Life in the Digital Age requires you to have a digital presence. You communicate via email, chat, and text through a plethora of different platforms, operating systems and applications. Your communication preferences will vary depending in part on your age and level of technical sophistication.
That said, to be successful in your career, your digital presence must cater to not only your needs, but those of your clients, co-workers, and prospective employers.
Not having a digital presence is a non-option for white-collar service providers. Devote effort to improving your existing presence to avoid sabotaging your career development.
This is not a lecture about posting scandalous material on the web or maintaining boundaries between your personal digital existence and your professional one. There are, however, very common mistakes that prospective candidates make, that often mean the difference between being considered for an open position and being passed by. Even with stellar credentials, mishandling your digital media presence can send uninviting signals to both recruiters and prospective employers.
Here are the five most important areas to hone your online presence:
- Professional Profile Picture
First impressions count. People want to know whom they are dealing with and whom they will be meeting with. Profiles without pictures are passed by. My immediate thoughts when finding a bio or professional profile lacking a photo are: A) you have your bases covered — you either are (or think you are) kind of a big deal and don’t need my services; B) you do not care about you career development (so why should I?); or C) you are not a client-facing professional and never care to be.
When selecting a professional profile picture, leave the selfies and headshots cropped from group photos for Facebook or online dating sites. Wherever you have a professional footprint, your profile picture needs to be… well, professional. A quick, hour-long photo shoot with a professional photographer will yield a handful of decent headshots for less than the cost of a few decent glasses of wine and dinner at an upscale restaurant.
While you may consider voicemail obsolete, your boss and clients likely won’t. Your voicemail is often the first gatekeeper that potential clients encounter and should convey a particular message. When I hear the bland, generic, mechanical voicemail greetings of attorneys who opt not to record one, my first thought is that they are either technologically challenged or don’t care about their presentation.
The iconic voice of “Joshua” works great in Wargames (1983), not so much in a voicemail greeting.
- Professional Bio
Depending on the firm, attorney bios range from the barren, with little more than contact information, to the overblown.
If your firm chooses to go the barren route, promote your brand on LinkedIn. However, if you do have a web bio, you should keep it professional within your firm’s guidelines and up-to-date. Regrettably, many attorney bios are stale. I have had many conversations with associates who tell me that their web bio is out-of-date, is not really representative of their current practice, and that they were just about to get around to updating it. Since bios offer the most comprehensive initial look at your practice, letting your bio become dated decreases your chances of being approached by clients, recruiters, and prospective employers.
- Digital Professional Network / Networking Activity
Regardless of the quality of your firm web bio, you should be on and actively using LinkedIn. You not only have an opportunity to give professionals an understanding of your current practice and showcase key skillsets, you can post your interests, volunteer activities, and causes, each revealing a facet of your personality. Testimonials and endorsements also get the reader comfortable with you as both a professional and a person.
On LinkedIn, I look at all of the aforementioned profile components and more (Do you speak any foreign languages?; Did you have a prestigious secondment?). As recruitment steadily becomes more automated and digital, you should understand that the profession employs Boolean Logic when searching for you with tools such as LinkedIn Recruiter. Your profile requires a level of detail that will be captured by the search terms recruiters use to find you. If your profile lacks granularity, you’ll likely get passed over for great opportunities that would have fit your practice.
- Over-reliance on YOUR Preferred Means of Communication
Just because you like to communicate via text doesn’t mean that your boss, client, or a prospective employer will be reaching out to you that way.
As service providers, we must accommodate the communication preferences of others. However, I had a wake-up call when one recently placed candidate told me, “My friends and I view unscheduled calls as an invasion of our privacy.” The candidate’s preferred method of communication is text messaging. I now routinely make it a point to add candidate personal mobile phone numbers to my smartphone to accommodate their communication preference. Whether text, email, or smoke signal, I do everything I can to ensure responsiveness.
You too must ensure that you listen to voicemail messages and return phone calls, allow LinkedIn messages to be sent to you, and read and respond to them in a timely manner, etc.
Cleaning Up Your Digital Presence
As mentioned above, you can take relatively simple steps to clean up your digital presence. Professional profile pictures, voicemails, and biographies as well as varied digital availability will do wonders for your career. You will impress your bosses, clients, and prospective employers. Whether your goal is to advance with your current employer by pleasing your superiors and winning new clients or find a new dream role, your digital presence matters.