Of my many, many struggles, one has been finding the sweet spot for my online presence. There’s a virtually endless amount of sites, pages, and profiles to distract you from the few that will actually help you in the real world, like a useful article or a connection. It often feels like trying to find a piece of dust in a landfill…that’s constantly growing.
When your career is heavily based online, as it’s increasingly the case for journalists, it’s important to not forget the internet often isn’t an end, it’s a means to an end. Our goal usually isn’t to do something only online, but to do something online to help us in the real world.
After some research of my own, plus some advice from the lovely Syracuse University Assistant Director for Alumni Programs, Kim Brown, I have what I hope is a solid guide to answer these two questions:
- Where do I focus my online presence?
- How do I focus my online presence?
When applying to a job, pay attention to what time it is. Submitting at 3:00am doesn’t look so good (unless it’s for graveyard shift).
— Kim Brown (@kimincuse) July 17, 2013
As you can see, she gives excellent career advice, so it was great to have her help.
Where do I focus my Online Presence Efforts?
First off, considering that there are around a trillion websites right now, making a good online presence can seem like spitting in an ocean. Thankfully, you don’t need to worry about all of it. When you walk on a set of docks, do you see the whole ocean? No, you can only see the water around the dock. So when people visit your set of docks, make sure only the water around it looks good.
So (going with this awkward metaphor) where are your docks? This bit of an infographic shows it’s very likely to be on your social media sites, mainly when it comes to possible employers checking you out. So no matter what you’re doing, you should at least focus on the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Kim recommends focusing on a few key platforms (so I would guess the above three, but that’s me), and to know the basic functions of the others, like Google Plus, Instagram, Vine, etc. This can be as simple as reading some articles about how they work, who uses them, and why people like them. If you can give a business a good reason why they should or shouldn’t use it, you probably know enough.
Focus on Quality over Quantity
Another important note from Kim for working your online presence is to not work in too many places. Remember, you only need to work in the areas around your dock, so don’t focus on any others. There’s already a ton of info and noise online, so being able to stand apart from all the noise is more important than just dumping more on the pile. Even if it means posting an update every other day or writing just one blog post a month, never do something for the sake of doing it more. Do it for the sake of doing it better.
(Believe me, I learned this lesson from my recent strategy of one blog post a day. Too time-consuming and to little effect.)
Don’t Forget Your Google Results
Don’t forget that plenty of people will just straight-out Google your name. So make sure the top results aren’t anything bad and focus some time on improving them. The best, easiest way to do this is Brand Yourself, a free online site built to help you improve your search results. Kim recommends it, and I’ve already used it (to good affect) since I interviewed the guy who made it once. Google Plus is also a good place to focus and improve your results as well.
How to I Focus my Online Presence Efforts?
Okay, now you know where to go. But what exactly do you do on these networks?
The biggest thing to focus on is showcasing your brand. This is who you are and what your skills are (I wrote a past post about discovering your specific brand too). These are things like sharing useful articles, talking with others in the field, and sharing anything you’ve done (like articles or blog posts, wink wink). Think of it this way: in a job interview, your skills are a list of words that anyone could just type on a sheet. Showcasing your brand is a way to show you actually know what you’re talking about, and your skills are more than a simple list. Practice what you preach.
Treat your updates like a game of Politics
It’s also important to talk about who you really are as a person, but still in a professional sense. There’s no shortage of horror stories about people who got fired just from what they did on Facebook or Twitter. To avoid mistakes like these, remember this simple quote from one of my favorite novels, Patriots:
Why do all of the above? Because when you’re chasing after serious job opportunities, your employers almost certainly WILL look you up. Most of what you do is a giant wall of evidence that you can act professionally, including online. I wouldn’t take it as seriously as the above quote implies, but don’t ignore it either.
How to Find Jobs from Your Online Presence
For actually FINDING job opportunities online, Kim says that while she knows students who have gotten jobs from nearly every network (including Twitter), LinkedIn is likely the best, seeing as it’s made for professional networking. To make the best use of it (on LinkedIn and all others):
- Reach out and make connections. Be sure to include a personalized message with each and communicate a little to make that real connection.
- Take part in some discussions, which can hopefully let you meet people looking for new employees. Kim especially recommends any alumni groups from your school on LinkedIn, and don’t be afraid to ask for a little help.
Another small note: be wary of what you like and follow on your networks, since they may send the wrong message to your employers as well (Although Kim says this depends on the company itself).
Spend Just Enough Time on it All
Kim recommends doing just enough of all this so it doesn’t feel like a chore. I agree completely, because once you think of it as a chore, you often start thinking of how to avoid it too.
I’d recommend having a set time in the day where you spend one or two hours on your sites, networking and scheduling content for the rest of the day. Try and keep it in the morning, because putting it off until nighttime makes it more likely you’ll be tired and leave it for the next day. Just get it done early, and check back with them a few times that day for a few minutes each. Don’t feel the need to be plugged in 24/7.
Lastly, don’t expect this to work right away. If you could get a job from just a week or two of being online, finding a job wouldn’t be so tough.