When you left service, you were likely encouraged to create online profiles so others can find you and share opportunities with you. Were you shown how to set the tone and messaging of those profiles so they stand out?
When recruiters, hiring managers and colleagues search for you online, what do they find? Do they see someone who is focused, driven, experienced and ready to work? Or, do they see profiles that reflect you as vague, uncertain and lacking?
Social media offers us the amazing opportunity to showcase our talents and promote ourselves to a 24/7, global audience. The reach of tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are mindboggling! Using these tools to your advantage and being specific, intentional and still genuine are what make your profile stand apart from the millions that look and sound just like you.
To make your online profile stand out, follow these rules:
- Represent yourself genuinely Social networking necessitates authenticity. Misrepresenting yourself online never gets you where you want to go; being genuine and approachable will serve you much better. That said there is a line between authentic and over sharing. If your online profiles relay your deepest thoughts, passions and fears, you might turn off recruiters and potential employers. Represent your goals and vision authentically, but remember that social media does not mean you have to tell audiences everything about you. Save some information for the interview!
- Be specific about who you are targeting Building your personal brand and being attractive to recruiters and employers who are looking for someone like you means you have to be strategic. Have a clear picture of the target companies, communities and individuals you want to know online. For example, if your goal is to build visibility with employers in the healthcare industry, you'll focus on groups on LinkedIn where they participate and learn all you can about the conversations they share, the research they read and the influencers they follow.
- Pay attention to the profile photo Does your LinkedIn profile picture show you in uniform and you transitioned out three years ago? That could send the impression you never really left (emotionally). Or, if you show your wedding photo or a picture of you and your family, it could indicate you don't understand that LinkedIn is a business site, not a social platform. Project an image of the person who is already in the job you are seeking. If you're pursuing an office job in a professional environment, you'll dress accordingly by wearing a suit or dress shirt and tie. Looking to work in technology in Silicon Valley? Then wear more casual clothes in your profile photo to show you would fit in there. Your profile picture can tell a potential employer a lot about you – how you look, your attitude, and confidence come through in the image you choose.
- Use sites like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest wisely It's easy to consider some sites more "social" and therefore less important or relevant to employers and recruiters. Quite the contrary! Many recruiters tell me they scour a variety of social media when evaluating a candidate in order to get an accurate representation of how they behave online. It is expected that we will polish up our presence on LinkedIn, and many people make the mistake of being overly casual and inappropriate on other sites.
- Nothing you post is private While your Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest friends likely enjoy your playful, humorous and outspoken side, remember that NOTHING you post online is private – a potential employer can see your comments, images, and posts. Ask yourself before you hit "enter" on the keyboard: "Could this comment, photo, update or share offend or upset someone? Does it show me in an unflattering light?" If so, save it for a conversation over coffee.
- Update your online content regularly It's critical to stay top-of-mind with your online contacts. Sending an update to your status and groups every few days or weekly ensures your name stays in front of them. You never know when they are looking for someone just like you! When you consider what to post, include: Updates on your career, professional interests or business, links to articles, blogs or news that would interest and inform your network, comments or ideas, celebrations, news about trends, happenings and topics of interest that relate to your business, industry or professional circle of influence.
- Get (strategically) connected When you know your target audience, you need to connect with them online. Sending a request to a professional contact or colleague is easy with LinkedIn. If you know the person well, send the invitation. If you do not know the person well, be sure to personalize the invitation beyond the default language the system generates. Identify where you met them, how you know them ("we share a common interest in environmental sustainability," or "we both worked for XYZ Company") so the recipient can quickly identify the connection. A personalized invitation is always preferred to the standard default message; "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn."
- Use all the available profile features. LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to fill out a robust and informative profile. Take advantage of as many of the apps and plug-ins as make sense for you. For instance, include a Summary of your experience in your Profile. Be sure this isn't just resume-content. Use the Summary to describe who you are and what you do (what are you passionate about?) Include your past career experience – not as a resume. What were your successes at that job? What contribution did you make? What did you learn? What did you enjoy the most? On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, consider using the header and sidebar to describe your experience, expertise and goals. This proves much more focused and productive than posting a photo of your boat or kids! Use the features on these sites to show prospective contacts who you are, what you can offer and which opportunities you are pursuing.
Similarly, apply discretion to accepting invitations to connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Most of the time, invitations will come to you from people who see a mutually beneficial professional relationship with you, or appreciate your posts and comments and would like to be connected. There are, however, spammers and companies/people who use these platforms to build databases and send junk messages. I recommend you review and evaluate each invitation and weigh the merits of the connection for yourself rather than connect with just anyone who wants to link with you.
The online community offers a rich and robust platform for engagement, learning and personal promotion. Be careful about just jumping in without a plan or posting content you haven't vetted. Your reputation is too valuable to leave to chance!