Written by: Emily Young // Apr 28, 2020
Last updated: Apr 28, 2020
Job hunters, we know it’s tough out there. Unemployment has soared to record levels, which is scary enough. On top of that, your typical means of networking (in-person events, career fairs) are no longer an option. Social distancing is crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But it’s awfully hard to impress recruiters when you’re confined to your house. Or is it?
Thanks to social media, you can build your brand, increase your industry knowledge, and network with potential employers — all without leaving the safety of your couch. Smart job seekers have always known how to use their online presence to maximize opportunities. We’ll show you how. Get started with these 9 tips for optimizing your social media profiles for employment.
Know Your Resources
To have an online presence, you need to have the resources to get online.
- Some internet providers are offering discounts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- USF students may be eligible to receive a loaner laptop. To learn more, contact email@example.com.
Evaluate Your Online Presence
This is a great time to analyze your social media presence. Do you have profiles on LinkedIn and Handshake? How does your Instagram represent you? Let’s take a look.
LinkedIn is where you create a professional identity.
“I see it as a way to build your brand,” says Amanda Peters, employer relations coordinator at USF St. Petersburg. “Everything that you do, keep it within that brand because that’s really how you start to get recognized as a professional.”
After LinkedIn, Handshake is “the next best platform” for networking and engagement, says Peters. If you are a student or a recent graduate, you may have access to a free Handshake account. Take advantage of the chance to connect with employers and peers, browse job postings, and upload your résumé and cover letter.
Create a professional Instagram account (separate from your personal one) where you can showcase your talents. “I would say that that’s a great way of marketing yourself,” says Peters.
What do you post on a professional Insta? Is it all photos of briefcases and Excel sheets? Nope. You can have way more fun with it, even if your job doesn’t translate easily to images:
- Demonstrate that you’re an engaged employee. For example, do a Throwback Thursday post about your team’s volunteer day.
- Use live videos and polls to share your industry expertise. “Your knowledge of the profession is so key to so many other people,” says Peters. Keep it timely, and think about what issues may be facing people in your community. “For tax season right now, there’s so many people who have questions about their taxes,” says Peters. If you’re an accountant, you can ask followers, “What do you want to know about filing your taxes?”
Build Your Brand
We’ve been talking about how you should build your brand. But what does that mean? Peters breaks your brand into five categories: image, biography, content, engagement, and recommendations.
Does your headshot look professional? What message does your cover photo convey?
Keep your brand identity consistent by using the same headshot across all platforms, suggests Kelli Burns, associate professor at USF’s Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications and author of Social Media: A Reference Handbook.
What does your profile say about you? Make sure you have a professional summary that communicates your experience and skills.
Show potential employers that you’re passionate about your chosen profession by sharing great content:
- Post about a project you’re completing.
- Link to industry-related articles and include your commentary. (Just make sure you only share information from a reliable source. This Crash Course video series will help you hone your fact-checking skills and ensure you’ll be known for posting reliable, high-quality content.)
Keep in mind that LinkedIn also tracks the actions you take on the platform: “Any little engagement piece, down to clicking on the ‘like’ button, reflects on your profile under the activity section,” explains Peters.
LinkedIn lets you send invites to professionals in your field. When you invite someone to connect with you, take the time to write a personal message. That increases the odds they’ll accept.
After you’ve finished a job, internship, or research project, you can ask your colleagues for a recommendation on LinkedIn. Remember to give recommendations, too: It shows potential employers that you’re a team player, says Peters.
Does being professional mean you have to erase your personality? Of course not. If you have a passion – whether it’s a love of art, coffee, or the Tampa Bay Rays — share it on your social media, suggests Burns. “As much as you can build your brand as somebody who is not only an aspiring professional in a certain field, but somebody who also has a passion outside of work, can help people remember you better.”
Just make sure your hobbies represent you well. Before posting anything, ask yourself:
- How would I feel if a recruiter saw this?
