Cultivating An Online Presence

Chances are you already have personal profiles with social media websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. As you continue through your graduate school career and prepare for the job market, you should be thinking about creating (or cleaning up) your online presence. This may include reviewing your current web presence or developing a new one through a personal website or other online profiles. How can you harness the power of search engines, develop a consistent image, and take advantage of specialized networks? And is it really worth it?

Jentery Sayers’ ProfHacker post “Do You Need Your Own Website While On The Job Market?”  provides advice for graduate students who are preparing for the job market. Before addressing the ins and outs of developing your web presence, let’s answer the second question posed above: is it really worth it? Sayers says yes and no.

No

Yes

  • If you’ve never created a personal website, the work associated with the development of your website may add unneeded stress during a very busy time of drafting cover letters and refining your teaching portfolio.
  • If it's not commonplace for academics in our field to maintain an academic website.
  • If your advisory committee doesn't recommend that you spend your time on creating a website.
  • Sayers says, “It allows me to document and exhibit work—or better yet, the processes—involved in what’s ultimately presented as my CV.”
  • You want to take advantage of audio and visual representation of your research and experience, like photos of you at work in your lab or videos of teaching a class.
  • It allows others to more easily learn about you and find your work.
  • A website breaks down the barriers of print, allowing your audience the ability to “navigate through your materials in a non-linear fashion.”


Sayers' post concludes with an excellent list of questions to consider when beginning the process of building your academic website, addressing such issues as the best platform to use, content to include in your website, and managing URLs.

If you’ve decided that a professional online presence is important for your professional future, where do you start? In “Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics,” Miriam Posner gives us “some low-investment, high-return ways to maintain a consistent, professional Web presence.” Posner starts with three principles to follow when creating your online presence (Familiarity, Consistency, and Participation), and delves into utilizing social networks like Facebook, Academia.edu, and LinkedIn.

Much of the advice in these two articles is focused on graduate students preparing to enter the job market or academics already in their careers, but graduate students at the beginning of their academic careers should take advantage of the suggestions and resources provided. This additional time allows you to build a robust online presence and follow and network with others in your field. Developing and maintaining a clean, professional online presence now will save you the time and effort of scrubbing errant Facebook photos or differentiating yourself on the web later.