If I Googled you or looked you up on social media, what would I find? A personal website? A Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile, an Instagram page? Nothing? (Except maybe a bunch of other people with the same name as you?)
This is something you should be thinking about if you’re looking for a job, because potential employers are going to look for you online, especially on LinkedIn, and you want to make sure that they like what they see. If you already have an online presence, great. If you don’t, consider creating one.
Estimates for the number of employers who search for job candidates online hover between 60% – 80% – and it probably does depend on the industry. Someone looking for a manual labour position probably needs less of an online presence than someone looking for a marketing director position, who in turn needs less of an online presence than someone looking for a content manager position.
But most everyone can benefit from having something of themselves online. In many cases, if an employer can’t find anything about you, they might just move on to the next candidate.
People want to know you before they meet you
We now live in a world where people are accustomed to seeing you and getting a sense of who you are before even meeting you – If nothing comes up when they search, it can seem odd, like you don’t exist. An online presence can tell them what sort of person you are, what your interests are outside of work, and whether you will fit with their workplace culture. It can make you look engaged, motivated, and enthusiastic, and provide information about you that isn’t in your cover letter or resume. And, like it or not, employers want to know what you look like (though they will almost never admit it). This is an opportunity for you to put your best foot forward and to create a positive image of yourself for employers.
Choose your platform wisely
At the very least you must have a LinkedIn profile, with a flattering and professional picture of yourself, your work history, skills, and connections. LinkedIn is the most likely place for an employer to look for you. Other places they might to look include Twitter and Instagram.
Facebook is another place an employer might look. Yes, you can easily limit who can see your information on the site, but the world is small, and in some industries, it can be downright tiny. So, there is always a chance that an employer can find you on Facebook through someone you know.
If you are self-employed or looking for a job in marketing, design, or a related media field, a personal website with a portfolio is a good idea. Note that your competitor probably has such a website, and if a potential employer finds theirs but not yours, you might get immediately relegated to the slush pile.
Of course, maintaining your online presence is work. Once you set up pages and accounts, you need to update them regularly. An Instagram or Twitter account that has been sitting idle for six months looks lazy and can make people question your follow-through.
It’s also important to keep your connections as up-to-date as possible. If you have any previous managers, colleagues, or connections that wouldn’t have – at the very least – a neutral impression of you, you might want to consider removing them from your profile. It would be better to have slightly fewer connections and a smaller network than to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for recruiters to follow to a former coworker who might – for whatever reason – have a negative impression of your work.
An online presence allows you to network with those in your industry
Networking is another magical function of social media. You can connect with managers, directors, and others in your industry, get chatting, and form friendships that can lead to job opportunities. Amazing, right?
All you have to do is say hello. Keep your eye out for anyone asking for answers to industry-related questions or help that you are capable of providing. Being helpful is an easy way to get people to warm to you.
But be careful out there
Finally, however, be aware that, when created and maintained badly, an online presence can hurt as much as it can help.
It’s best to avoid obviously controversial topics like politics and religion – unless you’re willing to live and die by our opinions, even if they cost you opportunities. And, under no circumstance should you make potentially offensive comments or jokes, insult anyone, or get into arguments or flame wars. Ever. Always be polite and respectful.
- update regularly
- keep information current
- be friendly and engaged
- be helpful
- put your best face online and be on your best behaviour
- Discuss potentially controversial subjects
- Insult or offend anyone
- Get into arguments
A well-designed and maintained online presence will be a big asset to your job search, and it’s easy to create.
You can get started right now.