2.2 Creating your professional online profile
So, you’ve thought about your personal brand, and you’ve reflected on any images you currently have on social media. Now you can think about improving your online profile.
Activity 6 What is the image you want to reflect?
Look at the two photos below. In both photos, the person is drinking. What is your opinion of the people? In what context might these photos be used on social media?
You may have had various reactions to the photos and drawn on unconscious bias in who you think these people are. Without knowing the context of the photos, you tend to draw your own conclusions.
While both might be used for a personal profile photo or in a message on social media, Photo A is probably less suitable for use in a work context, as the T-shirt and drinking from the bottle imply it was an informal setting. Photo B could potentially be used in a work context if it were highlighting an external work event, such as an awards evening. Remember, too, that in some cultures and contexts, presenting images of people drinking alcohol is not acceptable at all.
However, if these were linked to the following posts, the context changes again. It is important when you post online or are reviewing other people’s posts that you think about the context.
Figure 7 Photos in context
When using social media, you need to consider how you are using it and which social media accounts are open to the public or set to private. For example, because I use Facebook to share pictures of my children so my family around the world can see how we are doing, it is set to private, and my posts are more relaxed. My Instagram account is open to the public, so I tend only to post photos that I am happy for the world to see. However, although I don’t have a formal remit within my role to use social media, I use LinkedIn and Twitter for work-related networking and sharing, so when posting, I am mindful about what I want to say as a professional but also that I am not doing anything that suggests I am reflecting the views of the organisation.
In a professional capacity, you may publish an online profile to promote yourself, be this your HEI staff pages or, like many people, a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a platform designed for the business community that you should consider engaging with. Not only does it give you access to an extensive network, it also provides useful reports and information that you can use within the workforce and keep up with the latest trends.
Creating a good online profile and building your online network is becoming an essential digital skill. It is not only about your own personal brand but also how you reflect your organisation. Increasingly, LinkedIn is being used for attracting and recruiting staff and building external partnerships. Those interested in an organisation will often look at what their staff are doing and whom they might be working with and also look to reach out to people. In creating this toolkit, we checked the LinkedIn profile of many of the contributors we approached as part of our assessment for selection, and we reached out to them via the LinkedIn messaging system.
Activity 7 Create your LinkedIn profile
Read the following articles by LinkedIn:
‘How do I create a Good LinkedIn profile?’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (LinkedIn, n.d.)
‘20 steps to a better LinkedIn profile in 2022’ (Deehan, 2022)
And you may wish to study the Learning LinkedIn course (Schinkten, 2022) at a later date – which at the time of writing was free to access.
Then, if you already have one, review your own LinkedIn profile. If you are in an HEI, review your staff page profile at the same time.
Is all the information up to date? Could you enhance it? How do you want to describe who you are and what you do?
How do you feel about posting on LinkedIn? Are you a ‘liker’ or a ‘poster’?
If you do not have a profile on LinkedIn, consider creating one. It is often useful to write the content in an online document first to make it easier to edit. Once you’re happy with your content, you can publish it.
There are many approaches to developing your personal brand, and you should always do what feels comfortable for you.
If you are interested in developing your understanding further, the OpenLearn course Personal branding for career success is a good place to start.
While the majority of time posting on social media has positive consequences, it is useful to be mindful that some posts can result in unwanted comments. In the UK, you have a right to share your opinions and views (though this is not the case in all countries around the world, so do bear that in mind if you are working elsewhere). Your view of what is ‘inappropriate’ will vary depending on your beliefs and values. Within a work context, you should understand what your organisation defines as ‘inappropriate’. If your organisation has a social media policy, you should find the definition there. At a basic level, the following is how Social Intelligence, an online background screening organisation based in the USA, defines what is inappropriate:
‘“Inappropriate” can mean a variety of things
‘At Social Intelligence, we categorize flagged content into four broad filters: intolerance, violence (including threats), potentially illegal activity, and sexually explicit content. Additionally, any type of post can fall into these categories, including text posts, images, videos, memes, third-party URLs, shared content, or reposted content. Other types of content that may fall under the inappropriate category may include company-specific content. For example, trade secrets, photos of minors, or photos of fieldwork are all types of content that could raise flags in various industries, respectively’.
Activity 8 What can people find?
It is sensible to check your privacy settings and what is in the public domain about you. If you have ever been ‘hacked’ or have friends/work colleagues this has happened to, you will know it can have serious implications. Equally, is someone using your picture, name or email address for a fake profile? This is something I have experienced and only discovered when I started receiving emails from the company. I was lucky, as the company removed the profile from their site within 24 hours of me reporting it.
Read the following articles which provide more information about privacy and securing your online profiles:
- ‘Privacy in the digital age: Is it “An Englishman’s home is his castle” or “I’ve got nothing to hide”?’ (‘OpenLearn’ – The Open University, 2022)
- ‘Keep hackers out of your email and social media accounts’ (ActionFraud, n.d.)
Then do a review of your privacy settings. A good way to find what is in the public domain about you is to ask a friend to google your name. Asking a friend to do this will give you a better reflection of what is in the public domain.
In the next section on the remote environment, we will consider how to make the most of your physical space when hybrid working.