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We are living in an age in which our online presence matters. This is as true for prospective postgraduates as it is for anyone else. In fact, it could be even more important.
After all, you’re not just a student anymore. You’re also a budding professional, or perhaps even a future scholar.
Interviewers for Masters and PhD places may judge you accordingly. So could future employers.
But your social media accounts don’t have to be a liability. By showing off some of your greatest work and achievements, they can be a great thing to include in applications for Masters courses, PhD programmes and funding.
This blog post is here to tell you how can you use the power of the internet to make absolutely sure you are portraying yourself in the best possible light.
It takes all of two minutes to set up a new email account. Which, incidentally, is about as long as it might take someone to judge you for using the cringe-worthy email address you set up in the hazy days of Bebo and Myspace.
A sensible email address containing your name is essential for use in applications and professional correspondence.
Your university email address probably won’t be available to you after you graduate, so it’s worthwhile setting up an independent account that you’ll be able to use well after your course finishes.
If you’re going to exhibit things you wouldn’t want a lecturer or future boss to see, you need to make sure your privacy settings are set accordingly.
We don’t mean to say that every post you make must be absolutely squeaky clean but, at the end of the day, there’s really no saying who is going to share or find your posts and photos. A good rule of thumb is to simply not post anything you would not wish to be associated with in a university or professional environment.
Some people also opt to use a slight variation of their full name on their Facebook account, for example by using their middle name instead of their surname. This may make it more likely that your profile will only be found by friends.
Organising your social media presence doesn’t just mean optimising old accounts. It could also mean creating some new ones.
If you’re returning to study after a period in professional employment, you’re probably familiar with LinkedIn. If you’re heading to a Masters or PhD straight from an undergraduate degree, you may also be familiar with LinkedIn… and wondering what it has to do with students.
Put simply, LinkedIn is a great way of framing the way people discover you professionally, online.
You don’t necessarily need to be on LinkedIn all the time, but creating a profile can be a great way to make sure that when someone searches online for your name, they are presented with a list of the very best things you have to offer.
Showcase your best qualities; include your work experience, awards, and sporting achievements, all the societies and extra-curricular activities you’ve been involved in, and anything you have ever done for charity. Build up your network by adding your friends, course mates, lecturers, and colleagues.
Even if you already have a LinkedIn, now’s the time to take a look at it and make sure it reflects your goals as a postgraduate.
LinkedIn helps other people (including employers and recruiters) to create a detailed picture of the kind of person you are and the variety of things you have done. So keep your profile up to date, and make sure you have a decent photo and a relevant summary section.
In this day and age, when including handles alongside one’s email address on a CV is commonplace, it’s safe to say that Twitter is a fairly established means of social networking.
A lot of people benefit from using the website, not just those with a penchant for live blogging their brunches. For example, it’s a great place to meet people who share your passions and skills (including academic and research interests), and to find out about breaking news stories.
In many professions, competence using Twitter is expected. Being able to show a presence on the platform will help to demonstrate that you are in touch, and up to date with social media.
Start by setting up a profile with a straightforward handle, a decent photograph of yourself, and an informative bio. You can then use it as a medium for sharing your work.
If you write a blog post or an essay you’re proud of, you can easily publicise it in a tweet with just a few savvy hashtags. If you aren’t comfortable doing this, you can use your account to follow and open a dialogue with lecturers and professionals you are interested in.
If you’re an old hand on the website and have been tweeting for years, you might want to consider making a separate, professional account, in case there are things on your old one you wouldn’t wish people to see.
This might seem a bit self-aggrandising, but it really doesn’t have to be. A website or blog can be a great place to publish your work, and to write about the things that matter to you.
It’s a brilliant way to show prospective universities that you are really committed to, and passionate about a subject.
A blog can also become an asset further into a postgraduate course You can use it to ‘try out’ academic ideas, get informal feedback on work in progress. This can be particularly helpful for PhD students looking to establish ownership of their research area (‘marking your territory’, so to speak).
If in doubt about what information is available about you online, try searching for yourself.
If you don’t like the fact that your search turns up the YouTube playlists you made eight years ago, you can do something about it.
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