Brand You! – Developing your online social presence.

Social mediaGoogle yourself – don’t worry, no one’s watching and I won’t judge you! Were you pleasantly surprised, alarmed or was everything just as you expected? Most of us think we have no social presence online because we do not have any social media accounts but that can be far from true. If your search yielded no results, is that what you really want? Whether you work in sales or not, we are all in the sales business. We are constantly selling our services – skills, expertise, experience – or products and to do this we need to NETWORK. Think of social media as networking with the biggest audience possible – the whole world. In this article, Amara shares how some of these social tools can be used to boost your professional presence and develop your unique and personal brand.

I  like to think of my social presence as not just how I present myself as a professional (and as a person) to the public but also how I am perceived by that public as well. Every time we interact with individuals or organisations, we create an impression whether we are immediately aware of it or not. This is true whether this interaction occurs face to face or online. Social media has become a powerful connection tool and I am constantly reminded of this by the number of guest articles we have received by people I have never met in person but have had the opportunity to connect with online or have just found The Aspiring Professionals Hub through Facebook or Twitter. 

So where to start? For ‘digital visitors’ like myself, I’ll share some examples of some tools and how we can use them to build an online social presence.

LinkedIn

Do you have a LinkedIn account? If no, why not? In my opinion, LinkedIn is the most important ‘place’ for aspiring professionals to be ‘seen.’ Think of LinkedIn as a Facebook for professionals. Your profile is akin to a CV and you are in control of what you choose to reveal or not. Establish a professional image by using an appropriate picture in your profile – no holiday snaps from the beach please! LinkedIn can be used to build connections with other professionals but just as important, you can follow organisations and join groups relevant to your field. There is virtually no discipline that is not covered by a group and if there isn’t one for you, why not start one? Are you naturally shy and find it difficult to walk up to someone at an event and introduce yourself? Look them up on LinkedIn and invite them as a contact. I always recommend adding a short note to the basic LinkedIn invite message introducing yourself. Be professional.

There are many recruiters on LinkedIn so your dream job may just be a new contact or updated profile away. Remember that all recruiters have to work with is your profile, so ensure you update regularly and truthfully. Joining your alumni’s LinkedIn group can help you develop relationships with alumni working at your target organisations who may be willing to offer advice and mentorship. Don’t ignore your LinkedIn page, share posts that you think are relevant to your contacts and within the groups you follow.

Twitter

Twitter could very well be one of the easiest and quickest ways of establishing connections and developing your online social presence. Using 140 characters at a time you can share what you’ve written, information you find insightful or you can follow that company you really, really want to work for, learn about different industries and global brands. For your professional Twitter account, I would recommend using your name in your handle, for example – @amaratweets, @emmanueladukwu, @AspProfHub) – so people associate your handle with your person. I have been pleasantly surprised when someone I have not ‘met’ before has walked up to me and said hello because they recognise me from Twitter. When writing a bio for your profile, make sure that people can understand what you do and not just who you are.

Whenever I attend a meeting or conference, I use hashtags to share information from speakers as well as connect with other attendees. Another way to interact with people in your discipline is to attend webinars and tweetchats. Don’t be shy, contribute to the conversation. Be nice, reply when people ask you questions or send direct messages, retweet what other people are saying. Don’t worry if you do not have many followers in the first 3 days, it takes time to build a network. This rule applies whether building a network face to face or online. You are building your brand – be careful what you tweet especially if you are tweeting on behalf of an organisation.

Facebook

A lot of us are already using Facebook to connect with our family and friends but it can also be a powerful professional networking tool. As of the first quarter of 2015, Facebook had over 1.44 billion active users and with this, the world can really be your oyster. I would advise that if you want to project your professional social presence using Facebook you maintain two separate personas.  I do not think there is anything suspicious about doing this. If potential employers are going to be checking job applicants on networking sites, it is in your interest to find a way to keep private things private. Alternatively, set your privacy settings to manage what you share with your ‘friends’ vs. your professional contacts.

Build your network by adding contacts, joining relevant groups and liking pages where you can connect with like minded professionals. I am learning how important it is now to not just be a silent observer but contribute meaningfully to conversations.

Blogging

Of course, I hadn’t forgotten. Blogging is a communication tool that can really allow you share your story. Everyone loves a good story, it doesn’t matter if you are sharing something personal or communicating your point of view on recent events. If you are a creative person, you can showcase some of your products on your blog. We all know people who have made millions off blogging. Like I said earlier, online, your potential audience is the whole world!

Know your audience and write for your audience. Don’t be afraid to mix things up on your website. Keep improving. Link your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to your blog and use social media to disseminate your work.

There are other tools like Google+, YouTube, ResearchGate. You don’t have to be involved with all of them. Find out what works for you and work it!

My rule when it comes to developing my social presence online is to be authentic and true to my values as well as being professional at all times. I try and practice #netiquette. Always have at the back of your mind that when it is online, it is forever. My mantra is, ‘if you don’t mean it, don’t post it!’ Project an image that you are proud of. It can be intimidating living in the ‘socialsphere’ but you can manage how much you put out there. In my next post, I will discuss some tips for managing your online social presence.

