Tips for Grads: Building a professional online presence

By Khine Thant Su, PhD Student

A strong online presence is crucial in today’s job search. According to national survey data, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates. In his recent workshop on personal branding, Don Stanley, faculty associate in Life Sciences Communication, recommended having a strategic online presence to help graduate students stand out in a crowded job market and introduce them to unexpected opportunities.

Here are key takeaways from Stanley’s workshop you can use now to start building a strategic online presence:

Define your target audience

  • Identify the specific industry, role, and institutions you want to work in. Start by reflecting on what is important to you in work, and what motivates and fulfills you.
  • If you need help narrowing down your choices, check out self-assessment resources freely available to you as a graduate student at UW­–Madison, such as ImaginePhD for humanities and social sciences scholars, and myIDP for scholars in the sciences. If you are a master’s student, you can take this assessment provided by Beyond Grad School.

Build a professional online profile

Curate your online content

  • Keep your departmental webpage up to date. Include a description about your research area answering the five Ws (who, what, where, when, why). Explain the importance of your research in language accessible to non-experts.
  • Be strategic about showcasing your strengths. Are you an excellent speaker or teacher? Embed a video of your talks or lectures on your page. Did you win a prize for a research paper? Include the paper title with the name of the prize.

With these steps, you can start building a professional online presence that will distinguish you, and open you up to opportunities you might not have even considered.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.