Building an online presence for college students

online presence

Written by Charaf Mrah

Salut! I'm a college student majoring in Software Engineering. I created this website to share whatever I'm learning with you.

September 13, 2020

Imagine this scenario: you apply to your dream job and get accepted for an interview. After the interview, you get a call telling you that they found your TikTok sharing weird opinions four years ago.

Obviously you should be free to share what you want, but you also need to remember that companies won’t spend much time trying to understand a context.

Also as humans, we tend to change our views often, which is something positive and means that we’re evolving.

With the current society, however, people still judge you for things you did 5, 10, 20 years ago. 

And with the help of the internet that record is stored on some server somewhere forever. 

Nothing is lost, once something touches the internet, it will always stay there. As long as humans are still around of course.

This sounds scary but there are still things you can do to protect your information (we will get into that in a future blog post) but for now, let’s think about how to organize and create a professional online presence.

Why do you need a professional online presence?

The very first we need to think about is why you should have an online presence in the first place.

Recruiters will now often google your name to get information about you.

The first result might be your Instagram spam account where you’re sharing memes with your friends. This is probably not gonna help your case and make them wanna hire you (unless your memes are top tier, no jk jk).

Since recruiters are going to google you, this is a golden opportunity for you to market yourself for them.

The first results might be projects that you worked on which will probably impress whoever is hiring you.

I should also add that a professional online presence isn’t just necessary for people looking for jobs. Even entrepreneurs need it!

Say you wanna work with company X or want to fund from venture capitalist Y, they would probably do some research about you as well. 

Now that we established why it’s important to have a professional online presence, let’s start with why you should start doing it now.

Why you need to establish an online presence now as a college student:

I mean you’re still a college student and maybe you’re not worried about getting a job for now. 

But let’s say you were at an event and you got to meet someone that worked at a prestigious job and they thought you were interesting. They get your contact information to contact you later on but they never do because of what they found you posting online.

You never know when the opportunity comes and you might be unprepared for it.

Also, you should note that having a professional presence online isn’t just about “hiding irrelevant information” to recruiters. It’s more importantly about marketing yourself and having the most relevant information available for those hiring you to find it.

For example: if you’re trying to become a web developer and a recruiter googles your name, your personal website should be at the top 5 search results which will contain all of the websites that you worked on as a project. This will have a higher impact on their decision that your CV.

How do you set up a professional online presence?

We talked a lot about why having the right online presence is important and why you should start doing it now, but now let’s get into the meat.

First of all, what is a professional online presence? Does it mean:

You should be boring?

You should have no funny/memes content tied to your name online?

You should share only business/work/studying related stuff?

You should be fake?

NO!

I mean look at this picture on my Instagram account:

In my opinion, a professional online presence is something that you don’t mind anyone seeing. These means from your friends to your future employee or business partners.

We’re all humans at the end of the day and we all love memes ( most of us at least ).

But as a college student during these times, you’ve probably had a social media account for years, probably since middle school. And let’s be honest, we were dumb! ( most of us again ). 

You might have shared things that you don’t believe in anymore or things that you’re just not proud of. It’s time to clean them!

I would urge you to go through your accounts and do some cleaning here and there. If you have A TON of content on your account maybe consider having it as an alt and making a new fresh one with your name.

Social media isn’t the only thing that can pop up when people google your name however, there’s something very important that could and should come up: your personal website.

Your personal website is something that you should use to market yourself. At the end of the day, it’s your website and you could have anything you want on it. 

You could add all the projects your worked on, a blog, a contact page…etc.

Another thing you should work on is your LinkedIn account.

I’m gonna be honest: I hate LinkedIn. The platform is so weird and pushy, but if you want to make professional contacts, LinkedIn is the best place (Twitter is a close second).

RELATED: How to use LinkedIn

How I did it:

I just want to say that I’m still working on my online presence and it’s far from perfect. But I’m working on it right now.

The first thing I did on the social media site is that I made accounts with my real name on them, with the same username @charafmrah.

The second thing I worked on was my LinkedIn account (still far from perfect as well). 

Finally, I worked on my personal website, in which I made a full blog post on how you can create a personal website as well (a step-by-step guide) while I was building it.

Now if I google my name (Charaf Mrah) my personal youtube channel comes up as well as website and other social media accounts. 

Before I started optimizing my accounts and website, I used to get very weird results when I searched for my name. I would get pictures of flowers and other random people as well as unrelated news to the name.

Conclusion:

To sum everything up, a professional online presence doesn’t mean creating a fake persona on the internet but it’s rather about marketing yourself and having the most important information available for those who are going to work with you.

You can start by:

  1. Check your social media accounts and evaluate whether you’re fine with employers or anyone checking it. If it’s not the maybe create a new one and keep that for your family and friends. 
  2. Make a LinkedIn account.
  3. Build a personal website with relevant information to what you’re doing / what you want to do.

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