I am left wondering what the next decade will bring. Do you think a day will come – if it isn’t here yet – when our online social presence will mean just as much, if not more to employers than our CVs and personal statements?

HeadshotAbout our writer – After completing a PhD in Microbiology and Food Science,  Amara is developing her career in academia – providing teaching and learning solutions in UK FE and HE Institutions as well as conducting research in Food Microbiology. Amara believes in the combined power of education, mentoring and productive relationships as essential tools for building successful careers.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and subscribe to our network! Would you like to share an article in The Hub? We would love to hear from you. Please get in touch – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com

 

Reflections – My journey towards global relevance

Personal development? Professional development? – These are terms that we hear quite often but what do they really mean to you as an individual? Is it simply about developing your skills or does it entail something more? In this ‘Reflections’ piece, Blessing Obinaju expatiates on this topic by sharing her journey of personal and professional development.

Finding your feet in the murky waters of global relevance.’ I recently read this article again on The Aspiring Professionals’ Hub. I will refrain from rehashing the entire message of the article because I want to concentrate on these particular points;

Begin with the end in mind – This is our mantra on the Aspiring Professional’s hub. In your field of study, area of business interest or chosen career, is there anyone, business or role model in that position you aspire to be in worldwide? Knowing something about the journey to their attainment or achievement could be a starting guide for you to start a plan for your own global attainment. These days it is not so hard to learn about global figures when you have Google and in most cases these global stars are on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter or have personal websites.

Have a plan – of your own for that career, design, business or idea BUT with a global audience in mind. For example, if you are choosing a course at University, think broadly about how relevant that course is another country or even worldwide before deciding. If creating a business plan, can that business service a need in another town, state, country, continent beyond your current location? So we suggest in whatever your goals or targets, THINK GLOBALLY.

Finally, personal development is catching fire within Africa. I do remember when I made the decision to pursue a career in academia; I was in my third year studying for an undergraduate degree. I remember the responses I received when I mentioned I was going into teaching. I also remember that to most of my peers at the time, it was the joke of the century.

What is my point?

I was perhaps fortunate to have found my first footing in the murky waters – deciding for myself what I wanted and who I wished to become. It would have been easy to have abandoned that footing simply because it was criticized. Why didn’t I? Well, I wasn’t looking at the immediate moment, I was looking at the end goal, as the article aptly stated, I was beginning with the end in mind.

So, how did I crack on?

I was privileged to have had close relatives who were already in the field. Thus, it was easy to research the steps required to attain the height I envisioned. I devised my plan (including options for any derailment or obstacles) and relentlessly followed it. Of course, nothing ever goes strictly according to a laid out plot – it wouldn’t be life if it did. However, what happens when you have a plan is, there is a calculated margin of what I love to call “happen-stance”: occurrences that take you by absolute surprise, frustrate and completely throw you off your path. I’ am sure that some of you are stomping your feet at this moment and screaming ‘Provide us with a detailed breakdown.’  I won’t tease you longer. For those of you who are Nigerians, you will be able to follow the path more closely. I wouldn’t be an academic if this piece had no schematics. So, here’s the plan and I am happy to say I am currently in the last phase.

Image courtesy of Blessing Obinaju.
Image courtesy of Blessing Obinaju.

So, how has this impacted me, re: global relevance? First, one of my most cited papers as an academic is the very first article I published shortly after my M.Sc. This and the various presentations at conferences during the Ph.D., have been quite relevant to placing my feet firmly on the cobbled stones that help us cross the waters which divide relevance and insignificance. As an academic or an aspiring academic, you can never attend enough conference, workshops or seminars in your field. More importantly, my academic experience and my ability to continuously adapt my plans to fit my goals – despite challenges that the world would always throw my way –  resulted in a book – The DANCE of Life: A guide to living your best life every day. It has also opened opportunities to share my experience as a STEM ambassador for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network as well as in several other forums.

There were some critical control steps in my plan;

Location, location, location – Even though I gained my Master’s degree from a country other than that where I currently hold lectureship position, there was no debate over whether or not I should return to my home country upon completion of the degree. It was more of a forgone conclusion because I knew I was aiming for a lectureship position in my home country and that position would pay for the Ph.D.

Think long term – Notice that my very first job was a volunteer opportunity (yes, it was in Nigeria!). The point of this was, while I was job hunting for academic positions, the volunteer position which was still an education role, ensured that there was no gap period on my CV and I gained additional work experience.

My candid recommendation

Never underestimate the value of internships and do not overlook volunteer opportunities either. Just be certain that they are related to or somewhat impact on your end goal. It is also important to state that the most invaluable tool to really finding one’s feet within those waters is, an ability to constantly increase your bank of knowledge and not just in your area of certification. Being well-versed and well-read isn’t just an attribute of the rich and affluent – thanks to technology – everyone can be. It only takes being proactive and of course, actually desiring to reach your envisioned peak, whatever that is.

Blessing Obinaju is an Academic Researcher, Career Counselor, Life Coach and Image consultant. She works in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Uyo, Nigeria. She is also the Principal consultant at La Belle Vie, providing life coaching services to individuals. You can find her on Twitter @ObinajuBE.

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