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Tech Students Should Use Social Media to Build Professional Image

The smart use of social media for graduate students in today’s tech-centered job market extends to more than just cleansing your profile of any pictures from keggers during your last year of undergraduate. Instead, social media experts urge burgeoning academics and businesspeople to give thought to their personal brand image and extend it to their social media accounts.

Think of Yourself Like a Business

Your personal brand won’t just come to you overnight. You’re going to need to think about it. It should be as unique as you are, and have a completely positive connotation for potential bosses and colleagues. If you are taking an online masters health administration degree, clearly you’re going to have a different brand image than an electrical engineering student or MFA candidate. If you were a business, what would your mission statement be? What words would best describe you? Try to make a list of adjectives and verbs you think fit your mission statement and your goals. What colors would represent you? You’ll probably want some friends’ input, or that of a trusted advisor.

Stick With Your Brand

Once you’ve decided you’re more “nimble-minded” than “pragmatic” or more “family values” than “avant garde” you need to begin to apply your brand. Have a professional photograph taken or, if money’s tight, coerce a friend with a good camera to make a professional-quality image. A hint: black and white may look more “pro” than color images do. Be sure that you are looking at the camera, that your whole head and shoulders can be seen, that you appear confident, and that you’re dressed appropriately to your goals. It’s better to dress appropriately than to dress formally: if your goal after your MBA is to be a chef, wear a chef’s double-breasted jacket and not a business suit.

Now that you have your mission, your most appropriate verbs and adjectives, and your professional photo, start to apply these the same way a company would. Use your newportrait as your avatar on all social media accounts and on your email if your email platform supports it. Rewrite your profile biography blurbs using the verbs and adjectives you brainstormed to highlight your mission statement. Rework your posts to reflect your goals. Resist the urge to change your photo or bio on only one account: be consistent across the board.

Now check your resume and cover letter. Do they reflect your mission statement? Redo these and if you don’t have a LinkedIn account, start one. If you are already on LinkedIn, make sure that your resume and mission statement are portrayed here. While LinkedIn doesn’t have the fun factor of Facebook or Instagram, it is a useful tool when looking for work—or when you’re an employer looking for potential hires.

Keep Personal and Professional Separate

If you haven’t started already, graduate school is the time to create slightly different personas on your social media. Most of us use social media to communicate with friends and family as well as the wider world. It’s wise to make one of your social media platforms your most private and keep that one for personal use. That would be where you cheer on your favorite sports team, bemoan political happenings and post happy birthday notes to your best friends.

While these things, in moderation, are fine on a “branded” social media feed, the other things that you might want to put on your “branded” feed might annoy your friends and family. If you’re gunning for a job in marketing, you might want to start sharing links to articles about marketing and expanding your circles by following industry leaders and commenting on their posts. This communication is great for your career and interesting to you—but will your cousins in Oklahoma care? No, they just want to see the photos of what you ate for dinner—exactly what a prospective boss won’t want to scroll through.

Don’t Overextend Your Reach

A lot of people, especially when they are looking for work, overextend themselves on social media hoping for notice from a new employer. However, it’s best not to have your fingers in too many social media pies. If you like making videos, and are good on camera, then don’t hesitate to establish a YouTube account. But, if you find that you’ve only posted two or three videos after a few months, it might be better to take them down and concentrate your effort on one or two other platforms.

About the Author:

Sandra Harmon works in administration at a major health system in Massachusetts. She regularly leads workshops on personal branding and utilizing social media for professional pursuits.

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