- How would this content represent my current or future employer?
- Is there anyone who may be offended by this?
Go ahead and post a photo of that van Gogh exhibit. But save photos of that boozy brunch for your private account (or better yet, don’t post them at all, since “privacy” is an illusion online).
Expand Your Expertise
Right now, the job market is complicated. With the spread of COVID-19, employers are trying to switch staff to remote work and assess any threats to their organizations. For some industries, “a lot of hiring is kind of on the back burner,” Peters explained. If you’ve applied for a job and haven’t heard back, be patient. Follow up in two to three weeks with the recruiter or hiring manager. Meanwhile, you can do two key things.
1. Conduct Informational Interviews
Informational interviews aren’t about landing a job. They’re designed to help you learn more about a profession. What’s the best part of this career? What’s the worst? What skills are needed to succeed? What’s a typical career path?
Reach out to a professional in the field and request an informational interview. Make sure you communicate:
- Who you are: “I’m a recent graduate from the University of South Florida’s journalism program.”
- Why you’re reaching out: “I’m interested in pursuing a career as an environmental journalist, and I appreciated the Tampa Bay Times article you wrote about the effect of climate change on Florida mangroves. That is exactly the kind of work I’d like to do.”
- What the professional can do for you: “Would you be willing to set up an informational interview with me so I can know what to expect from a career in environmental journalism?”
2. Engage in Professional Development
“Professional development during this time, I think, is huge – making yourself more marketable for when hiring picks back up,” Peters says.
- LinkedIn Learning offers more than 15,000 courses, which anyone affiliated with USF can access for free.
- USF’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education has switched all programs to a live online format, so you can advance your career goals while safely social distancing.
Keep your profiles updated with any new certifications. For example, USF’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education offers digital badges that you can add to your LinkedIn profile.
Think Outside the Box
Yes, your usual networking events have been canceled. But you can get creative with virtual opportunities:
Join Virtual Career Events
Have you considered participating in a virtual career fair? Hosted by entities such as schools, state employment agencies, or trade associations, virtual career fairs connect employers and job searchers by “using chat rooms, teleconferencing, webcasts, webinars and/or email,” explains this Balance Careers article. You can also participate in a networking event hosted by your school through Handshake.
Before participating in any online events, get prepared:
- Register in advance so you can research employers who will be attending.
- Make sure you know how to join the event so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
- Check your technology. Know how to mute/unmute your mic and how to turn your camera on and off. “All of those things can seem very minor, but they make a huge difference when you go to actually attend the virtual event,” explains Peters.
Create a Video Résumé
Since you may not be able to meet a recruiter in person, consider creating a video résumé you can feature on your profiles.
A video résumé “conveys your personality in a way that no written résumé can,” explains this Glassdoor article. Just keep these tips in mind:
- Look like a pro. Ensure your video has good lighting, a professional background, and clear audio.
- Prepare. “You would definitely want to go in rehearsed, knowing what you’re going to say,” says Burns. But keep it relaxed and natural: “Of course, you don’t want to sound like you’re reading something word for word.”
- What do you want to say? Your goal is to “express what benefits you’ll provide the company, as well as your goals, skills, and accomplishments,” explains this article in The Balance Careers.
- Keep it short and sweet: Under two minutes, says Burns.
- Assess. Ask a trusted colleague to give you feedback.
Yes, it’s tough out there. But don’t give up. Now is the time for resilience and persistence, says Peters. “You just have to keep pushing forward and advocating for yourself.”
Remember that we’re here to help.
If you’d like to learn more about how social media can further your career, explore our posts:
- “How to Leverage Social Media for Better Career Opportunities”
- “How Job Seekers Can Use Social Media to Evaluate Potential Employers”
- “How to Grow Your Professional Social Network (Without Being Annoying)”
If you’re interested in professional development, check out USF’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education website, or contact us at 813-974-0950.