Social media is a great way of promoting your research and yourself. Whether you want an academic career or plan to explore other opportunities, you need to know what, when, how and why to make the most of social media and use it well.
You need to be an active contributor. It isn’t about posting your CV or profile and waiting for someone to approach you. You need to be creative and innovative in how you use it.
According to the Prospects website, 95% of graduate recruiters in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers for 2015/2016 used social media as part of their recruitment process. Many smaller companies only advertise on social media – it is usually free, quick to access and will directly reach those motivated by and interested in a particular field or sector.
It is common for organisations to do an online search to find out more about applicants and to see what their ‘digital footprint’ says about them. This can have both a positive and a negative effect. Employers have been known to withdraw offers on the basis of a negative social media presence that doesn’t convey a professional image. What you post and share can reflect your views, values and beliefs so make sure you are happy for this to be seen by a current or future employer.
What are employers looking for?
- You’ll be a good fit – will you gel with the existing team and do your values and attitude fit with the company culture?
- You’ve been honest about skills and experience –
- You’re creative – you might be using social media but are you using it in an effective, innovative and original way?
How to make the most of it
- Create a brand – use a consistent, professional username and image across all social media so that people will recognise you. Include work or research interests and your location.
- Be an active user – take the time to build extensive networks and connections, show how informed and engaged you are and contribute by posting content, asking questions and contributing to discussions.
- Apply your research skills – social media is a vast resource of first-hand information about individuals and organisations. Exploit it!
What do employers dislike?
- Discriminatory comments on issues such as race, gender, disability, sexuality etc.
- Negative comments about previous employers or colleagues
- Poor communication skills, punctuation, grammar and spelling
- Inappropriate photos and posts
- Swearing and offensive use of language
- Evidence of drug taking or excessive drinking
This type of activity is often what has led to offers being withdrawn!
What should I use?
LinkedIn is the best known and most extensive professional networking site. Use it to create an online profile that highlights your skills, experience and knowledge. Develop your connections with friends, colleagues and family and develop a wider network in your areas of interest. Join professional interest groups and contribute to discussions or post your own questions; this is evidence of your interest and knowledge of a profession or sector. Look at profiles of people doing roles that interest you to see how their career has developed. Follow employers that appeal to you and pick up their latest news and vacancies.
Highlight your research, post articles, ask and answer research questions and network with other researchers. You can also search for research jobs in and outside academia – and recruiters can search for you!
Join special interest groups, ‘like’ employers to receive updates and create a professional profile to demonstrate your research and experience.
Follow organisations and individuals, build networks and share resources, ideas and opinions.
Create a visual showcase of your research or skills. Companies are using Pinterest to represent their vision, values and ethics.
Demonstrate your writing skills through a blog by publishing your own research, opinions and ideas.
Upload videos about your research or experience which can form part of a creative networking and application strategy.
Social media platforms are constantly evolving so look out for other options that work for you. Most of these cross international boundaries enabling you to network globally but there are platforms such as Weibo www.weibo.com and Renren www.renren.com that are particularly popular in China.
Search for your name online and review what you find. Are you happy with the professional image that you convey? How could you develop this further? What are the best platforms for you to use? Try searching for someone successful in the career or research area that interests you. What is good about their online presence and how can you emulate that?