...And Do I Actually Need An Online Presence?

...And Do I Actually Need An Online Presence?
by Kit Warchol
September 01, 2016
WEEK 1 / DIGITAL PRESENCE 101
This article is part two of our Digital You Month, a collaboration with Squarespace.
So we've established you need a digital presence. But that isn't the hard point, is it?
The real question is: how much of a digital presence do you need? For some, the answer’s fairly obvious. If you’re a freelance writer or graphic designer, your online presence is everything. But what if you’re working in a “corporate” position, whether that’s finance or marketing?

First things first: consider what type of professional you are 

 
Web design. Illustration. Branding. Writing. Editing. Copywriting. Whatever it might be, when we say “creative” during this series, that means you.

For you, your creativity, eye for trends, and artistic skills play a large role in the sort of work you do (or what you want to do). That means that your presence will inevitably focus on your style, whether that’s written or visual or whatever. 

What If I'm Not Exactly a "Creative," but I Work Creatively?

You may be one of those people who doesn't quite fall into the creative category, but you want to treat your online presence creatively. Maybe you're in marketing, and you'd like to show off your campaign results in a visual way. Or maybe you're trying to break into consulting in your field and need to show of your best work. For those of you "in-betweens," you'll need to focus on your goals more than your official role. 
 
Throughout this series, when we say “corporate,” we mean the sort of job where you go into an office each day, and you work with others in a specialized field that’s maybe not so artistic. Now, don’t get us wrong. We’re sure you’re creative. It's just that the way you'll design your "digital you" is a bit different. 

Let's say you work at an ad agency as a project manager. Chances are you need your online presence to demonstrate skills that aren’t particularly visual. Maybe that’s your ability to manage teams or complete projects within project scope. Or if your goal is to land a job as an operations specialist at a non-profit, you’ll want to show clear results—like that $5,000 grant you helped score during your internship at the Clean Air Foundation.

But If I'm "Corporate," Can't I Just Use LinkedIn? 

We're so glad you asked. LinkedIn. The beast, the burden, the best way to catch a recruiter's eye.

In short: every professional should have a LinkedIn profile. But here's the longer answer: LinkedIn is not the end-all-be-all of digital presence. What about other social media accounts? 

If you're not a creative, chances are you may prefer to keep your Facebook or Instagram private, and that's alright. Just disregard our advice below regarding those platforms. If you'd like to expand your online presence, though, considering a more public strategy (where you, say, tweet regularly about your industry) is worth considering.

Regardless of your stance on social media privacy, you'll want a personal site, too, just like your creative counterparts. Why? For three reasons: 
  1. It helps you do you. Every LinkedIn profile looks the same, and your resume looks like every other resume in that pile. By creating a personal site, you humanize yourself. You make yourself into a brand, one that's memorable because suddenly you stand out from the monotonous Times New Roman one-pagers. That's more than worth the price of site hosting. 
  2. It lets you "spin" your story. LinkedIn doesn't allow for much personal storytelling (besides the LinkedIn summary). If you have unique skills or experience or you'd like to move in a new direction in your industry, using a personal site to strategically play up your best assets is key. 
  3. It demonstrates that you're tech savvy. Get it, girl. By creating a personal site, you've just proven to everyone that you're serious enough about your career to put time and effort into spotlighting it, but also that you're on top of digital trends, learning new programs and platforms, and just generally tuned into all that online sh*t. 

now consider your career goals

We're all going down this digital presence road together—but one size doesn't fit all. Instead, let your career goals guide you. They'll help you determine on what areas to focus your attention and energy. Start by considering which of these categories most closely aligns with your current state:
 
Kudos, kid, you’ve got a clear, actionable goal. If you’re a new grad looking for a first job or you’re drive-off-a-cliff-Thelma-and-Louise-style hating your current job, you have some pretty clear requirements for your online presence. Everything you do publicly online should reflect well on your professional self and make you a more appealing candidate. 

Social Media

Time for a big clean up. Update your LinkedIn profile immediately (because hello, recruiters).  Next, do an audit of your other social media accounts to make sure there are no photos of you getting hammered at this year’s 4th of July parties. It’s not cute. And lastly, make a list of companies you’d love to work for and start following them on every social media channel you can. Engage with their posts often, and of course, keep an eye peeled for any Instagram “We’re hiring!” call-outs.

