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.


The Liebster Award

I’ve got about a million–well maybe just five hundred–photos to edit and process before I can blog more about Dubai or Chernobyl. I’m workin’ on it. In the meantime, here are seven fantastic blogs you should check out!

Last week, my awesome friend Cynthia gave me a shout-out with the Liebster Award. It’s a great idea–an award specifically for blogs with smaller readerships. The deal is, you award five blogs, and then they in turn each award five of their favorite small blogs, etc. The only downside is that I can’t award Cynthia’s blog! But go read it anyway–it’s full of thoughtful commentary on life, travel, academia, philosophy, and being a family caretaker. Reading her blog encourages me to be a more informed, thoughtful and compassionate person.

Disclaimer: I couldn’t find full follower-stats for all of these blogs, so I might have inadvertently selected someone with an already-wide audience. My apologies, if that’s the case–but honestly, I just want to share some awesome blogs I read with y’all!

And now, in no particular order, the blogs:

A Defense of the Beautiful and Broken | My cousin Victoria writes this blog, primarily about her career as an academic and a poet. It sparks our conversations about higher education and the humanities on twitter and email–I love being related to someone who’s also passionate about these issues! She’s also an unapologetic geek, knitter, tea-lover, and cat-owner, so I file this under “kindred spirit.”

Made by Velma | So, I actually know several geeky gals who knit. Velma knits and crochets and sells her adorable wares on Etsy, and she’s doing a bang-up job of raising two geeks-in-the-making. And? She’s a therapist. Her blog and twitter feed keep making me itch to create more geeky knitted/crocheted things (and to catch up with Dr. Who)… but I may just take the lazy way out and buy one of those cuddly amigurumi unicorns instead.

8 Months in Ukraine | I found this blog one day when I was desperately trying to find someone else living in and blogging about Kharkov. Katherine teaches English here and I love her humorous “Snapshots of Ukrainian Life” series. (Yes, sour cream, milk, mayo and many other things really do come in plastic bags. It’s weird.) We just met in person last week, and I’m so happy to have found a good tea-drinking friend!

A Food Bitch | This blog is full of food and humor–what’s not to love? The blogger shall remain anonymous to protect her amusing “bitchiness” and interesting, frank reviews of food and atmosphere. She also features guest posts from around the world, and has graciously hosted one of mine (thanks, AFB!). If you travel a lot or live in SoCal, you should definitely check this out for recommended eateries.

Kait Nolan and Pots and Plots | Kait is a fiction writer who juggles an academic day-job and creatively brews up gluten-free recipes on her second blog. And she also heads up this writing thing called ROW80 (and one day, I will totally participate!). And she constantly re-tweets awesome content. Reading about her life could make me tired… but instead it fills me with determination, because she speaks with honesty and humor about trying to manage all of this.

And finally, because I just can’t give this award without a proud shout-out, here’s an honorable mention for a gal whose blog completely blows away the small-readership requirement, but who nonetheless deserves mention:

Claire Legrand (formerly Builder of Worlds) | Claire blogs about unicorns, middle-grade and YA fiction, pop culture, music, and has a hilarious penchant for using the word “y’all” in the most awesome way possible. She’s also master of using embedded video or GIFs to hilariously appropriate effect. AND her first middle-grade novel, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, (read the first chapter free!) is about to launch this fall (her second and third books are already lined up for subsequent publication.) I have read Cavendish, and to quote a Claire-ism: Y’ALL. It is awesome in a deliciously creepy and quirky way–imagine if Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and E. L. Konigsburg were locked in a room together until they write a story about an orphanage and an OCD girl whose music-loving best friend has mysteriously disappeared. This is that book. Go buy that book.

I am a wee bit biased, because I was Claire’s master ninja librarian when she was a wee ninja apprentice, and she has since become a master ninja librarian herself–not to mention published author of awesomeness. And she’s been my roomie and fellow Fat-Couch-occupant. But as a librarian, I have this fabulous ability to be objective about stuff, so take my word for it: read her blog, buy her book, go forth, and be merry (preferably with a unicorn of your own).

FACT: If you add all these blogs to your follow-list/RSS-aggregator/email-subscription, you gain +86 Awesome Points. For serious.

About… Dr. Starr Hoffman

I’m an academic librarian researching the role of libraries in higher education. I’m a recent Las Vegas transplant; born in California, raised in Texas, recently moved from New York City, and spent a year in Kharkov, Ukraine finishing my PhD in Higher Education. I’m currently the Head of Planning and Assessment at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I blog about academia, books, expat life, geekery, and travel.

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