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Why a visible online profile could be this generation's answer to success

 

Having recently undertaken a long stint of job-hunting in an un-familiar country, one of the tools that I am finally using (and seeing the benefits of) is Linked In. Linked In was previously one of the two social media outlets that I had yet to conquer (the other being Twitter). Although university lecturers and peers encouraged its use, I don’t think I ever took it that seriously. Maybe in part because I didn’t feel I had a lot to put on my profile.

However, I was inspired after viewing the profile of one of my university peers. This girl was in exactly the same position as me; recently graduated with a communications degree and job-hunting in London. Although she had just a little more experience than me, if you were to compare our two profiles, one would easily be led to think me a total amateur and her an experienced industry insider. This got me thinking. I knew I was at least on par with this girl – yet was my ignorance and blasé attitude towards social media a major barrier that I myself was creating.

So, I set about putting in some much-needed work. Properly filling out my profile, listing skills, adding connections, joining groups, etc. etc. And it worked! I suddenly had people looking at my profile, endorsing my skills, connections being made and, amazingly, an interview offer from one of London’s biggest communications agencies, without so much as an application (just after I had already landed a job – always the way).

My skill set hadn’t changed. I simply had more visibility. No matter how good you are at something, does it really count if no one knows? And in today’s climate that means using technology to your advantage. There are some really brilliant resources and tips online to help you do this. For example this guide http://www.businessinsider.com/8-steps-to-creating-a-powerful-linke.... There is a quote in this link that perfectly sums up why Linked In works; “Imagine if you could permanently run an ad in a world newspaper selling the best of “you” — and that anyone with any opportunity, whether it is a job offer, a consulting gig, or a business deal, could find you. That’s LinkedIn”.  The other option if you are looking for tips on Linked In, is to be sneaky like me  - stalk other peoples profiles and base yours on the most effective. I do think though, that if you are working with high school or university students, guides are a really good thing to push. If I’d had these resources (and the knowledge of just how important Linked In is) when I was at university then I may not have waited until almost a year after graduation to start developing my profile.

Of course there is a flip side to this. Ensuring you have the right online profile is so important. Whilst looking for employment I also had to be aware that potential employers would be digging up any online dirt. This meant re-considering the privacy settings on my Facebook and Instagram accounts, and deleting photos that may have been taken after a few too many on a Friday night. I always feel though, that as long as you use common sense, it shouldn’t be too difficult to stay out of trouble. Those infamous cases of people moaning about their boss online, or similar, really just seem so obvious.

My second online project is Twitter. Although I really should have been using this for years, it’s just never captured me. The lay out is confusing, its not aesthetically appealing and I never really understood it. I have had many failed attempts at being a twitter pro. My profile has about one tweet a year since 2011. The first two of which declare I have finally converted to Twitter – something that obviously didn’t last long. But this time, its for real, I swear. Something that, again, is not a personal choice but a professional one.  

Being in public relations, knowing the media is a huge part of my job. Twitter is now an undeniable component of this. Anything that is published on Twitter is seen by millions of people. It is therefore also seen by millions of stakeholders and audiences. The reach is massive. This is important in terms of knowing what my clients are projecting about their brand, but also in terms of seeing what the media is interested in and what’s trending. I am trying to follow every journalist and publication humanly possible. Someone also told me once that Twitter is the ideal tool to showcase writing capabilities. Showing ability to convey a message affectively in 140 characters or less is something that can translate into other professional tasks.

I have been on Twitter about two weeks now, and I am actually getting slightly addicted. The conversion may have finally happened. The thing I have struggled with is what on earth to tweet about? I want to stay relevant and therefore keep my profile up to date. But I feel there is no point tweeting just for the sake of it – especially if professional peers are seeing my words. I have done a lot of “re-tweeting” so far. This includes sharing articles, links and other tweets that I find interesting, with my own comment. I also think sharing any published work of your own works really well in terms of shouting about your achievements and skills. If I was running an event I think Twitter would be a great tool to spread the word to multiple audiences. The accounts I think work best are those who manage to comment on important happenings and topics but also throw in a little bit of humour. I think this results in an entertaining Twitter feed that people actually want to subscribe to, while still being intelligent and professional and not veering into a fully social territory. One of my favorite accounts is Russell Brown (https://twitter.com/publicaddress).  Russell maintains a good mixture of professional focused tweets, with a little bit of wit and sass. This displays brilliant writing skills, the power to engage others and promotes the public address brand.

My job (and many other jobs) is basically about getting seen. Not personally, but on behalf of my clients. In order to be a success in business I feel this is a principle I need to learn how to apply to myself.After all, why would an employer or client believe I could build a brand profile if I can’t do so for myself? Being naturally a little shy, this is something that I find awkward at times. The beauty of having an online presence is that unlike networking or real life interactions, I can still nurture my inner introvert. I can sit at home and promote myself to thousands of people, without any awkward cheek kissing or borderline bragging. I think I may become a real addict.

It would be great to hear what other people think of online profiles. And how maybe as an employer or someone in a position of power much greater than my own, you use social media to look at potential employees and to enhance your life both personally and professionally?

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Comment by Charlotte Caines on October 31, 2015 at 23:37

So true about needing to think seriously about what you post online - I do think however, that my generation at least, has been soooooo educated on this. It has been drilled in to me since high school. And really, my personal view, is a lot of it is just using common sense. Why would you post certain things to an online platform for thousands of people to see without really considering the message you are sending? That just seems like a logical thing to do. I guess it is more relevant to young students, realising that what may be considered cool to post at that age could come back to haunt you years down the track. 

In terms of location and relevance of Linked In - I totally understand what you are saying about somewhere like New Zealand. However, if someone was recommended you and then went on to look at you Linked In and it was amazing, surely this would reinforce the recommendation and be a nudge in the right direction. In some ways it's a potential employer or collaborators way to instantly see your C.V. I do think though that Linked In is probably more important in a city like London where everything is fast and competitive.... no one is going to take the time to get to know you, therefore you need to get your skills and attributes across without really having any face time. Even more important for someone like me, who doesn't know anyone here, so have very little chance of being recommended or getting work through connections at this point. 

I am still getting used to Twitter - it is difficult. I do sometimes question why it became such a global phenomenon. I enjoy browsing other peoples Twitter accounts - just not so great at maintaining my own. Oh well, these things take time #lazy :-P

Comment by Hazel Owen on October 30, 2015 at 11:19
I am buzzing after reading your post - it's awesome!! Some lovely colleagues / friends were talking about some aspects of this yesterday in a webinar - especially about the permanence of what we share online, and the fact you always need to pause and consider before going ahead and posting.
The fact that you got a job offer off the back of your effort is, however, a fabulous affirmation of how powerful a good profile can be, and I really like the way you have couched it around your own experiences, what motivated you, and what the results were. I must admit that I have had a couple of projects come my way via LinkedIn, which has been great. I am, on the other hand, aware that my profile needs work and it's on my list of things to do.
The quote from Forbes is also thought-provoking. I wonder if all "career-minded executives would agree" that a LinkedIn profile is a must? Or is it a regional thing - is it, for instance, so important in New Zealand where recommendation and the 'bush telegraph' is also seen as powerful? What are your thoughts?
Twitter takes a while to get into. For me, it was a case of selecting really carefully who I followed, and refining the art of 'dipping in' and using hashtags to filter conversations.
Thanks heaps for sharing, Charlotte.

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