8 Steps to Create and Manage a Strong Virtual Presence: A UNC Student Guide
Did you know that 95% of recruiters actively use LinkedIn? Your virtual presence matters! Here’s a step-by-step guide, in which Career Counselor across UNC and UCS highlight curated resources to help you develop your online brand – which is what people see when they find you on the internet. Think of it as a checklist! Extra tools from career departments and schools across UNC can be found at the end of this document.
But first, what is a personal brand? Personalbrand.com defines it as follows: “A personal brand is a widely-recognized and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, or the marketplace at large.” You want it to be authentic, to sincerely highlight your greatest strengths. Here are steps to build your brand
Utilize online tools to develop your brand with authenticity - Based on the book Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding by Cynthia Johnson, and compiled by a UCS Counselor, here are some steps to take, a worksheet, some checklists, and other resources.
Demonstrate Career Readiness Competencies in your brand – Based on a survey, hundreds of employers share what competencies they seek. Make sure your competencies shine. Read more about Career Readiness Competencies under the extra resources section at the end of this guide.
LinkedIn – The number one tool, no matter what industry, is LinkedIn! Here is UCS Information on How to Use Linked In. Also check out this University Student LinkedIn Checklist. Don’t forget to make an appointment with your career counselor to get your profile critiqued.
Other social media matters too– Depending on your industry and trends, consider using the following:
- Twitter – Read Hubspot’s guide on How to Build a Memorable Personal Brand on Twitter
- Facebook – If using Facebook, consider having a separate personal and professional account. Here are 13 Ways to Use Facebook for Personal Branding from Social Media Today
- Instagram – The Muse shares Your Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram for Personal Branding (without being fake)
- Handshake – Handshake says, “80% of students who share their interests receive a message from a recruiter on Handshake.” Think about what you want them to see when arriving on your profile. Here are Handshake’s Three things students must do.
- More: Pinterest/Tiktok/Snapchat/YouTube – How to Build Your Brand on Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube Without Spending Any Money
Organize your social media audit – Consider reading Hootsuite’s Guide on How to Do a Social Media Audit, which includes a free template. UCS Counselor Chloe Benjamin’s Personal Branding Guide also includes a web-audit checklist.
Resume & cover letter branding – One tip: Consider using your resume header as stationery for your cover letter! The website, StudentLife Network shares Cover Letters, Resumes, and Personal Brands: What’s the Difference?
Email signature branding – Have you ever considered what should go in your default email signature? That’s a part of your brand. Uloop UNC has an article on How to Setup an Email Signature for College Students.
Business cards – If you have business cards made, consider matching them to your brand too. Your department at UNC may be able to work with you to get a UNC Business Card made. If you have questions, check out UNC’s business card website.
Once you’ve laid the foundations of your personal brand, it is time to maintain and grow your professional reputation.
Build relationships – The word “networking” can be intimidating. Try to replace that word with “relationship building.” You want to form professional relationships in which you can share and exchange resources over time. Think about people you’ve worked with on projects or jobs, and professionals you know. Add them on LinkedIn. See about maintaining those relationship in Step 8.
Virtual career fair prep – Prepare yourself to shine at virtual career fairs. Use the UCS Virtual Prepare for the Fair Checklist to make sure you are ready! Get to know the software used for virtual career fairs before you arrive! You can learn about CareerEco, the system we use for the majority of our career fairs, using our CareerEco Tip Sheet, which includes a tutorial.
Save the dates for upcoming career events! Add all relevant fairs and information sessions to your calendar and RSVP to attend live online! You can find UCS sponsored fairs on Handshake. All sessions will be recorded, and can be accessed on the UCS YouTube channel. See top tips, and look for the UCS Prepare for the Fairs series in the Extra Resources section below.
Career Fair Cram Sessions - offered prior to many UCS Virtual Fairs. Upcoming events can be found on Handshake and on the UNC Events pages. If none of the dates work for you, all sessions are recorded, and you can also make an appointment with a career counselor.
Research before the fairs - Before attending a fair, see which organizations will be present and what opportunities they are hiring for; prioritize who you want to speak with, prepare your questions in advance, and write your elevator pitch.
