Introduction: UOW PhD researcher Rachelle Balez‘ use of social media is a great example of building career community and research profile – needs no further introduction!
We have all heard the phrase “it’s who you know, not what you know”, when it comes to landing jobs.
But if you are like me, the thought of networking can be very daunting and logistically challenging. Thankfully, social media has made modern networking much less confronting, and it can even be done from the comfort of your bed or couch!
The key to using social media for networking is that you have to be visible – but in the right way. For many, like myself, the idea of being visible is nearly as confronting as face to face networking, let alone the fear of ‘tall poppy syndrome’ and being perceived as a ‘show-off’. However, you have a responsibility to your abilities and achievements to be visible. If you have a unique skill set an employer is seeking then you should be making that known, as you could be the best person for the job, which will ultimately benefit more people than just yourself and your employer.
There are three main platforms to think about when curating your professional social media/internet identity for networking: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Each platform allows for different interactions and forms of networking however, you want your identity to be consistent across all. Take some time to think about your message or ‘personal brand’, what do you want potential employers to know about you?
For me, I want to establish myself as an early career medical researcher, who also has a passion for gender equality in STEMM and communicating science through art. In order to track if my profiles are reflecting these areas I generate a word cloud of my profile to see what key words would come up in a search. Another way to track your online presence is to Google yourself, for both web content and pictures – it can be very interesting to see what shows up. If the only images Google shows are you partying hard on the weekend, it may be time to adjust your privacy settings on your Facebook photos. Just as you check out someone’s social media profile to gauge and idea of them, employers are doing the same thing to you, so make sure you are sending the right message.
Of the three platforms, LinkedIn is the most professional. LinkedIn allows you to curate an interactive CV while establishing a professional network with which to share your career milestones and accomplishments. It is also a platform that recruiters and employers frequent in order to advertise job opportunities. I use my LinkedIn as a way to advertise my skills to the workforce and keep my eye on what jobs are available. In order to make my LinkedIn profile stand out I make sure I have a clear and professional profile picture, a banner photo that reflects my work or conveys part of my personality and I try to include photographs or links to websites that provide evidence of my capabilities. I also actively work to expand my network by connecting with people on LinkedIn after I have met them at conferences, workshops or other events.
Facebook is the most personal of the platforms and needs to be handled with care in regard to your professional identity. Many opt to keep Facebook private as increasingly employers feel that this public reflection of your personality also reflects on the business’s identity (for an example click here). However, I have found Facebook is a great tool to engage with organisations you are interested in and to build awareness around and advertise professional events. For example, in my role as Chair of the Australasian Neuroscience Society’s Student Body Committee, our committee will often use Facebook as a way to engage with the student members of the society by sharing articles of interest and advertising conference or workshop opportunities. On a personal level, I recently ran a highly successful crowd funding campaign to support my involvement in the leadership initiative Homeward Bound, which took place in Antarctica. I would not have been able to raise the necessary funds to take part in this professional development program if it wasn’t for a strong and diverse social network.
Falling halfway between LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter is a semi-professional space where you can share personal ideas and interests. Twitter’s strength is that it provides you with a platform to follow and personally interact with individuals whom you would connect professionally with on LinkedIn but would not befriend on Facebook. Before I attend conferences, I follow individuals of interest, I tweet about their talks and engage with the events hashtag. This has often initiated conversations and helped to break the ice with individuals I would otherwise be too shy to introduce myself too directly. Similar to LinkedIn, many organisations advertise positions via Twitter, so it is an easy way to keep your finger on the pulse of the job market. However, one of my favourite aspects of Twitter is that it can be a playful, interactive and supportive community to increase your visibility, with many accounts dedicated to just that, as Kirsten Ferguson’s #CelebratingWomen project in 2017 beautifully illustrates. Although it took courage, I self-nominated to be included in the project and the visibility I received when featured helped to build my Twitter following significantly (see picture at top).
Professional networking through social media takes work and requires regular attention to be successful. However, it can also be a fun and informative community that is worth the effort as you never know who is watching and what opportunities may come your way.
Top 5 tips for social media networking:
- Google yourself. What is your internet identity telling the world about you? If you don’t like the message, re-work your social media platforms to reflect your values and strengths, remembering to use key words to target searches.
- If you are new to a platform, start as a ‘silent user’. Follow people you are interested in, like posts you identify with and then work up to sharing and writing your own posts when you have a feel for the community.
- Quality over quantity. You want a strong network, rather than simply having a large network. Keep your profiles and platforms up to date and stay engaged with the community via regular posts that reflect your ‘message’ and interests.
- Watch out for and don’t engage with trolls. It is not worth your physical time or emotional energy.
- Always keep in the back of your mind that these are public spaces. Be mindful of what you post as although the aim is to build career networks and opportunities, the wrong type of posts could cost you your future or current job.
Rachelle Balez is a creative medical researcher, who is passionate about equality in STEMM and communicating science through art. By following her curiosity, the tool of both scientist and artist, Rachelle has completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts and is currently finishing a PhD in neuroscience and stem cell biology, where she creates brain cells from skin cells to study Alzheimer’s disease. As an alumnus of the Homeward Bound leadership initiative, Rachelle works to promote equality in STEMM and to support the needs of neuroscience students across Australasia in her role as Chair of the Australasian Neuroscience Society’s Student Body Committee.
How do you use social media in your job search and career exploration?
What other social media platforms do you find useful to build your network and profile? Share your experience below
At UOW attend our ‘Find opportunities and build your career network’ workshop for HDR students to discuss how you can use social media to generate opportunities in your career. More information on social media and careers from Careers Central.
Together with Dr. Sarah Hamylton and fellow PhD student Claudia Kielkopf, Rachelle shared her fascinating Antarctic experience at UOW Uni in the Brewery event ‘Women as Science Leaders’ event on April 11th, watch a video of the talk here