By: Jonathan Foland, Graduate Career Services Assistant and Doctoral Student in Communication
What would an employer, colleague, student, or relative find if they were to search your name online? What assumptions might they make based on the results? Take a moment to Google yourself and see what comes up. If your academic program provides you with a professional profile, then perhaps it appears first. Also likely to show up are any profiles you have on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.
Kudos to you if those profiles cast you in a positive light, but what if some of them share more information than you realize, or include details that would make a prospective employer blush?
Kelli Marshall writes, “If you do not have a clear online presence, you are allowing Google, Yahoo, and Bing to create your identity for you.” Photos shared on Facebook from last year’s Halloween party might not be private after all. If you teach undergraduates, then your students’ reviews on RateYourProfessors are fair game for search engines. Even a write-up from your hometown paper about the time you won first place in [insert childhood event here] is not off limits.
You can start crafting a unique, professional online presence quickly, and with little financial investment or coding/web development skill. Curating your online presence lets you present yourself favorably, raises your profile in search engine results, and can come in handy when networking. As Chaim Shapiro explains, making smart use of online tools and social media can help you establish and maintain your personal “brand.”
Many options are available for building your online presence, but in this article I describe two: single-page nameplate sites and full websites.
A nameplate site is an elegant, customizable single-page profile. They function like a web-based business card, meaning they provide visitors with a cursory introduction to you and your brand.
Nameplate site providers include About.me and Flavors.me. Each one allows you to feature a high quality photo, a biographical statement, and links to websites or social media profiles you already maintain. If you are worried about formatting or creating a design, then stop: both sites provide a small selection of ready-to-customize templates.
About.me and Flavors.me each offer free and paid plans, and the ability to customize your domain/URL is one of the perks of signing up for a premium account. However, each services offers plenty of options for free.
Check out Aurooba Ahmed’s review for a more in-depth comparison of the two providers.
A website offers versatility compared to a nameplate site. With a website, you can use multiple pages to display photographs, audio/video, and text. Many providers also include, as a default, blogging capabilities.
Skilled users may create a site design from scratch, but knowledge of code is not essential. Website providers usually offer a selection of themes and layouts that you can customize without manipulating code. Concerned about how to get started designing your site? Tutorials are on Lynda.com, YouTube, Udemy, and other sites.
Popular website providers include Google Sites; Wix; Weebly; and WordPress. You can sign up for a website for free, or you can review a provider’s premium plans. Premium options may include a fully customizable domain/URL, additional tech support, and a larger array of themes, layouts, and tools.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides web publishing services to students, faculty, and staff. Web.unc.edu offers WordPress to members of the campus community with an ONYEN, and support is provided by ITS.
What would a graduate or professional student feature on a website? One starting point could be the major sections of your CV or resume. Teaching experience, research interests and activities, and service experience could be subsections of a single page, or could be highlighted on their own pages. Plus, you can always change site content as your needs and interests develop.
Whether signing up for a nameplate site or building a full website, how you visually present yourself will matter. Make sure that any profile photos of you are professional and high quality.
Remember that UNC offers WordPress site hosting to anyone with an ONYEN, although you are free to compare website providers to determine which will best meet your needs.
Building a consistent professional image or “brand” across the web may seem daunting, but there are resources to get you started. One free resource is PwC’s Personal Brand Experience.
You may also want to purchase your name, or a variation of it, as a domain/URL. Domain name registrars include GoDaddy, Domain.com, and Google. Purchasing a domain is not required, but doing so is another way to influence what appears first when someone searches your name.
Finally, nameplate sites and full websites are only two ways to curate your online presence. You can also shape your web presence through the social media accounts you maintain. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Facebook are popular with businesses, institutions, and individuals alike. A LinkedIn profile lets you display your education, work experience, and skills while connecting you to a robust networking tool. Research communities, including ResearchGate and Academia.edu, encourage networking as well as sharing research.
Options are plentiful when taking command of your online presence. As you select tools and build profiles to best complement your style, you can rest assured the information search engines collect about you accurately reflects the professional you are becoming.
Ahmed, Aurooba. “Refining Your Online Presence: Nameplate Sites.” Aurooba Ahmed, 19 June 2013.
Marshall, Kelli. “How to Maintain Your Digital Identity as an Academic.” Vitae. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 Jan. 2015.
Shapiro, Chaim. “Top 5 Career Related Social Media Activities.” We Are Touro. Touro College and University System, 29 Oct. 2015.
By: Jonathan Foland, Graduate Career Services Assistant and Doctoral Student in Communication, firstname.lastname@example.org.