Personal Site

You'll want one. Regardless of whether you’re in a creative or corporate industry, having a URL where you can keep all your information is a sneaky way of outshining your competition. We’ll cover what to include on that website next week, but for now decide on your URL (pro tip: if you're using Squarespace, you can buy the URL through them when you're ready to go live). Once you've built your site, you'll definitely want to list it on your resume. 
 
This is the catch-22 of the career world. Let’s say you’re in finance, and you desperately want to move into marketing. All that hard-earned experience on your resume doesn’t do much for you, so you need to find a way to highlight what you can do in your desired field. But how are you supposed to demonstrate skills you’ve never used? Cue your digital presence.

Social Media

OK, aspiring industry-hopper, start by following professionals in your desired field on social media immediately and (more importantly) comment and engage on what they post. On LinkedIn, read and share articles related to your new industry and do some research on people in your field in positions you find appealing. Reach out to them to see if they have time for a quick informational interview. It’s not as pushy as it sounds—most people want to share their stories if you ask them nicely. And offer to pay for coffee.

If you’re interested in going into a creative field? You better believe what your Instagram grid looks like counts. Curate your presence to show who you are, what you like, and the way you think. You may not have the direct work experience, but if you’ve got vision, that matters—a lot.

Personal Site

You’ll want one. More than that, though, you’ll want to use it strategically to show what you’re capable of beyond your work experience. Creating a blog to showcase your abilities in your desired field is a great way to start branching out. When a friend of mine left the magazine world in 2012, she decided she wanted to move into the fashion industry. Keeping a blog of trends that she admired and vintage inspiration played a large part in her getting a job in concept at a major California brand—in fact, it was the first thing her interviewer asked her about. The same applies to any industry. If you're looking to make a major switch, your personal site should probably include a blog of all the things you’re reading, seeing, and doing related to your target field.
 
Chances are you probably already know you need a social media presence, right?

Social Media

Building relationships with clients and/or customers is key for you, and social media is the perfect platform to advertise your work. Make sure all your accounts represent your personal brand.

One note: a lot of creatives don’t bother with LinkedIn—and that’s a big mistake. Skipping the platform means you'll automatically cross off countless potential clients. Larger companies and corporations are huge LinkedIn fans, and their recruiters will often use it to find potential contractors or freelancers. Imagine if you were to miss the opportunity to work with a big client simply because you didn’t have an account. You're too savvy for that.

Personal Site

Your site should be formatted as a portfolio that showcases your work, whether that’s writing or editing, design or ceramics. None of these fields are all that different.

You’re selling yourself, and you’re selling a product, so be professional about it. You never want to say “Oh, if you look at my Instagram, some of my work is on there.” Amateur hour. Instead, use your personal site to collect all of your work in one place. It’s a convenient way to make it easy for potential clients to find all your information (including a CV, typically), and it makes it clear you’re on top of your sh*t—a key trait in the far-too-often-flakey freelance world.

One last thing: Do. Not. Forget. To. Update. And do it often.
 
One word: foresight. The upside of having an online presence is that you don’t have to actively pursue anything. But once you have a strong digital presence, you never know what might come your way. Plus, having all this stuff in place means you’re prepared for the worst (layoffs—bleak).

Social Media

Keep it updated, keep it active, keep it edited—maybe especially since you’re gainfully employed. Don’t put anything on there that your boss won’t like to see. For LinkedIn, any time you finish a great project or learn a new skill, add it. This ensures that you won’t forget about it later, and that you won’t have to do as much work pulling everything together if you ever do decide to job hunt. It’s like that whole “Clean as you go” mantra people have when cooking.

Personal Site

Not a bad idea. Personal sites don’t need to be monolithic entities—they can be a single cover page with your name, a personal summary, and links to relevant social media. You can skip uploading a CV and resume for now (but definitely consider a portfolio if you’re in a creative field). It's still a good idea to get something out there. That way, you’re building presence by doing…pretty much nothing. It’s like digitally investing in your future.
 
Start by taking a critical eye to your social media accounts. We’ll be back next week with help on how to create that personal site we keep raving about. Want to do some extra credit? While the type of site you create depends on your goals and your industry, one Squarespace template does not fit all. Before you pick, try our quiz to help you determine the site design that best suits your needs.
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This article is part of our Digital You Month. Don't forget to use our special code CONTESSA to get 10% off your Squarespace site. 
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