What potential employers see and read about you online can directly influence your career prospects. So, how can you make sure that your digital footprint helps you to stand out from the crowd for the right reasons?
To answer this question, we caught up with Bianca Miller, runner-up of The Apprentice 2014 and serial entrepreneur. Bianca has gone from accomplishment to accomplishment since leaving university, and has used a personal domain space to continue to grow her personal brand.
Can you tell us a bit about your transition from university to where you are now?
I graduated with a business management and economics degree in the middle of the recession, so venturing out into the world and trying to get a job was more difficult than
I expected. I eventually got offered a temp opportunity at Accenture, a management and tech consultancy firm. Suddenly, I found myself as HR adviser to 350 graduates. I worked really hard, learnt as much as I could, and was offered a permanent position. The experience taught me that with hard work, you really can succeed. I spent two and a half years at Accenture and it set me out on my journey into the business world.
What piece of advice would you give your student self?
Have awareness of your personal brand and the effect it can have on your career prospects. Going through secondary school and university, a lot of focus was placed on academic ability. I’ve since learnt that for those who succeed, it is down to more than that.
It’s down to online brand and visibility, as well as your face-to-face interaction, networking and other communication skills. Most people have degrees now, so I’d tell myself not to rely on it to get ahead and to find other ways to differentiate myself.
Why do you think it’s important to Google yourself and what should students be on the lookout for?
You want to know how a potential employer will view you. Employers will almost certainly perform a search and look at your online presence including your social profiles. If you haven’t made the effort to take a look at what’s out there you might be in for a shock!
Look at whether what comes up reflects who you are and how you want to be perceived, whether the images that come up in an image search are appropriate, and if there’s any material online from years ago that might not reflect who you are now.
What advice would you have for students’ social media profiles?
Employers don’t expect you to be an academic robot. They expect you to be human, but a responsible one. By all means highlight your personality and life outside of academia or work, but use common sense in how you go about this. Privacy settings on certain profiles can help, but don’t rely on them as a gatekeeper!
Why should students create a personal website instead of just using social media?
Having a personal site can be a great way to showcase your creativity. Think of it as your very own shopfront where you can display who you are, what you can do and what you’re interested in.
It’s also a means of active differentiation. Having your own site, and doing it well, is a surefire way of standing out from the crowd.
Have you got any tips for students thinking about what domain name to register?
As a UK student applying for a job in the UK, it is definitely worth considering a .uk domain name, as it helps with your personal branding and easily illustrates you are based in the UK. As the newest domain in the UK domain family, a .uk domain will also help differentiate you.
If a student has a common name, or a name that’s already been registered, what can they do?
Try shortened or extended versions of your name, or including your middle name or initial. If you are going to use a variation of your name, make it consistent across your social media profiles to make it easier for people to find you online.
How can students get started creating a website?
ecohosting is running a really great offer at the moment. For £14.99 you get a year’s web hosting, a personalised email address and a domain name. From here, I recommend using WordPress as you don’t need any web building knowledge to use it and it makes it really easy to add different themes, add content, and keep your website up to date.
What should students think about before they start applying for jobs?
Think about where you want to work and what you think you’d like to do. It’s also important to think why you’re the best fit for that organisation and what can you do for them. When you’re looking at companies, make sure you spend time exploring their websites and social media profiles. Find out as much as you can about them, how they support community and social causes, and use LinkedIn to find out more about their current employees.
What can students do to boost confidence and improve their chances when going into a job interview?
Try and do a mock interview with a lecturer or a friend’s parent. Make sure you prepare before the interview and always have a detailed understanding of what the job role is and what the company does. It pays to prepare the questions that you want to ask, and examples for core competency questions about your strengths, weaknesses, and problem-solving abilities.
For the interview itself, you’ll want to meet the company’s dress code, but make sure you feel confident and comfortable.