Thursday, March 21, 2013

First steps to build your online presence in college

Lately it seems building an online presence comes up at every event I attend with students. Some of the sound bites I've been hearing include:

"Yeah I started a LinkedIn profile but I have no idea what to do with it."

"I'm not sure how much employers actually check Facebook."

"I'm in college so I feel like I don't have any experience to put online."

"I don't really know how to network with people online."

"I feel awkward putting myself out there."

"I know I should have a website or something but I'm just terrible with all that stuff."

Many assume the millennial generation is born knowing how to do all of this stuff, but the truth is, building an online professional persona can be daunting, even for the most technologically-savvy millennials.

You are not alone if this online presence thing feels new and a little overwhelming. 

Many of the students I work with and speak to are first generation college students. Like myself, we enter the professional world of college graduates without parents who've been there. 

And even for those who have college-educated parents, getting a job and building an online presence was certainly not something their parents did when they graduated college. 

But the truth is building your online presence is not just a "nice" extra thing to do. It is THE thing to do. LinkedIn ambassador Linsey Pollak recently predicted in her award-winning career blog that "LinkedIn Profiles [will] replace resumes."

Below are the top three things you should do right now to get started:

1) Start a LinkedIn profile if you haven't already. 

2) Develop your profile immediately. Having a bare LinkedIn profile is not just as good as not having one at all. Take an hour or so and create the entire thing (it's actually pretty fun, especially with all the new features). 

Check out Lindsey's tips for what to add on your LinkedIn profile as a college student/recent grad. 

You have more skills that you realize, even if you haven't had a lot of work experience. List your education, awards, leadership experiences, internships, and any additional work (e.g. volunteer) you are doing in your desired field. 

Then, make an appointment with the career counselor at your college and ask her to review your LinkedIn profile just as she would a resume. Ask lots of people for feedback and continue to tweak it as you grow. 

You can see my LinkedIn profile here.

3) Link all of your work and profiles on a home page. Having a website in your name (e.g. will make you stand out (note: I use WordPress). 

However, thinking about developing an entire website can feel daunting at first, so to start, consider creating a simple page. I tried it out a few nights ago so I could share it with you if it was any good, and I was amazed at how easy it is and how professional it looks. 

When creating yours, keep it simple and focus on the apps and links that best represent your professional goals (i.e. blog, online portfolio, artwork, publications, online articles, etc.). Only add social media channels that you keep professional (e.g. LinkedIn). 

I also recommend considering using your Twitter (or perhaps creating a second one) for sharing news in your industry and interacting with professionals you admire. 

Creating your online presence can actually be really fun, and will pay off when it comes time to finding internships and jobs. Just try it and see.

And if you have any questions along the way about the steps above or your online presence in general, please submit them in the Ask Isa inbox as I'm currently gearing up to tackle building your online presence and personal brand as the 2013 summer series. 

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