So much of modern life is online. Whether it’s connecting with friends and family through messaging apps or video chat, online shopping, sharing snippets of your life on social media, or even just streaming your favourite TV shows and movies, everyone uses the internet to various degrees.
Once almost exclusively a tool for fun, social media has now become an integral part of feeling connected to your people and community.
It comes as no surprise, then, that being online and having a presence on social media can, sometimes, be a helpful tool when building a career.
According to Angela Burke, a career counsellor with more than 11 years’ experience, social media can “serve as a platform to showcase your skills, passion and experience”.
“Think of it like a portfolio: if you’re trying to build a career in creative or digital marketing and you run a social media account as a passion project, you’re instantly able to show the employer your portfolio of work through your social media,” she said.
“As a graduate, this could be what differentiates you from other candidates applying for a job.”
There are different ways a graduate can utilise the internet to show off their skills. Setting up your own website in which you update with projects you’ve completed, or events you’re taking part in, or even any clippings of media you’ve been featured in is an excellent way to appear professional and focused.
Blogs exploded in popularity in the early 2010s, and while they have somewhat been usurped by the ubiquity of social media, there is still a place for them for some careers.
If you want to be a writer, for example, having a blog of writing samples allows potential employers or publishers to have easy access to your writing style.
In short, not all social media platforms are created equal. What platforms you decide to use is really dependent on what you want to achieve by creating a personal brand.
It also depends on what industry you’re working in. LinkedIn, for example, is another excellent platform for professional networking, while X, formerly known as Twitter, is also an option to share and meet new people.
Ms Burke said: “Instagram and TikTok are the most popular social media platforms these days, particularly among the graduate demographic with the focus being on snappy, aesthetically pleasing video content.”
Those seeking to leverage social media to its truest potential should also keep up-to-date with the latest platforms. TikTok only rose to significant popularity in 2020, and three years later, its rise seems no sign of showing down.
Ensuring you constantly adapt to the latest on-trend things allows you the remain in the know and be seen as someone who is constantly at the helm of the zeitgeist.
But how do you ensure what you’re putting online will work to your benefit? Well, there are a few easy but simple tips to follow.
Consistent or regular posting is key to leveraging social media to its fullest potential, according to LinkedIn. Original content is also better than repurposing or resharing other people’s ideas.
Whether that be a graphic you’ve made yourself, a photo you’ve taken, a video you’ve created or some thoughts that you’ve put to paper.
Ensuring your profile picture is clear, well-lit and appropriate for the platform is also key to exuding professionalism.
If it is an account with which you want to connect with potential employers, then a picture of you lying on the beach is probably not the best message to send out. Instead, opt for a bright headshot that shows your face clearly.
Ensuring your account is up to date is also important. If it only features details of the part-time job you held when you were 15, that’s not going to provide much information to prospective employers.
Include details such as extracurricular activities or hobbies you partake in, as well as your most recent educational qualification and job experience.
Outside of sharing your own expertise and intellect, social media is also an excellent tool to meet new people, reconnect with people you once knew or even improve relations with people you’re somewhat familiar with.
According to Ms Burke, the potential for networking online is “powerful”.
“It’s a whole other world to be explored with an abundant potential for building contacts in the industry you want to work in,” she said.
“As a career consultant, I always encourage people to reach out and initiate a conversation with someone you feel you could learn from. You really never know where a ‘DM’ [direct message] could take you or your career.”
Being brazen is half the battle when it comes to connecting with people. You can’t be shy, and just need to put yourself out there. It is okay also to follow up a number of days later if you don’t get a response straight away. Everyone is busy, and a lack or reply doesn’t always imply a lack of interest.
Key to success
The key to success with online networking is to connect or follow accounts in the areas in which you’d like to work. Don’t just add everyone and anyone you come across. Be strategic, and curate your network to reflect the career your would like to build.
Connecting is only half the work, however. After that, you must engage with the community you have built.
Joining groups related to your field of work, will allow you to participate in discussions, ask for advice and share opinions. Responding to other people’s updates and statuses is also an excellent step.
Ensuring there is regular engagement will allow you to build relationships with other professionals, which is a necessary step when trying to increase your visibility among a specific demographic.
LinkedIn is also an excellent tool for those who are job hunting. Many employers post job openings on the site, and the format of the profiles, which are resemblant of CVs, allow users to apply directly to the postings.
Even if the job posting is not a role for which you are suited or interested, it is advised that job hunters still engage by liking, commenting, or sharing them.
This will show recruiters and hiring managers that you are on the lookout for work, which could result in them approaching you when a more suitable role arises and inviting you to interview.
Social media also allows individuals to research a company and its culture before applying for a job there.
Jobhunters should follow the company’s social media accounts, read their blog posts, news releases or articles and see what employees are saying about the company on social media.
Not only will that help you make sure that is somewhere you would like to work, but it will also better your understanding of the company’s culture, and, as such, tailor your application to match those values.
Not only is social a good way to start your career, but social media can also be a good way to restart your career. The world of work has changed dramatically over the past 20 years.
When previously people picked an industry at age 17 and worked in it for their whole lives, now it is much more common to change jobs and sectors a number of times throughout your career.
“Often clients will come to me explaining that they want to change direction in their career but lack the experience or skills required in the new job,” Ms Burke said.
“In these situations, I often suggest building their own experience and skills through a passion project and quite frequently, social media will have a part to play in this. It’s incredible the doors it can open for you when leveraged to its full potential.”
There are, however, also potential downsides to sharing too much on social media. This is where graduates and young people need to be particularly savvy.
Victoria Lawlor, a career consultant at Trinity Business School, said one of her biggest tips is for people who are using social media in a personal manner, to mark their profiles as private.
Nobody wants their bosses to know they were drinking Long Island Ice Teas until 3am on a Friday night, and so making sure they can’t access that content if that’s something you’re posting is the key to maintaining professionalism in the workplace.
“Also, being very aware, particularly in Ireland, that it’s a very small place and lots of people are connected to other people. Be careful not to badmouth colleagues or badmouth their boss on social media, because those actions will come back to bite them over time,” she said.
“Be very aware from a branding perspective that they are authentic in work and outside of work. If there are any issues, they should raise that in an appropriate way rather than giving out outside of work. That doesn’t help them or the company either.”
Ms Burke agrees, adding that it is important to post “mindfully”.
“As we all know that once something is posted online it can be seen by thousands within seconds and doesn’t disappear as quickly,” she said.
“Before posting, it’s worth asking yourself whether you’d be happy for your current or future manager or colleagues to see the content you’re posting. If the answer is ‘no’, maybe reconsider posting it.”
5 top tips for utilising social media
1. Set up a professional account
Many of us already have social media profiles, but if you’re intending to use one to establish a professional brand, then set up a new one with a clear, concise bio of who you are and a professional photograph of yourself.
2. Post regularly
You don’t need to post every day to have an effective social media campaign, but regular and consistent posts do keep you in the minds of recruiters and potential employers.
3. Demonstrate your expertise
If you are particularly knowledgeable about a certain topic or within a specific sector, demonstrate that through posts on the various platforms. Whether it’s video, photographs, or words, show off that knowledge to your connections.
4. Remain up-to-date
Keeping an eye on the latest social media trends or platforms is one of the best ways to remain connected with prospective employers and recruiters. There’s no point in being on platforms that other people are beginning to disengage from.
5. Be mindful
You don’t need to post your every thought and whim online. A carefully curated account of insightful or interesting posts is much more effective than more frequent interactions.