I’ve been thinking a lot lately about professional online presence. Last week, I attended an ACRL-NY discussion group on “Demystifying the Hiring Process.” Amidst the discussion of the differences in search committee practices across institutional types (fascinating!), we ended up discussing how online presence can play a big role in how organizations view you professionally. (Also see: Susanne Markgren‘s great article about online presence for academic librarians.) In particular, we discussed how this has changed in recent years. Five years ago, your online presence was primarily thought of as a potential liability (delete those old frat party photos from Facebook!), whereas now it’s seen as a way to promote yourself as well as show potential employers your social media and PR savvy.
In addition to my usual tending to my online presence and in particular my e-portfolio on this website, lately I’ve branched out to create electronic portfolios for clients. (Email me if you’re interested in my services!) It’s a way to keep my “geek skillz” up-to-date, and I enjoy the challenge of taking a bunch of content and ideas from someone, and creating a web presence out of that. It’s also reminded me that no online presence solution is universal. For instance, I’m highly active on this website, Twitter, Instagram, and to a lesser extent Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn. I use Flickr primarily as a storage space for my Instagram photos and blog graphics (although that ebbs and flows, depending on my Nikon D7000′s use in a given month). I’ve ignored Pinterest completely, and I’ve nearly given up on my own Tumblr (although it’s a great space for, say, Ryan Gosling’s feminism and Chandler Dancing On Things).
And that’s okay. We should use social media in a way that’s natural for us, in a way that leaves us excited, rather than overwhelmed. Everyone doesn’t need a Twitter account–regardless of the fact that I regularly gasp when someone says they don’t use it. If it doesn’t meet your needs, then choose to be active somewhere else. Find the tool that works for you, feeds into your interests and strengths and helps you grow.
Here’s why I use what I do. Take it or leave it.
It’s tempting to just shoot off whatever’s on my mind, and I do think it’s fun to use it as a public text-message at times. However, it’s most useful for me as a place to see news headlines, what my colleagues and friends are reading and discussing, and to get quick feedback on ideas, questions, website templates. In fact, I use this more for blog reading now than I do my actual RSS feed readers. It’s excellent for knowledge-sharing: I live-tweet at conferences, and I watch live-tweets from conferences I can’t attend (long live hashtags!). I love that I can connect not only to colleagues and friends, but also organizations, professional associations, research groups–you name it. When we lived in Ukraine, it was the most “at home” I felt online because I could see people talking online, regardless of time zone–even if most of my friends were asleep in the US (leaving Facebook a ghost town until 4pm Ukraine time).
And the best part of Twitter? It’s SHORT. The length of this blog post (yikes) is a case in point of why Twitter is important to me: 1) it’s brief enough to be digestible, and 2) it makes me think, consider, and edit my content.
I don’t tend to use Instragram in a specifically “professional” manner, but I do link it on my professional online accounts like LinkedIn and About.me. Why? Because personality is important. I don’t want to work at an institution where I clock in and do my job and clock out. I want to work at a place that’s full of vibrant, interesting, exciting people who are passionate about what they do. Thus, shouldn’t I advertise to the world that I’m also that kind of person? That, yes, I’m a great researcher and an awesome librarian, but I also love urban architecture and great cups of coffee and travel–and that’s what my Instagram feed shows. It shows beauty and humor in everyday moments, and that’s important to me.
I use this website for two purposes. First, it houses my electronic portfolio, so I have a single URL to give potential employers, new colleagues, etc. It shows the information from my CV (that’s fancy academic talk for “resume,” for all the non-nerds in the hizzy) in more rational, digestible chunks, plus it allows me to show far morethan I can on my CV. For instance, I instead of merely listing my presentations, I can embed or link to the actual slideshows with Prezi and Slideshare. I can include photos of myself engaged in these activities, which puts a more human face on my credentials. I can link to the full text of my master’s thesis and my dissertation (coming soon!). If I could, I’d send that URL to every potential employer and nix the boring, rambling CV format altogether. THIS is a far more interesting and holistic picture of who I am and what I do.
The second way I use this WordPress website is what I’m doing now: blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2005 in various incarnations, and for a long time I had a personal blog and a professional one–and it was too much. So now I only blog here, about what I’m cooking or researching or seeing or thinking about. A neat upside is that my family and friends get to see a bit of what goes on in my Nerdy Academic Side, and my colleagues get to see that, wow, I am a HUGE scifi-geektastic-fangirl (see evidence below) who likes scuba diving and lifting weights and has surprisingly good chops in the kitchen. That doesn’t mean I’m any less qualified as an academic, and it may help me connect with people that I never anticipated. I strongly believe that networking is a Big Deal in all aspects of life–but that’s another post.
L to R: me as Harry Potter for Halloween; Wonder Women underoos at 5 years old; with Gene Luen Yang; as Pink Five (obscure Star Wars fanfilm reference); as Mara Jade Skywalker (semi-obscure Star Wars novel/comics reference); in one of my several Batgirl shirts
Your online presence is super-important, and now is the time to think about it. You’re already employed? Great, then you can create a presence now that has real weight and substance behind it before you ever go looking for your next job. Unemployed? Great–you have all the time in the world to work on this, so that when you’re employed again, all you have to do to keep it updated is tweak. Looking for more tips, hands-on help, or someone to create a turnkey site? Then shoot me an email (or tweet!), and let’s talk.