Do you have a strong digital brand? Do you know what kind of picture your digital brand paints for you? How do you show up in online searches? How are you presented through social media? When I look for you on the internet, is the content I am finding representing you in the best way possible? These are all important questions to ask yourself before you begin (or continue) your job search in 2015.
When a Job Seeker is interested in working for my company (and I am interested in learning more about them), I begin the process by conducting a search on Linkedin, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. I want to know what know what kind of person I might be considering for the role, outside of the information that was presented to me in a cover letter or resume. In addition to possessing the necessary skills, I need to be sure that the candidate will be a good fit for the company’s culture.
Below are 7 steps you need to take TODAY to start successfully branding yourself to employers on the web before embarking on a job search.
1. Update Your Social Media Privacy Settings
Just about every post re: Social Media advises you to update your privacy settings. If you haven’t already done so, there is no time like the present. Since you are reading this article, it is likely safe to assume that you are not earning your living in the spotlight, so stop broadcasting your life to the world. There is no need for your prospective employer to know your political views, or to see those pictures from that amazing party last year in Cancun.
- Facebook just recently took a giant step in the right direction by changing the default privacy setting for posts from Public to Friends (meaning your posts will only be visible to people you allow into your network). This change will be limited to new accounts, so if you have an existing Facebook profile you will need still to change your privacy settings manually. Facebook provides some good information to help you secure your content HERE.
- LinkedIn’s privacy settings are a bit different, but no less important to understand and optimize. Everything from the notifications that get sent when you update your profile, to the way you appear in searches can be adjusted through the Privacy & Settings Page.
- Twitter gives you the option on the account level for either Public or Protected Tweets. When set to public, the world is your audience – your Tweets will be viewable by anyone with an internet browser. By contrast, protected tweets are only displayed to your followers, and each follower will need to be approved by you before they have access to your updates.
You can find a comprehensive list of tips and privacy settings / considerations atPrivacyRights.org as well. That said, it is not necessary to completely block yourself off from the world. You are trying to brand yourself to employers after all, so you should be giving them something – just make sure you are picking and choosing the content you wish to share publicly.
2. Google Yourself
Have you Googled yourself lately? I (your prospective employer) has. In far too many cases, the first page of results will surprise you. If you haven’t, the process is simple and endlessly important:
- First things first – sign out of Google (or open an Incognito Window if you are using Chrome) to ensure your results reflect what an employer might see.
- Visit http://www.google.com (or http://www.bing.com)
- In the search bar, type your first and last name in quotations (i.e. “Mike Wiston“)
- After evaluating the results, click the “Images” tab to view images associated with your name.
What you SHOULD see is a list of active social media profiles, blog content you have written, press about you or your projects, and similar. Red flags include a public social media profile with personal / questionable content, articles that voice your opinions on politics or religion, profiles on questionable websites, and photos that don’t help promote the brand you are creating. Again, if you can find it, your prospective employer can as well.
Google has actually made it very easy to manage personal information that appears in searches. You can find the guide HERE. You can also set up Alerts through Google to get notified when your personal information becomes visible on the web.
3. Become Active in Discussions
There are a number of advantages to being an active contributor in groups and discussions. Perhaps one of the most significant, it positions you as a leader in your field, both to other participants in the conversation and to potential employers who come across the thread during their search.
Going back to #2 (Google Yourself), when I am searching for a candidate, I LOVE to see their intelligent contributions to discussions relating to the job. Looking for a job in Marketing? Create infographics and share them on Pinterest, provide thoughtful / helpful answers to questions about analytics on marketing blogs, share some Search Engine Optimization tips in a LinkedIn group. It can be very telling of a candidate: in the way they structure their post, the manner in which they respond to criticism, the frequency in which they respond, the credit they share (or don’t share) when borrowing content.
4. Create a Personal Website
This is by far my favorite step in this process. Create a simple, one page website that promotes you and your experience. Employers want to know who you are, what you can do, and if you will be a natural fit for both the role and the company. A personal website is a great opportunity to show them just that. There are a large number of options to get started – these are by far the easiest (and free):
This is really the staple website for getting a personal profile page launched (for free) on the web. The concept is simple: choose a theme, enter some information, upload your picture(s), add some social media links, and you are good to go. Your bio will generally be located at http://about.me/your.name (or the domain of your choosing for a fee).
A quick note: You really need a great background photo to create an effective about.me page. If you don’t have a professional head shot, use a photo that really captures your personality, or demonstrates your love for your desired role / industry.
A great alternative to about.me, offering a similar experience with different (and more) theme options and fonts. This option is also free, however to get the best use out of the service you will need to pay around $20 / year for the premium features (custom layout, domain, etc…).
5. Install (and Use) a Social Media Dashboard
With all of the social media channels out there, it can be a job in itself just to manage it all. Luckily, dashboards exist to take the headache out of your social media management – spend more time searching for your next job and less time posting to and monitoring Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…
Easily the most versatile and popular dashboard on the market, HootSuite integrates with all major Social Media networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, etc… It costs nothing for a single user (and in many cases the free account is all you need), with options for multiple users and advanced reporting at a nominal monthly fee. The platform is web-based, so you can access your account from any browser, and is host to a large number of useful features (see HERE for a list of features on a free account).
A free option by Twitter to manage all of your Twitter accounts in one place. Want to schedule your Tweets? TweetDeck has you covered (recently the functionality was added to include photos in your scheduled Tweets). Perhaps the best use for this dashboard is the ability to easily monitor searches and hashtags. You can set up columns that updates in real time: “#careers” for instance, or even a search like “CT Accountant Looking”.
Use these tools to automate the process of discovering interesting discussions to participate in, posting scheduled content to your networks, and managing your influence on the web.
6. Ask for Help
The suggestions outlined in this article are, for the most part, very simple and straight forward – however the process can be time consuming and potentially frustrating for someone who is not comfortable on a computer. That said, do not be afraid to ask for help. No matter how much you think you know (or how much I think I know for that matter), there is always someone out there that can teach you something new. There is no shame in reaching out and asking for guidance, especially when the goal is a new, life changing career.
Is your brother a great writer? Perhaps he can help you perfect your bio for your social media profiles and your personal website. Best friend is a techie? Perhaps she can assist in launching and optimizing your personal website or blog. If ever there was a time to ask for a helping hand, this would be it. Embrace it, and pay it forward (#7).
7. Be Helpful
This is by far one of the most important qualities a Job Seeker (or any person) can possess. Whether on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, forums, or at a networking event – share your experience and expertise to assist others in their journey. Aside from the personal satisfaction that comes with doing a good deed, being helpful will position you as a leader and a subject matter expert to those around you (see #3 about being active in discussions). In your own career search, this will help by filling your online profiles with likes, recommendations, and positive comments / feedback – all of which will be noticed by a prospective employer who comes across your page.