How we present ourselves online is extremely important both personally and professionally. Your social profiles and any websites or blogs that you maintain are your own form of branding, so, when searching for a new job, it is as important to hone your online presence as it is to work on your CV. Not only can your social profiles be used to highlight your skills and experience to prospective employers – enabling you to showcase why they should hire you – but they can also help you to build a network of contacts and to connect with others who will be able to assist you in your job search.
It is also worth remembering that employers rarely make a hiring decision these days without checking candidates out online first – this means that your profiles need to look smart, professional and respectable. Follow the steps below to ensure you have an online presence to impress in 2023:
1. SEPARATE YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTS
Creating a professional online presence doesn’t need to be hard – even if you are starting from scratch. Start by reviewing the profiles that you already have and decide whether you would like to share them with potential employers and future colleagues.
If your Facebook or Instagram account is for family and friends only keep it that way! While it can be useful to give the world a snapshot of your life, values and achievements you are under no obligation to share it. If you don’t want an employer to see personal photos and comments then either make your account private, or make use of the security settings available on the platform.
However, that does not mean that you can’t use the platforms in a professional capacity as well. If you have a passion or talent that you want to showcase but you don’t want to share your personal and family life, then set up a separate account and include a link to it on your CV and LinkedIn profile so that it can be found by recruiters and hiring managers.
If you do choose to keep your personal profiles public then you will need to spend some time tidying them up. You don’t need to frantically delete every personal post you’ve ever uploaded but you do need to be mindful about what content you are sharing or have shared in the past as it will all be visible. Make sure to delete any photos, statuses and comments that might cause you embarrassment or might not be suitable for a potential employer to read.
2. USE THE PLATFORMS THAT BEST SUIT YOUR CAREER
Though a LinkedIn profile is most important when it comes to finding a job and networking, every social media account has its own professional advantages. It’s worth taking the time to understand the characteristics and benefits of each platform to see which one works best for your professional needs. You might find that Facebook has the most relevant networking groups or that Instagram is the best way to convey your online persona and gives you more opportunities to connect and interact with other people. Or, you might find that Twitter is more aligned with your individual voice and style. Here are the key ways to use each platform:
Setting up a professional Facebook page can be a good way to differentiate your personal and professional profiles. Though, as Business Facebook pages are set up through your personal profile be sure to check your privacy settings so that you don’t inadvertently share too much information!
Facebook is a great platform for informal networking as many organisations, companies and regimental associations use Facebook to communicate and connect with their members and audiences. If there is a company or industry sector that you are interested in knowing more about or connecting with then it’s worth joining their Facebook groups. Don’t be put off by the fact that many of these groups are private –it’s actually a good thing if they are private as it ensures that the group is a safe space to network and discuss topics with others. If you want help knowing how to get started in the civilian world then why not join our SaluteMyJob VetsNet Facebook group where you can ask other veterans for advice.
There are many different ways that you can use Instagram in a professional capacity. You can use it to sell products, as a living portfolio showcasing work you produce, or, you can use it to tell a story about yourself, your professional journey or your passions and interests. Remember that as Instagram is image-led you’ll need to take care to use high-resolution images or you’ll risk looking unprofessional.
Instagram is also good for connecting with others and following what relevant companies are doing. Like and comment on posts of people and companies you admire to build up a rapport with them. You can even direct message people to start a conversation or ask for advice.
It can be helpful to set up a Twitter profile so that you can share news articles and snippets of things that interest you. If you’re looking to get into a particular sector it may be worth tweeting or retweeting about the industry and what interests you about it. Make sure you also spend time following organisations, industry leaders and experts so that you can stay up-to-date with what’s going on.
The benefits of a LinkedIn profile are almost endless when it comes to advancing your career. LinkedIn is the largest business-oriented networking website in the world and organisations expect potential employees to be on the platform. LikedIn allows you to demonstrate your professional achievements as well as your credibility, knowledge and expertise. When you are looking for a job, LinkedIn is not only a great place to connect with businesses and people in your target industry but it can also be useful as a research tool when you do land and interview. LinkedIn allows you to research people and companies so you can get to know who works for a business and what role they perform too. This means that you can research a company's hiring managers or whoever is interviewing you before you step through the door.
If you’re serious about finding a job, LinkedIn also has an interactive job board that allows you to search and apply for opportunities. And, on top of this it has an “open to work” tag that enables you to tell recruiters whether you are actively looking for a new role or not.
Don’t forget that you can also join groups on LinkedIn too. LinkedIn groups are a brilliant way to connect with people who have similar interests and career ambitions as you do. Participate in discussions to get noticed and to network with others that might be able to help with tips about your target industry – they might even be able to help you find a new job. The Gen Dit Network is a fantastic example of a networking group created for the Armed Forces Community that not only gives people the chance to network but also offers valuable advice and support.
