Remember in the early 2000s when we used to create online pseudonym usernames like “plantlover101” or “sillys0pran0” for internet safety? Fast-forward to 2020, where personal branding is now one of the best tools to market yourself. Long gone are the days where you’ll be advised to hide social media accounts from employers - and why should you? They paint a picture of who you are as a scholar and as a person, too. But personal branding is a scary term. How do you embody a form of corporate personhood without hiding your authentic and multi-faceted self? The answer sounds too good to be true: You don’t have to!
So, what better time than now, during the Summer, to beef up your online presence? Whether your future aspirations include positions in academia, industry, or nonprofits, I’m going to cover several different online platforms beyond traditional LinkedIn or Handshake accounts that you can use to start a digital presence tailored to showcase you and your work:
A website is a great central hub to house all of your information. You can make these on free sites such as Wix or WordPress, or you can pay for your own domain on servers such as Squarespace. You can also use your website to point audiences to other important places, like your departmental profile or LinkTree. Potential content on these websites could vary from links to recent publications/presentations, your teaching materials and philosophy, blog posts, or your CV/Resume. Personal websites aren’t just for the job market, either; you can use them as a front page to “you” and as way to supplement other networking throughout the course of your career. Finally, don’t be afraid of the daunting task of a website filled to the brim with content: here’s an example of Illinois alumni and Google Chrome engineer Parisa Tabriz’s minimalistic website.
Social Media Sites
Social media sites can be a great place to engage with similar scholars in your field, share work and thoughts that resonate with your research, and share your personal interests. Twitter is a great way to show that you are a real person (you can be a comparative literature PhD student and still tweet about Animal Crossing and college basketball!). Instagram allows you to share stories and posts that highlight what you’re working on, or where your work takes you. Facebook gives you a place to create events when you want to publicize a research colloquium or invite the public to an event you’re proud of. Social media is also one of the best ways to network while conferencing - use the #conferencehashtag2020 that’s on your ID badge and use them in conjunction to one another to mark your presence as well as learn what’s going on with others! Here’s a great example of Illinois marketing professor Mark Wolters’ professional and personal interests combining on his travel Twitter account.
Multimedia platforms such as YouTube, VSCO, and music streaming sites can be used as strong portfolio pieces or snapshots into who you are. Research is beautiful, and you don’t need to look further than the annual Graduate College Image of Research competition to prove it. Have some great shots of your work? Use VSCO to highlight it from a visual standpoint. Have you recorded some demos of your engineering capstones? Share those on YouTube. For some inspiration on creative portfolio pieces, you can check out some awesome podcasts by Illinois researchers and alumni here or YouTube recordings of Jazz@Illinois grad students here.
In sum, you shouldn’t be afraid to venture beyond LinkedIn to show others in the field who you are, what you research, and the goals you’re passionate about! From creating a website with a Hobbies tab highlighting your baking adventures to replying to a Tweet from one of the legendary scholars you’re a big fan of, I encourage you to explore different online mediums to create a personal brand that you’re proud of and demonstrates who you truly are.
Melinda Sevilla earned her M.A. in Mediated Communication and Technology from the University of Illinois in May 2020. Through her graduate program, she served as an award-winning graduate instructor in the Communication department, researched under Dr. Travis Dixon in the Media Effects lab, and worked as a communications & marketing intern at the Champaign Center Partnership. She currently works as Digital Content Specialist at the Illini Union. Her areas of interest include digital media, generational marketing, new technology environments, and race/ethnicity. You can check out her website at melindasevilla.com.