By Vickie Elmer
Change is good. And changing things up on your online profile can attract attention, whether it's a recruiter or an angel investor or some new followers.
This fall brings many good reasons for freshening up our online images: Stepped up networking events, new or renewed emphasis on career goals and of course, the expectation that slower economic and job growth could require more effort to stay ahead or land a great job.
Plus, these profiles are your almost-avatars in the online world, and for anyone who's looking for a new job, a new gig or appointment to a nonprofit board, they are crucial. If you're like me, you want to look great, not merely good or professional, online.
So here are six ways to tackle this:
1. See What's Working.
Scroll through some other profiles, especially people who you respect or those who you hope to emulate. Read their profiles, and pay attention to the tags they use and other details that set them apart from the masses. You're not going to cut and paste anything, but you might appreciate and adapt some of their approaches.
2. Update Your Bio.
Pack it with detail, wins, richness. Make it compelling, and match the content to the audience you are targeting. So forgo mentioning your award-winning muffins on your LinkedIn profile (unless you're looking for a job as a pastry chef). Come up with a pithy summary statement – think jingle or tagline. Consider what makes you a stand-out, and which of your strengths you want to promote.
"There is a delicate balance between touting strengths and looking far too self-important. Too little tooting and you look boring or unqualified. Too much tooting and you look like an ass," writes E. Foley in the dating blog Geek's Dream Girl. (My new bio for Glassdoor is up and I've freshened up my Twitter profile, too. This week, I tackle LinkedIn; how long can I say I'm "Fortunate to write for Fortune" without it getting old?)
3. Add a New Photo.
This is especially important if you've changed your look, lost 25 pounds or are trying to move up into management. In that case, wear a suit – preferably one that would blend right in during executive staff meetings at your employer. If you're in a creative field, switch to a caricature or an illustration, which can be a real stand-out. Allow the photo or illustration to capture some of your personality and energy – though not so much you look unprofessional or immature (I haven't done this yet, but watch for a new one in a month or so).
4. Add New Social Connecting Points.
Share more of yourself – more ways to see who you are and how you operate online. If you're using Reddit or Quora, FourSquare, Vimeo or YouTube or another site, add them to your page. If you wrote a guest blog post that was well-received, include that. Ditto for an article or show that featured you or your work.
5. Splash on Some Color.
Fall is the season where leaves turn brilliant orange and yellow, so you can borrow some colors for your profile too. Choose colors that you like or that match your personality or career path – or select some that seem fashionable or seasonal (My personal blog WorkingKind.com and my Twitter page both will seem more colorful soon).
6. Get Fresh Eyes on You.
Ask your new friend who works in marketing or as an editor to review your new profile, and offer suggestions. Or get your partner to peruse your blog's 'About Me' page and suggest some improvements. If your college roommate now is a recruiter, recruit her to check you out. The truth is: Just about everyone needs an editor, and a second look at how they're promoting themselves. What you thought was fresh and funny may sound foolish or immature to others, and you won't know that unless you get a second and third opinion.
These suggestions will work, little by little, one by one. As important as it is, don't try to refresh everything in one day. Try to get it done within a month, though.
Then add a reminder to your calendar in January to jump in and do it all again. By then, you'll have new skills or a new job – and maybe a new haircut.
Vickie Elmer writes about consumer issues, careers and workplace subjects for the New York Times, Fortune magazine, the Washington Post and other top tier media outlets. Her articles are filled with actionable insights, compelling stories and inspiring people. The mother of three also co-owns Mity Nice LLC, a small social cart business based in Ann Arbor, Mich., which donates to more than a dozen charities each summer and fall. Her motto changes regularly, but her concentration on careers, kindness, creativity and high quality writing remains constant.
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