CREATING A DIGITAL PROFILE

In part two of our Ready for Work Programme launch series, we delve into the importance for students and graduates to start building their digital profiles in order to expand their networking and employability skills and knowledge, but also building their personal brand strategies.

Students generally work towards a career that would enable them to meet their life goals – whether professionally or personally – and although this is just one step towards finding the perfect opportunities to turn career dreams into reality, the process of getting there requires quite some preparation. Ultimately, we have to create an identity that is attractive to prospective employers.

Building a personal brand strategy

Changes in the job market occur frequently, and keeping up with the knowledge and skills required for entry-level positions is critical in building the career we want and keeping all of our career goals in sight.

Prof Gené van Heerden from the Department of Marketing Management at the University of Pretoria, says this process is known as our personal brand strategy – in other words, aligning our knowledge, experience and skills with prospective employers, developing a professional CV and, very importantly, managing our social media profiles.

We have to familiarise ourselves with the various positions and roles available out in the job market, and properly prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. Positioning ourselves as best as possible and presenting a competitive, yet professional, image to employers – not only differentiating ourselves by using our analytical abilities in a unique way, but also putting in the dedicated time, effort and energy to make it happen.

“When you position yourself, you need to develop a message that will appeal to your audience in a very positive way. Preparing for your career, your personal message about your knowledge, skills and experience should be used in a creative way to illustrate how you will add value,” Prof van Heerden adds.

Communicating to potential employers

Understanding employers’ needs and requirements and aligning our abilities accordingly, will improve our chances to engage with prospective employers. Submitting a CV, for example, is one means of communication whereby we usually present ourselves as potential employees.

And it is in this space where digital platforms have recently made a huge impact in presenting ourselves very differently. We spend a lot of time online – particularly on our phones – and much of that time is dedicated to social media activities where we post, like, share and comment.

Most social sites are based on sharing personal data and all these bits of information play a role when thinking about our digital identities – especially in the context of planning a career or making a career shift. It is therefore important to manage and align it with our personal brand in order to support a professional image. This is usually linked to a particular profile that contributes to building a digital identity.

Digital profiles and professional identities

“When working towards a career, one of the most appropriate networking sites that could assist you in managing and working towards an entry-level position, is to join LinkedIn,” says Prof van Heerden.

LinkedIn is currently one of the largest professional networking platforms and primarily focuses on building professional networks online. As students, LinkedIn offers an opportunity to start building our professional identities and provides a step-by-step process to develop and manage profiles very effectively. We can position and differentiate ourselves in such a way as to draw the attention of prospective employers.

The types of activity and content shared on LinkedIn therefore differs from other platforms. Presenting ourselves professionally, linking with other professionals and following particular influencers in our areas of interest, contribute greatly to our professional profiles. This is critical when reflecting on the nature of activities we participate in on LinkedIn (and, of course, in some instances other platforms too).

So what can we do to manage our digital identities more effectively?

Prof van Heerden gives a few tips:

  1. Develop a good understanding of various digital platforms and make a concerted effort to monitor your identities accordingly.
  2. Be vigilant in reviewing all your digital identities when applying for entry-level positions and following that dream career.
  3. Start as soon as possible and develop your professional identity to assist you in managing your personal brand strategy.
  4. Align your needs and the requirements of the career you have always dreamed of. Each digital identity tells a story and sends a message about who you are.
  5. Take up further training to boost your skills and add to your portfolio of professional traits.

Use technology and digital platforms responsibly

Technology, devices and data have influenced the way we manage our lives in general and also our careers. Social media has created a space for us to present and connect with each another, but it has also created a number of challenges when it comes to managing our online identities.

Our responsibility starts with managing and updating our online profiles, setting our privacy settings and analysing our digital identities by critically reviewing the messages we are sending out. This can be done by considering why we use particular platforms and what our intentions or objectives are with each.

To start your personal brand strategy today, why not upskill with the Kick-start your professional network using LinkedIn short course presented by Enterprises University of Pretoria? Or for more information on the Ready for Work Programme, go to www.enterprises.up.ac.za/ready4work.

Read more: Ready for Work Programme launched for UP students and graduates (Part 1)