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This content is taken from the University of Leeds & Institute of Coding's online course, Create a Professional Online Presence. Join the course to learn more.

Tips for managing your professional presence

Social media is a great way to build visibility and create connections online, both in a personal and professional context. Often, the difficult bit is figuring out the line between those parts of your life.

Illustration of a Venn diagram showing two partially overlapping circles, one ‘personal’ and one ‘professional

So, how do you make a clear, professional presence emerge from the mountain of content that many of us have created online over the years?

There are three main ways to build your professional presence on the internet:

1. Cull

To cull means to delete, or hide, but it also means being selective to reduce the overall amount of ‘stuff’ attached to us, and it can be effective in some cases.

This might mean making your account private, or visible only to a relevant group of people. That’s a good option if there’s a lot of history, because it changes the privacy of all content in one step, without having to sort through it.

You might decide that there are just a few things that have to go, such as photos or out of date references. Find these individually – either by scrolling back, or searching within your own timeline if you can. You can then delete or make them private (some platforms allow this, eg Facebook, but others don’t, eg Twitter).

However, you won’t be able to delete photos of you that you didn’t take. On some platforms you can remove the tag which links a photo to you, so it won’t be associated with you anymore. You can also just ask your friend to take it down. Deleting individual things, or whole accounts, can be effective in some cases.

2. Curate

This means to select, organise and present in a particular way, usually for a particular audience.

If you have your own website or public-facing social media page, this might mean selecting things that you’re particularly proud of, for example, posts, achievements and activities, and highlighting them so they’re easy to find. Most social platforms allow you to do something like this, though they call them ‘featured’ or ‘pinned’ items.

3. Create

The third option is to create something new. If the version of you that’s available online at the moment isn’t saying the right things – or not enough – you have to find a way to take control of your story. It’s usually more authentic and simpler to create something new and dedicated, rather than retro-fitting an existing account for a different purpose or audience.

Using services like Wix.com and Squarespace, it’s easy to build a simple one-page site which can contain links to things you want to highlight elsewhere online. This could include your LinkedIn and professional social accounts, your byline page on the college newspaper, or whatever else you think is relevant for potential employers. You should also include your name, professional photo (a clear head and shoulders shot), plus a few lines about how to get in touch with you.

Link to this one-page site from your profiles on social media platforms, and maybe invest in a domain name associated with your name to point at it, which can make you appear more professional.

Another way of taking control of your presence is to create dedicated professional accounts for services which you have enjoyed using personally in the past.

Both Twitter and Instagram allow multiple user profiles. For example, you could create a professional account (using your real name) to connect with industry peers and topics, but maintain a private, personal account (with a nickname) for conversations with friends and banter about interests. Some people might follow both your accounts, which is fine.

On Facebook, a person can only have one profile. For this reason, it is generally best to think of it as a personal (friends and family) network, and restrict who you add. If you want to connect with people in a professional networking context, LinkedIn is better. This way you can preserve a clear distinction between contexts.

Illustration representing people using the internet

Have your say:

Taking the above options as a starting point – cull, curate and create – what do you think you could you do to your online presence to make your professional profile stand out for the right reasons? Share and discuss your responses with other learners in the Comments section.

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This article is from the free online course:

Create a Professional Online Presence

University of Leeds