You are Your Brand: job searching is your p.r. exercise

by Christina Wilson, Head Editor of INALJ Alberta and INALJ Manitoba

You are Your Brand: job searching is your p.r. exercise

ChristinaWilsonIn the olden days, perhaps 7 years ago, it was important to dress for success when attending a job interview, a library conference or a professional meeting, in order to present to the world, and potential new employers, your professional image. I’ve witnessed many colleagues, both male and female, when seeking to be perceived differently in an organization undergo a physical image makeover to achieve success or career change. Of course, they were already proficient in the requisite skills of the career being sought, but went the extra mile and got trendier glass frames, a new wardrobe, shaved the beard, grew the goatee and ditched the bangs to become an updated version of themselves.

Nowadays, we must manage our images on two platforms: our physical and virtual selves. In our ubiquitous world populated with a plethora of social media tools, career success also means managing both your online image as well as your physical one. Social media tools are powerful aids to new library and information sciences job seekers, but the increasing pressure to continually engage in online activity with a goal to impress potential employers can be exhausting. To keep on top of it all and have fun in the process, think of yourself as the celebrity. Of course, it means you’re also your own personal agent, unless you can pony up the cash to hire an image consultant, who will figure out your colours, best hair style to suit your face, body shape and clothing to suit and advise you on social media tools, etiquette and presentation. Online reputations consultants abound and can help you build a great online presence.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and participating in various blogging sites are all effective ways to extend your reach, build a network and demonstrate knowledge of, and a passion for, the library and information profession. Moreover, you walk the walk. Employers working in the information management sector seek employees with demonstrated facility with social media tools. Your ability to present yourself and your ideas online can be persuasive.

The challenge for job seekers is to keep up with these various tools and invest the time in learning, honing and updating your numerous profiles across several platforms. Equally important is to manage your online presence. Set your online boundaries and stay within them, for example, keep posts and conversation threads civil, beware the untoward and unflattering pictures and ensure that everything said about you is positive good. Avoid discussions that might hurt your career. Even if you are safely employed, work to keep your online reputation and presence, professional, positive and squeaky clean.

While this appears to be a lot to manage for job seekers, people in our field have an advantage for the norms governing a civilized, positive personal online presence are the same guidelines that we uphold as library and information professionals. In other words, modern society. And we are experts in his area, able to model positive and socially healthy online behaviours. I hope that if more of us get out there, the more civilized virtual society will become.

There’s also an economic reason to monitor and maintain your positive and healthy online presence. Employers investigate applicants and use personal websites, blogs and social media to help inform their hiring decisions. Job seekers who use common sense will help maintain an impressive online reputation. A few tips to help your inner PR manager on top of their game include:

  • Stay active on social media to help maintain quality search results.
  • Match the tools to you so that you can showcase your professional knowledge and interests that reveal positive elements of your experience.
  • Update often so potential employers/colleagues see exactly what you want them to see.
  • Google yourself regularly (images, too)! Know what else is out there. Don’t just look at the first page of search results, but also go through second and third pages too. It’s unlikely an employer will look past the first page, but it’s worth knowing if there’s information you’d like to potentially keep buried or lower down the list of results. Then, again stay active on the sites that highlight your attributes to keep these results close to the top.
  • Avoid being negative, instead, be constructive. Use appreciative inquiry techniques to make a comment or suggest a change rather than complain online, voice negative opinions or devolve into an argument. Don’t be seen as someone who complains for the sake of complaining.

Overall, it is good to remember that online reputation management is really just an extension of how you present yourself in everyday life. Choose your medium and learn to love it, because, unlike the beard and hair, you’ll have it for life.