Prepare specifically for virtual job fairs – Here’s a UCS selected article: Wear Pants – and Other Advice on How to Prepare for a Virtual Job Fair from the Penny Hoarder
Associations, conferences, and employer info sessions - Get familiar with associations in your profession to learn about your industry and consider joining. Attend industry conferences. Utilize Handshake or check in with your department to identify employers who are offering information sessions, or that are participating in career panels. These can help you prepare for entry into your industry. Also check out the career guides on Vault.com. UCS provides UNC students with access. Our Personal Branding Guide also includes a checklist with opportunities for association and recognition.
Practice – Do mock interviews with career services, or use Big Interview – which offers a bank of commonly asked interview questions, coaches you on best practices for answering, and lets you practice with the ability to record yourself in mock interviews at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels.
Read Best Practices on Virtual Interviews like How to Ace Your Virtual Interview by the Vector Impact. See the UCS page on Virtual and Phone Interviews for in-depth information.
Attend UCS workshops and panels – UCS and other departments host several workshops and panels every semester that can help you prepare. Stay tuned in with department’s career services or keep an eye on the UCS events pages.
Learn the BAR or STAR method – Learn how to answer behavioral interview questions by using one of these methods. For example with BAR, you respond to questions by presenting the Background, sharing the Action taken, and concluding with the Result. For the STAR method, you respond with the Situation you faced, the Task at hand, the Action you took, and the Result that you are proud of.
Utilize virtual backgrounds – Avoid clutter and distraction in your background by using Virtual Backgrounds in Zoom. For example, here is a UCS created virtual background and here are instructions for using virtual backgrounds.
Follow-up after interviews – Within 24 hours, send a thank you note, ideally to everyone you’ve met with. If you haven’t heard back within about a week, a check in may be appropriate. No Response After an Interview? Here’s How to Follow Up By Email? Career Sidekick shares tips on what to say.
Reinvest in your professional associations – If you’re not involved with professional associations, these can really help with a targeted job search, with networking, and with giving you a community to engage with professionally. To get started, check out this job-hunt.org article on How to Find Jobs Using Associations and College / Corporate Alumni Networks.
To explore how LinkedIn can help advance your brand with professional associations, read The Linkedin" Strategy to Networking Through Professional Associations on careerprofiles.info.
Post regularly and make sure your posts are seen. Use hashtags to amplify your posts. See slide 30.
Maintain relationships - You’ve planted the seeds for professional relationships, now time to nurture them. After your first job this is especially important – LinkedIn is one place you can do this. Check out these Four Tips to Network on LinkedIn, paying special attention to steps 3 and 4. Also write recommendations for deserving people you’ve worked with, and endorse others’ skills. They just may reciprocate that favor!
View this document for more tools to help with your personal brand.
All events are recorded and can be found on our UCS YouTube Channel.
- August 17th – 5:30-7pm – Level Up Your Virtual Brand During a Virtual Recruiting Season with Vanguard and UNC Computer Science (CS). UNC CS will bring a lineup of events to help you be successful in a virtual recruiting environment. To kick things off, Stephanie Johnson, UNC CS’s Career Development Lead, will be joined by Vanguard’s Erika Fosu. In this workshop, students will hear what they can expect for the UNC CS Recruiting season and how to create their virtual brand to set themselves apart.
- August 20th – 4-5pm – Employer Meetup: Stand out on Handshake: Did you know that employers are searching for candidates for jobs and internships on Handshake? In this virtual meetup, learn key tips on how to maximize Handshake by speaking directly with employers. We will discuss what to include in your Handshake profile, how to search effectively for job and internships, and where to find information about upcoming employer events. By the end of the session you will be ready to update your Handshake profile and apply for positions!
- September 22-24 all day each day – Your Career Toolbox: Using Big Interview: Follow us on Instagram @uncucs and get tips on how to make the most out of this tool to help you gain the interview advantage.
- October 15th from 10:30-11:30 am – Expanding Your Professional Network on LinkedIn: LinkedIn has become one of the primary career exploration, job searching, and networking tools available on-line. In this workshop, you will learn how to best utilize LinkedIn to explore career options, effectively network, maximize your profile and connections, and communicate your subject matter expertise. Additionally, you will learn how best to connect with UNC-CH alumni and strengthen your professional brand through LinkedIn.
- September 8th, September 14th, and September 15th from 4-5 pm Career Fair Cram Sessions - offered prior to many UCS Virtual Fairs. Upcoming events can be found on Handshake and on the UNC Events pages.