3. CHOOSE YOUR PROFILE PICTURE CAREFULLY
Whether you keep your profile public or decide to make it private, your profile picture will still be on display and can be viewed by anyone. So, choosing the right profile photo is extremely important. Not only will your photograph be the first thing that potential employers see – especially on LinkedIn – but it will also help you to make the right first impression. Take time to type your name into google and check which images come up. Make sure you click through to the ‘Images’ section so that you can see every (publicly accessible) image that is associated with your profile.
When choosing a profile picture for your professional profiles make sure that it is crystal clear, current and smart. Avoid the temptation to crop a holiday picture or to upload a quick selfie. We recommend getting a professional photograph taken, or if your budget won’t stretch to that, ask a friend or colleague to take a headshot of you using a good quality camera.
4. CREATE / UPDATE YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE
Having a strong LinkedIn profile is just as important – if not more important – than having a good CV. So, if you are a jobseeker and want to only maintain one online account make sure it’s LinkedIn. Recruiters actively use LinkedIn to source the best candidates for their roles, so you need to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date with a current photograph and information about your employment history, skills and accomplishments. For tips on how to make your LinkedIn as smart and as ‘civvy-friendly’ as possible read our step-by-step LinkedIn guide for military veterans.
LinkedIn has a variety of tools and features that makes the process of looking for – and being found for a job – easier. One of the most useful is the “open for work” tag. Turn this on to notify recruiters and organisations that you are actively searching for a new role to ensure you come up in their searches. This feature can be used in two ways: either you can turn it on secretly so it only notifies people using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool, or you can turn it on publicly in order to let all your connections know that you are on the lookout for your next opportunity.
5. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Once you’ve updated your online profiles, it’s time to get networking. There are so many different ways that you can connect with people on the internet so how you go about this is up to you. If you are looking for a job opportunity or to connect with industry professionals then LinkedIn is the best place to start. Look up organisations and companies that you are interested in working for and try to connect with employees in order to ask what it’s like to work at the company and whether there are any job opportunities. Most people won’t accept an invitation to connect out of the blue, so you will need to work on your approach and send them a message explaining why you want to connect with them. Target ex-military people if possible as they will understand your situation and will be more open to helping you and giving you advice.
If you would prefer to connect with a community then joining a group on Facebook or LinkedIn would be a better place to start. Social networking groups are a great place to learn more about an industry. People in groups are really open to answering questions and discussing industry topics, so if you want to know more about a certain subject then join a group and ask away!
Though social media platforms are designed for networking, you don’t have to use them to connect with like-minded people. Many military associations are set up with networking platforms that allow you to connect with other Service leavers and veterans from your regiment. And, there are other websites that have been set-up to help you in specific sectors. For example, TechVets offers online community support to ex-military people who are transitioning into the cyber sphere and military spouse network Milspo connects entrepreneurial military spouses/partners who have, or are settling up, their own businesses.
6. KNOW WHAT TO SHARE ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL PROFILES
What you share and how you share it will depend on your personality and the industry you work in. While you should keep things professional, the content you share does not have to be strictly business-related. Share things that interest you – this could be news articles, quotes, images or pieces that you have written and want to promote. Don’t be afraid to show a bit of personality or a sense of humour – if you can convey that you are professional but that you’re also a fun people-person then all the better! Employers want to know who you are as well as what you can do.
Though social media can be a huge asset to your professional development it doesn’t come without a few risks too. So, make sure you don’t tarnish your professional reputation by complaining about a current or past employer on your profiles, publishing confidential information or expressing discriminatory views.
7. MAINTAIN AND KEEP YOUR PROFILES UP-TO-DATE
Social media is a great way to sell yourself. However, you won’t do yourself any favours if you don’t keep your content up-to-date. You need to actively manage your social channels – especially LinkedIn – in order for people to know about your new skills, how you recently achieved a significant career goal, or any other achievements. Not only will this keep your profile looking professional but it will show recruiters and potential employers that you are organised and driven.
8. CREATE A PERSONAL BLOG OR WEBSITE
A personal blog or website is a big commitment so it’s really only worth doing if you want to develop your professional brand further, or are thinking about setting up your own business. If you do want to invest time – and possibly money – into developing your own site you’ll first need to decide what your USP is. After that, you’ll need to plan and create what sort of content you’ll be sharing. Though it takes more upkeep than your social media profiles a blog or a website – or even an online resume or portfolio – can help you become a voice of authority in your field and will also help you to get noticed.
As we all become more reliant on technology and social media the need for a well-developed professional profile becomes more important. Maintaining a high level of professionalism online will not only help you to stand out from the crowd when you apply for jobs, but it will also help to make the company you work for look better! In short, a strong online presence makes you more hireable, so think of time spent optimising your social media profiles as an investment in your future career.