What would you do if you were on a 7-day cruise heading north to Alaska with no internet? I spent it building my web portfolio with a breathtaking view of glaciers in the background.
It was 2009, just 6 years after LinkedIn launched and 3 years after Twitter. LinkedIn was still unheard of among students and was only used exclusively by less than 50 million “Professionals” (in comparison to 257+ million today). Luckily, the School of Interactive Arts and Technology was big on portfolios and encouraged us to create one to show off our projects. So instead of lounging around and whale watching all day, I decided to make my portfolio and think of ways to get on the digital wave and build my online presence.
Shortly after, I applied for a few Co-op jobs for the first time and interview offers started coming in. I worked at SFU Career Services as Special Projects Assistant for 8 months, then at Olympic Broadcasting Services as Logistics Assistant, and finally at HootSuite as a Community Ambassador and Graphic Designer. All of this was done while finishing my degree. I had no idea how powerful having an online presence and a physical portfolio really was and have been encouraging my friends, senior students, and recent graduates to start their own.
There’s 7 billion people in the world today and the job market is becoming more and more competitive. Although I’ve only been working for a few years now, I can feel the shift. Depending on the industry, experience alone might not get one a job. Instead, it’s the combination of many things, such as connection and online persona.
Everyday I go through a number of profiles online as a part of my role as the Global Ambassador Lead at HootSuite. I scan through people’s Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other links I can find about them before I onboard them as an Ambassador. Most of the time, they’re easy to find, but once in awhile, when I can’t search for someone online (with a heavy heart) I put them into the “no” pile.
I’m not the only one that does this. In fact, a recent survey by JobVite reports that approximately 93% of recruiters are likely to look at a candidate’s social profile and 42% have reconsidered a candidate based on content viewed in a social profile. That’s a whopping number! Social recruiting has grown so much and has seen universal adoption across industries and so there’s no reason why one shouldn’t be building their personal branding and online presence today.
Just last October, I gave a talk at TEDxKids@BC about online presence. I broke it down to three key components:
Name: It’s important to choose a name that’s easy to remember, spell, and reflects one’s personality well. Make it easy for recruiters to find you and combat everyone else that might have the same name as you.
Quality: Social media is a double edged sword and it is what one makes it to be. Be the best version of you online and mesmerize people with your great photos, inspiring posts, and engaging tweets.
Story: We don’t have to sit around waiting to be discovered. Social media provides this opportunity for us and it’s up to you how you want your story to be written.
While I prepared for this talk, I thought back to my time on the cruise and a lot has changed since then. For one, I changed my online alias from “mdstephanierw” to “stephawie” and I focused more on creating quality content, rather than writing random rants online. But the purpose never changed: I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to be searched. I wanted to be found.
To this date I still get ‘random’ email / tweets complimenting my portfolio or something else I did online. In 2013 alone, my portfolio got over 1800 unique visits. That’s crazy considering I didn’t do anything to promote it. What started as my way to distinct myself against other candidates has really made me shine over the years and helped bring many great connections.
Whether you’re currently in school or not, looking for jobs or not, it’s never too late or too early to start your personal branding online. Personal branding doesn’t happen overnight and it requires a lot of tweaking, but when you let your brand grow with you, amazing things happen. You’ll get more than what you first expected, so don’t wait a second longer. Open new and revamp your current social media accounts, create a portfolio or blog highlighting your skills, and surround yourself with amazing people both online and offline. Make personal branding your way to say “Hello world, this is me”.
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