky film, but it can be so much more than that.
To start, create your free account, making sure that you upload a professional-looking photo of yourself (or perhaps a photo of you doing an activity that you enjoy) – don’t leave the avatar blank. Include any relevant info in your bio including links to your blog, LinkedIn page etc. Customizing the background is nice, but don’t worry about it.
Next, start by finding personal and company twitter accounts that are a good fit for your career, e.g. TechCrunch or Elon Musk if you’re looking for tech/IT jobs. Follow them and anyone else who you think has wisdom to share – perhaps former colleagues/managers. A few times a day, take ten minutes and see what the folks are tweeting about. Read the links they send out and then retweet the best of them. When you’re feeling more comfortable, starting adding your thoughts to these retweets.
A lot of folks become obsessed by how many followers they have, but for you, that goal is secondary. Your primary objective is to establish a presence on Twitter that lets people know that you’re staying on top of the trends and ideas that matter to you professionally and you’re part of the conversation.
Top tools: LinkedIn.com, Rapportive
This is the one you’re most likely to be familiar with and it’s the one you shouldn’t ignore even if you don’t use the rest. Because LinkedIn has become the de facto online resume and professional profile site, when people search for your name, your LinkedIn profile page will be one of the first to show up (assuming you have one).
Creating a LinkedIn profile is free, but if you don’t already have a solid paper resume, it will take some time to complete. It’s worth it. Not only do many recruiters and hiring managers depend exclusively on LinkedIn to understand who candidates are, it’s by far the easiest way for them (and you) to share your resume with someone else.
There are hundreds of resources online that will help you maximize your LinkedIn profile, but this one is probably all you need to know. Remember, uploading a good, professional photo of yourself matters. Nothing says “I’m just here because someone told me to be here,” more than the generic, blank icon that LinkedIn will place beside your name if you don’t provide one.
When it comes to job hunting it’s hard to say if Facebook is more help or hindrance. Though stories of people’s applications being relegated to the trash heap because of an off-coloured Facebook comment are common, it’s a lot harder to find examples of people who were hired because of their Facebook presence. It’s more likely that your network of friends on the service will generate a lead for you.
So that’s the takeaway: If you have a Facebook account, make sure you do everything you can to purge potentially career-limiting content from your profile (pay special attention to any photos you are tagged in). If you don’t have an account and are thinking of creating one, make sure you get familiar with its privacy settings and even then, avoid posting or commenting material that might make a hiring manager move on to the next person.
Video is a powerful medium. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a knack for creating good videos that might impress potential employers (especially if you work in the video industry) you should create a YouTube Channel.
Doing so is free and easy using your gmail address (or any other email address associated to a Google account). Once you’ve uploaded your videos, make sure that your name appears at least once, and preferably (but only if it makes sense) in the video’s title.
Because Google owns YouTube, when people google you, and the search engine offers up video results, you should be near the top (unless your name is Justin Bieber in which case perhaps a name change is in order?)
The same advice for Facebook applies to YouTube as well – especially if you’re commenting on other people’s videos or responding to comments on yours.
Always put your best face forward, and always aim to make the best possible impression.
Related: What not do do in your professional profile picture.
Simon Cohen is one of Canada’s most experienced Consumer Tech voices. He created Sync.ca, an award-winning Canadian technology blog which had an audience of over 500,000 monthly visitors. He has appeared as a guest numerous times on national TV and radio programmes, including Canada AM, Sync Up (a weekly segment on CTV News Channel) and App Central. He is currently an independent writer and editor contributing to various publications, but you can always find his thoughts and musings on his blog at excitable.ca.