Maybe there’s something about the idea of “personal branding” that doesn’t work for you. Maybe thinking of yourself as a marketable product – like a bag of chips or a blender – just doesn’t feel right. Fair enough. Don’t call it that. Call it “self promotion” if it makes you feel better. How about “image management” or “personality optimization”? Still, it doesn’t really matter what words you use, because if you’re just graduating and your bank balance is steadily declining – and you have the skills of a neophyte when it comes to the job market – you’re going to be at a major disadvantage compared to somebody else who’s taken an active role in creating and sustaining a positive, interesting and engaging online presence – that is, someone who’s created an effective social media profile.


Facebook, the hiring manager, and you

Everybody’s always predicting the demise of Facebook, and Facebook’s consistently proving everybody wrong. It’s the #1 social media platform, pulling in more than three times the amount of monthly visits than its second place competitor, Twitter. And there’s a very good chance (a 93% chance, actually, according to a Jobvite survey) that the next hiring manager who’s considering you for the next job you apply to is going to be checking you out on Facebook. Are you prepared for that?

Know your priorities

Unemployed, underemployed, or looking for a whole new career path? Maybe it’s time to start getting serious about the online self you’re showing to the world. Googling people that we want to know more about has become an almost involuntary reflex. Make sure that when people press enter after typing your name, what they find next is what you want them to find. In other words, if those people are prospective employers, make sure that they find a prospective employee.

Show quality and consistency

The “look” of your online presence makes an impression the second someone lands on any of your social media accounts. Keeping things simple is always a safe bet. A clutter-free, well-organized profile page conveys an immediate, wordless message to visitors about your character. Of course, that applies to your profile picture too. It’s the stand-in for the real you, and it’s got to say what you know employers want to hear: I am totally ready to take on any challenge you throw my way. So make your profile page a good one. Look professional. And make sure that you use the same profile picture in all your social media accounts, so that visitors are greeted by the same familiar, confident, reassuring face no matter where their online search for you takes them.

Keep the blood circulating through regular activity

If you don’t regularly update your online profile, how’s anybody going to know you’re still alive? Get moving! It’s not enough to give a clever and concise outline of your bio/background/interests and then wait for followers to flock to you. Prove that you’re actively engaged in your life by providing regular updates on significant recent activities – that marathon you just ran, a weekend camping trip in the Kootenays, a TED talk you watched online. By being actively involved in the things you claim to be interested in, and expressing ideas that you can intelligently articulate when participating in online forums and community groups linked to your platforms, you further humanize yourself, and give prospective employers a richer understanding of what kind of employee you’d be.

Think about the big picture: some final advice

So say goodbye to those blurry pictures of you and your friends goofing around on a Saturday night. From now on, think before you post. And link certain sites to each other so that your visitors can jump between them with ease. A hiring manager, for instance, who’s just gotten a general overview of your personal life from your Facebook profile, can then take a quick leap to your Twitter feed to see what kind of wry commentator you are, then take a final leap to your Instagram account to glance at what inspires you. Try thinking of these accounts as interconnected facets of your online self – each one enhancing the other, and all of them together contributing to a unified vision of the person they each represent: you.

A thoughtful use of social media is one of the best means you have for telling a wide audience all of the things you want them to know about you. And it’s also one of the best means you have for reaching the person who just might be your future employer. Whether you want to call it personal branding or not, a well-crafted social media profile is a great way to advertise your strengths.