Social media may have started as a distraction, but it can now make careers. Social media is a great way to build a portfolio of your past work, show off your skills, and create a personal brand that can sell you both inside your company and outside it. So how do you start reaching for the career you want with social media?
Split your social media networks between public and private
The first step is figure out which networks are best for professional development, and which are more suited to personal interaction with family and friends. LinkedIn is the most visible and effective example of a professional social network, but the network you build your personal presence on should be the one the people you most want to see you are on. Photographers flock to Instagram, journalists use Twitter, and so on. Look up some people in the field you admire and look at the social networks they use most, and then get started there.
Use other networks for private functions, and keep a strict divide between them. It’s likely best to keep your “personal” side of social media set to private, and to not discuss any frustrations you have with your role or your career even there. Keeping a strict wall between public and private will help you appear more professional, and limit problems on social media. With your private profile, be careful who you friend; often what should be private is breached by friending the wrong person.
If you follow coworkers on private social media, have a strict rule: No work talk. If they violate that rule, especially to gripe, delete the offending comment and block them. Better to hurt feelings a bit now than damage your career later.
Utilize social media as your portfolio
One of the key advantages of social media is that you can put a portfolio of your accomplishments and work at anyone’s fingertips. So, approach it with the question of what someone who might want to hire you, or bring you into an important project, most wants to see. This could be the white papers you’ve written, samples of your freelance work, and even an art portfolio in the case of some professions.
Even if you’re just starting out, talk about your successes and how you overcame challenges. If you’ve reorganized a supply closet, found a way to save money on a small office expense, or rearranged a filing system, that’s worth talking about.
A precisely curated portfolio doesn’t stop at articles. You should also use social media to demonstrate thought leadership in your chosen field. This can be as simple as sharing an article with a thoughtful sentence attached to it, or even a civil professional response to an article in your field that you disagree with. Demonstrating not just that you’re capable of a role and want it, but why you want it, can be just as important.
Follow thought leaders on social media
Treating social media as a form of professional development will affect who you follow. Look for people who are leading in your field, whether they discover and share articles you find fascinating, or are celebrities in your chosen industry. Treat their feeds as a sort of free continuing education course, offering food for thought and approaches you may not have considered. A well-curated follow list is often how you’re found, and intelligent conversation about your field helps people to stick around.
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Focus on quality, not quantity~root~>
Nobody can consciously go viral. And often going viral has negative consequences for your career, even if you do so for a positive reason. Instead focus on quality. It’s more important ten people closely read and think about something you say than ten million glance at it and move on to the next meme. The more engaged and considered your work is, the better it’ll be and the stronger your brand will be.
Remember the job you have
Even when you’re building to a new career, don’t forget about the job you have. Applying the skills you’re developing to your current role can be a powerful demonstration of why you can step up to a greater responsibility within your company or even a new career. It’s also a good way to demonstrate the bedrock skills of office work. Everyone in an office needs to be organized, work well in a team, and apply critical thinking skills, whether they’re a C-suite executive or the receptionist up front. Showing how you apply these skills in your current role should be a small piece of building up your career.
Be professional on all social media
The internet can be a spirited place, and in your off-hours, you might want to engage with friends in a bit of sharp-tongued debate. But your professional portfolio is no place for jokes about college shenanigans, let alone angry political arguments. The only way to win a fight on the internet is to not start one, and to not be pulled into a heated exchange someone else starts. If you must engage with somebody, be polite; if you don’t have to, being the bigger person and ignoring the insults will show good workplace skills.
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Be patient using social media to build your career~root~>
Finally, this won’t happen tomorrow. Even the most seemingly meteoric rises in your field were built on a foundation of months or even years of hard work, as people made connections, impressed small groups, and slowly built up a reputation. Put in the work using social media to build your career, a little each day, and over time, you’ll see results.
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