By Donna Farrugia www.creativegroup.com
In a competitive employment market, controlling your personal brand – one that represents your talent and vision – has never been more important. While most creative professionals are successful at presenting a cohesive image throughout their job application materials, such as the resume and portfolio, many fail to carry it through to their efforts online. And that’s a big mistake.
Today, firms are turning to creative professionals to help them build and manage their digital reputations, and they’re looking for applicants who know how to market themselves effectively on the Web. In fact, 72 percent of advertising and marketing executives interviewed by The Creative Group said they are likely to search for information about prospective hires online.
A digital footprint that adds credibility and highlights your key strengths can be a major career asset. Here are some tips to help you develop an impressive online presence:
Do any necessary damage control. A charged comment you posted on a design forum can come back to haunt you during a job search. Find out what prospective employers will see by conducting a self-search. If you unearth information that could damage your professional credibility, contact the site’s owner or webmaster and request that the content be removed. You also can use a service like ReputationDefender, which will help to remove inaccurate or inappropriate information on your behalf.
If you maintain personal and professional accounts on social networking sites, such as Facebook or MySpace, utilize privacy settings to ensure the right people are viewing the profiles you want them to see. For example, in Facebook, you can set multiple privacy settings to “friends only” to ensure anyone outside this circle does not have access to the account, and create lists to further tailor the type of content your contacts receive.
Create profiles with employers in mind. When hiring managers look at your LinkedIn or Facebook page, they’re not only checking out your skills, experience and interests, but also your ability to communicate effectively and your dedication to the industry. Make sure your profile is current, free of errors and reads as professionally as the information on your resume. (In fact, your profile page serves as a resume in many cases: Recruiters and HR professionals often use sites like LinkedIn to locate viable candidates.) Include relevant information, such as your recent participation in a conference for design professionals or your 10-year membership with an industry association, like AIGA.
Self-promote. Your ability to post thought-provoking commentary and build a large Twitter or Facebook following can influence an employer’s decision to hire you. In addition, if your name shows up in user group discussions or a professional association’s newsletter, potential employers are more likely to see you as engaged in the creative conversation.
However, keep in mind that any post you make becomes part of the public domain. So avoid writing anything you wouldn’t say to someone in person. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with others online – hiring managers are looking for personality and authenticity in posts – but always be diplomatic when pointing out your difference of opinion.
Optimize your information. Help employers find you online by integrating key words that describe your skills, specialties and positions of interest into your profiles. For example, if you’re a web designer specializing in the finance industry, you might include terms such as “web design” and “finance” into your profile. Also include URLs to professional profiles in your cover letter and resume, or when communicating with hiring managers to direct them to sites you want them to see.
Design for impact. Make sure all job-hunting materials have a unified look and feel, including online content. For example, you might create a Twitter background with similar design elements that appear on your resume, business cards and online portfolio.
Just as you continually update your resume and cover letter when you apply for jobs, you also need to maintain your digital presence. Conduct an online search for your name every few months and regularly contribute to industry blogs and forums. Ensuring you have a positive presence that’s consistent with your application materials will positively impact your job search prospects.
Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals with a variety of firms. For more information, please visit www.creativegroup.com. Follow The Creative Group at www.facebook.com/thecreativegroup or www.twitter.com/creativegroup.
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