Pondering Professional Online Presence

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.

Juggling Social Media

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. 🙂


TwitterAcademiaIt’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.


InstagramMosaicI 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 more than 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.


13 thoughts on “Pondering Professional Online Presence

    • Starr Hoffman says:

      Thanks, Katherine! I’m so glad that you regularly blog about your expat experience–it’s great to reflect on my own experience through reading about yours.

  1. Daniel Cornwall says:

    What Katherine says! I’d like to see more librarians spell out what they do online online and why. I’ll try to get a post up by the weekend. I hadn’t thought of considering my vast Flickr holdings as part of my professional presence, but you make a good argument for providing a well rounded view.

    It would be good to note that some workplaces, the State of Alaska among them have a policy of forbidding the use of social media as a selection criteria. In our case I believe there is a fear that if hiring managers started trolling Twitter, Facebook, etc they would come across “protected category” information – this person is pregnant, that person is Alegerian, etc. Me, I’d rather know if a person tweets while drunk OR is a person who is vibrant, interesting, exciting and passionate about what they do. But I respect my workplace’s policy and concern about being litigated against.

    Thanks again for a very interesting post!

    • Starr Hoffman says:

      Excellent point, Daniel–I’m glad you mentioned some workplaces forbidding online presence as selection criteria. That also reminds me that some workplaces aren’t keen on employees using social media at work, or even to represent their professional selves. And yeah, you have a point–institutions have a right to be concerned about litigation, as well as how they’re represented (by their employees) online. So this won’t be relevant for everyone.

      That being said, although your current workplace may not have hired you for your online presence, I think you have a very compelling one! I can’t believe I’ve only met you once in person–because you’re so active professionally online with your blog and in various communities like ALA GODORT, I feel I know you and your professional values quite well. 🙂 That, to me, is Doing It Right. You make an enormous contribution to docs librarians with your online presence, and that has an effect on your professional reputation, even if it isn’t used directly to hire you into a position.

      And that reminds me that I didn’t talk at all about virtual participation in professional associations… more to think about! 😀

  2. D. Russell Bailey says:

    Starr, et al,
    Creating Effective Online Scholarly Presences is a keen research interest of mine.

    As a “digital-age” library director, tenured faculty, in my third career (foreign languages and literatures; teacher education & comparative education), I have pondered how best to devote time and energy to effective online presences.

    Unfortunately I’ve begun many (including Starr’s above list), but no one (or even two) serves my puspose.
    I also believe “ones purpose” can vary depending on 1. where in career one is; 2. what one’s aim is/aims are (visibility; prestige for job market; seeking collaborative scholars; other?). My own (late career) is more visibility in order to grow international collaborative connections for future work, including research on this topic).
    In addition to Starr’s list and the usual Facebook LinkedIn,Foursquare, Tumblr, etc.), I have focused on four:
    1. Academia.edu – http://academia.edu/ http://providence.academia.edu/DonaldRussellBailey
    2. The Research Cooperative – http://researchcooperative.org http://researchcooperative.org/profile/DonaldRussellBailey
    3. ResearchGate – http://www.researchgate.net/ https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Donald_Bailey2/?ev=hdr_xprf
    These three are free and open.
    4. BePress’s Selected works / Digital Commons, which are modules of a proprietary product – http://works.bepress.com/d_r_bailey/

    I would be interested in hearing more from you (Starr) and your colleagues on this topic. I think it warrants professional presentation(s) and publication(s).
    D. Russell Bailey, Ph.D.

    Library Director, Providence College

  3. thecommonlibrarian says:

    This is a great article! I was sent this way by a reply to one of my Tumblr posts (by alaskanlibrarian.tumblr.com). I’ve been naval gazing on this topic for a while and I still haven’t found a comfortable balance.

    I’ve only recently begun to use my Twitter as place for library-related thoughts and it’s remarkably rewarding to have such instant interactions with like-minded souls. I’ve never been into Instagram, but I do spend a lot of time on Tumblr. I’ve just set up a WordPress blog which I’m hoping will stand as a more professional repository of my library-related thoughts (my Tumblr is a jumble!).

  4. mkhmarketing says:

    Your point about Instagram made me pause for thought. I’ve always tried to separate my personal and professional life online. Maybe I should think more about integrating them. I grew up with the work mantra, leave your personal life at home, so this is a tough one for me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s