The great thing about the Internet is that everything you ever wanted to know is available at any time, day or night, forever. This is great when you want a reaction mechanism or to look up a paper, but how does this apply to people?
There is also a huge amount of information about YOU on the internet, some of which may surprise you. With more and more employers conducting background checks online, it’s more important than ever that your online persona reflects the best possible you. Below are a number of ways you can make sure your online persona includes your professional side, presented in the best possible light.
No matter what social networking site you’re using (ACS Network, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) you almost always start by creating a personal profile. This profile provides all kinds of information about you, which is easily searchable by others. While not all of the sections below are on all sites, the general rules apply to all.
If you haven’t heard, LinkedIn is a social network for professionals – think of it as Facebook for your colleagues, not your confidants. It is the first place most recruiters and hiring managers go these days when they are looking to hire someone. If you are looking for a job, or plan to ever look for a job, you need to have a presence there. Furthermore, your LinkedIn profile is highly likely to be your future employer’s first impression, so you need to put in the time to make it shine – and then continue to keep it updated throughout your career.
To fill in your professional profile, start by copying and pasting the appropriate sections from your resume (you do have a current resume, don’t you?), then edit. There are no page limits online, so you can expand on your accomplishments, but remember the goal is to intrigue the reader into contacting you for more information. Automated searches will usually look for nouns (chemist, manager), while humans tend to search for verbs (analyzed, managed), so include both in your descriptions. If you’re not sure what keywords to include, look at job board postings for the types of positions you are interested in (and qualified for), and use the same keywords.
If you’re going to include a photo, use a current, professional-quality headshot, with a simple background. While some people omit the photo fearing age discrimination, including one personalizes your profile, and may remind people of whom you are.
LinkedIn allows you to include recommendations, or paragraphs that other people write about you (like a letter of recommendation). On the order of five to eight recommendations, ideally from a mixture of supervisors, colleagues, and direct reports, is good. You initiate the process by requesting a recommendation from a connection. The text is sent to you and you can approve it for posting, or not, but cannot change the content. You might ask for recommendations when you are leaving a company or upon completion of a highly successful project.
One of the most important items in your profile is the headline, that 120 character tag line that goes with your name everywhere on the site. You want it to be a concise summary of who you are and what you can do. Don’t just use your job title, and definitely don’t use “Seeking position”. Think carefully about how you want others to see you, and your capabilities.
Once you have a perfected profile, start connecting with your fellow professionals. Spend a minute or two personalizing the request – don’t use the generic one. Regularly add people you meet at conferences or talks, and comment on their status updates or answer their questions. Periodically download your entire network to your personal address book (there’s a button to “export connections” on the Connections page on LinkedIn), so even if the Internet disappears tomorrow, you’ll still have the information.
None of this is exceptionally difficult, or even really time-consuming in the long run. The habit of keeping your online profile current, and paying attention to your entire professional network, not just those who are physically near you, will pay enormous benefits over the course of your career.
This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants LLC. Lisa is a freelance technical writer/editor and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists: New Formulas for Chemistry Careers,” published by Oxford University Press.