Building a professional online presence is crucial. It’s a great way to connect with, share ideas with and build rapport with important people and companies in your industry. Plus nearly half of all human resources managers take online presence into account when screening applicants, and more than one-third believe that online presence will eventually replace the traditional résumé altogether.
When building your online presence, you’ll want to focus your efforts primarily on creating a personal website and establishing profiles on key social networks.
The first thing you should do is register a website. You can purchase a domain name and web hosting service from providers like BlueHost.com for as little as $5 per month. For easy and inexpensive web design, choose a provider that allows you build your site on a blog platform like WordPress.com.
When choosing a domain name, try registering your full name (i.e. yourfullname.com) first, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, LLC and author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success.” “If that’s taken, try to get ‘yourfullname.net.’ If that’s taken, use your first name, your middle initial and your last name, and so on,” he says.
However, resist the urge to include professional terms in your site domain (i.e. yourfullnamePR.com) unless you are 100 percent committed to your field. “More people are branding themselves using industry and professional terms, but don’t do that if you don’t know what you want to do in life because you’re going to get stuck with it. If you brand yourself under your name, then you can always change [the content of your site] to reflect the new topic that you’re pursuing,” Schawbel says.
In general, your site should include your contact information, a brief professional history, examples of your work (if applicable) and links to your social media profiles. If you want to go above and beyond, consider starting a blog on your site, too. “A blog showcases your creative ideas in real time,” Schawbel says. “It’s a good balance and supplement to a résumé.”
Your social networks
There are dozens of social networks out there, but there’s no need to spend time on all — or even most – of them. For personal branding purposes, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook will be most worthwhile. Though it’s still pretty early to say whether — and to what extent — Google+ will catch on, Schawbel suggests setting up a profile regardless, since the site already has more than 20 million users.
When setting up your accounts, follow these guidelines:
Be a resource: In general, says Lisa Johnson Mandell, resident blogger for Aol Jobs and author of “Career Comeback–Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want,” you want to use social networks to position yourself not only as an expert, but as a resource. “On your own pages, like Twitter and Facebook and your blog, the more useful the information is, the better. If you’re helping colleagues, businesses and others in your field with tips, you’re going to look like a team player, and like you’re cutting edge and on top of your field. That’s the kind of person other people want to hire,” she says.
So, next time you read an informative article that relates to your field, share it on one of your social media accounts.
Create forward-looking profiles: You want your online profiles to position you for the career you want, not the job you have or most recently had, Schawbel says.
On LinkedIn, for example, this may mean changing your title from “associate at Boutique Interactive Agency,” to “Interactive marketing expert for small businesses.”
Similarly, if you’re trying to make a career or job change, your social media pages should reflect that. “Because of how the Internet works — it’s like the law of attraction — you’re going to attract the types of jobs that are reflected in your profiles, because when people put those keywords in, your profile will come up” Schawbel says. “If you don’t change your profiles and the way you’re positioned online, then you’re going to keep attracting jobs like your last one.”
Set up a professional Facebook page: “If you’ve got a very personal Facebook profile with a lot of friends, I suggest opening a second, professional Facebook page,” Mandell suggests. “Not a profile, but a page. This way, your professional page will also come up in a Google search, and it’s also another way to have a dialogue with people in your field.”
Participate on Twitter: Interaction is key if you want your job search to benefit from Twitter.
“[If you want to build a rapport with someone] follow them, retweet them, have conversations with them, and they’ll get to know your name and your face,” Schawbel says. “That’s the beauty of these networks: people see your face, they see your name and they see your comments. So when you end up emailing them eventually, maybe after a few weeks, they’ll already know who you are and they’ll probably respond to your email, which could turn into a potential referral or job opportunity.”
Use social networks for research: A lot of the benefit to be gained from social networks happens through personal interaction, but not all of it. Social networks — Twitter and LinkedIn especially (since many people set their Facebook profiles to ‘private’) — are also great research tools. “You can find out who works where and in what position,” Schawbel says. “Using LinkedIn or Twellow.com (like yellow pages for Twitter), you can search for ‘public relations in Boston’ or ‘operations in Cincinnati’ and you get people in different positions in different companies in those areas.”
From there, you can follow these people on Twitter, find mutual connections on LinkedIn, etc.
Offline, you’ll brand yourself in a more traditional sense, through tools like your elevator pitch, résumé and business cards.
Know your elevator pitch: “Having your elevator pitch down is important,” Mandell says. “A really good elevator pitch shouldn’t be more than 20 seconds; you should include your full name, what you do and how you help other people by doing it. If you’re a first grade teacher looking for a job, for example, you might say, ‘Hi, I’m Lisa Johnson Mandell, I’m a first grade teacher and I specialize in enhancing kids’ reading skills.”
Tailor your résumé: Your résumé should support and emphasize the core of your brand (what makes you different/better/special). Also, remember to make sure your résumé is consistent with your online profiles: dates, job titles and job descriptions should match up. In terms of visuals, keep a consistent look through your website, résumé and business cards, too.
Get a business card: “How many times do you meet someone and then you go to exchange information, and you’re writing on the back of a bank slip?” Mandell asks. That’s why, even if you’re currently unemployed, she suggests having business cards printed with your name, profession, tagline (which we covered in the first post) and contact information, including the URLs for your website and social media profiles. With business cards, whether you make a networking connection at a professional event or on the subway platform, you have your information neatly, professionally and instantly available.
A quick word of advice about business cards, though: avoid the freebies. “There are websites where you can get them printed for free, but if you have to pay a little extra to take that website’s advertising off the back, do that,” Mandell says. “That way, everybody doesn’t know you got them for free.”
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