In your search for the dream legal job, you’ve updated your resume, prepped for interviews and perfected your elevator pitch. But there’s one thing you may have forgotten to do: improve your online brand. In today’s digital age, a positive web presence is practically a requirement for getting noticed and hired. Here are seven legal career tips for how to improve your image with personal online branding.
- Know yourself
Before you update your profile on LinkedIn, arguably the most influential professional social network today, take a good look at yourself. Start by jotting down your strengths, weaknesses and legal career goals. Then get advice from trusted friends and colleagues about how your online profile comes across. Ask them to point out any questionable content or areas that look thin or incomplete, and work on those.
- Know your audience
If most of your legal resumes are going to traditional law firms, your online brand should have a buttoned-down appearance and tone. But if you’re targeting more cutting-edge legal practices, you can take a more innovative approach. Regardless of the type of position you seek, remember that the audience for your professional online profile is different from that of your personal social media page, so keep your photo and other content businesslike.
- Be complete
Just having an account is not enough. You have to populate it with good, relevant content. Go to your LinkedIn page and look at the top right-hand side: What is the strength of your profile? If you’re a serious job seeker, it should be at or close to 100 percent complete. In addition to the basics, include your specialties, college/law school groups and societies, samples of work (make sure they don’t contain privileged content), volunteer activities and awards. And of course replace that default silhouette (in LinkedIn) or the egg avatar (in Twitter) with a professional photo— not a selfie or family portrait with other people cropped out.
- Be consistent
Make sure the persona you present across the web is consistent from platform to platform. This can be as simple as making sure the name you use is the same on each site; in other words, don’t be “Catherine” in one place but “Kate” in another. Even more important, check to see that your summary (or About) sections, job histories and the tone are in line with each other. And when you add a publication, honor or job title, do so across all profiles.
LinkedIn is not the only social media outlet for professional networking and information sharing. Tap into Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and/or Pinterest. There are also a few platforms specific to the legal community, such as Martindale.com Connected and LawLink (for attorneys). To develop even more of an online presence, volunteer to speak at a webinar or contribute articles to industry publications.
6. Check yourself out
Have you Googled yourself lately? If not, you should. What turns up when you search yourself online is what prospective employers or clients can find out about you. To keep on top of what others see, take a few minutes to set up a Google Alert for your name. If something unflattering shows up, there are a few ways you can go about scrubbing some of the negative content:
- Ask the person or organization that posted the article to take it down.
- Use a reputation management company like Reputation.com or BrandYourself.
- Push down damaging search results by increasing the amount of positive content you yourself put out there. This includes buying your own domain name and creating a personal website. Also sign up for and use as many social media sites as possible, and tweak the setting so that the content is public, i.e., searchable.
- Watch what you write
OK to post online: work history, career accomplishments, unique skills, personal values and specialized knowledge. Not OK to post: confidential information or legal advice — doing so could put you in hot water for the unauthorized practice of law. Also, if your present employer or state bar association has a social media policy, read it thoroughly. For example, your comments and posts may be construed as legal advertising (see California’s Formal Opinion No. 2012-186). The best legal career advice, when it comes to your digital presence, is to avoid posting anything online you wouldn’t want to see in a newspaper — with your name beside it.
In today’s digital world, you can’t escape the influence of the Internet on your personal brand. Don’t let your less-than-stellar online profile hinder your networking and job search efforts. Rather, make your online presence an authentic and appealing representation of who you are as a legal professional.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.