A few years ago, I started getting all these email invitations to join something called “LinkedIn.” I initially ignored these invites, as I loathed the idea of getting sucked in to yet another social network. Eventually, I relented and created a very rudimentary profile with very little information and no picture. I didn’t want more of my personal information floating around the internet for those creepy Spokeo.com-type sites to find. Having any sort of private life outside of the web is hard these days and, as I soon learned, putting yourself out there for everyone (and probably future anthropologists) to see is encouraged, if not required, when you are trying to find a job today.
When I began my online job search this summer, I realized that many applications asked for links to various social networking profiles. They wanted to know your Twitter account, your LinkedIn profile, your *ahem* blog URL. At that time, I didn’t have a blog and both my Twitter and LinkedIn profiles were private.
Eventually, I decided to put myself out there. After all, you don’t want to seem like you are hiding something. Now, I am not an advocate of employers having access to private social networking profiles. There has to be some distance between work and a person’s personal life. However, I have learned that branding yourself through intentional public profiles is a good thing.
So, I chose a picture that I thought looked nice, even though it was not professional quality, and I posted a very rudimentary version of my résumé. I had very few connections at the time, so I clicked through some suggested friends just so I could expand my network a little.
Now, fast forward to about six months later. I began to give some serious thought to the whole personal branding thing. If I was putting myself out there to be scrutinized by anyone with internet access, I needed to look the part I was trying to play. In that sense, LinkedIn became a sort of virtual job interview. So, I changed my picture to a professional headshot and began to tweak the content of my profile. I added links to my newly-created social networking profiles, began to follow the groups of organizations I belong to, and started following companies I was interested in. I also created what I think is a pretty solid summary of my skills and career aspirations. Before I knew it, my LinkedIn profile became a pretty good representation of me.
The next step was learning how to use it to my advantage. Tune in to part two to see how I have done that.