Why Students Need a Professional Online Presence

No more mucking around. It’s time to get serious, especially if you are serious about securing that scholarship, internship, or job application. Here are reasons why ensuring a positive, professional online presence is key to success, not just for established professionals but also for you as a student. 

Credibility & Reputation

Scholarship providers, university admissions officers, and employers often conduct online research and social media screening to gain additional insights into their candidate’s personality, behaviour, and overall suitability with their organisations.

A quick overview of your online profile and social media activity can give potential stakeholders a sense of your professionalism and reputation. While active participation in knowledge discussions or demonstration of thought leadership can be seen as positive indicators, inappropriate or controversial content and disrespectful behaviour or comments will raise a red flag.

By looking at your interests and community involvement in your online profiles, potential employers and academic entities can evaluate how well your values align with theirs.

How you communicate in posts, blogs, and forums can also offer insights into your knowledge level, writing skills, interpersonal skills, and empathy.

If you are looking to increase your chances of sealing the deal with potential stakeholders, be sure to maintain a professional online presence that reflects a positive, credible reputation.

Networking Opportunities

Have a head start in networking and stay up to date on industry trends by ensuring an online presence on professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn.

Early networking gets you started on developing and nurturing long-term relationships that may become valuable resources for advice, support, and future opportunities. 

Your early insights into the industry can guide you in making informed decisions about your educational path and career goals.

It is also worth noting that many job openings, internships, and projects are filled through word-of-mouth referrals or connections within the professional network.

As you navigate these professional social engagements as a student, you refine communication, interpersonal, and networking skills that will come in handy for future career interactions, such as job interviews, presentations, and public speaking.

Credentials Showcase & Personal Branding

Students can utilise their online presence to showcase their talents, skills, projects, and accomplishments to highlight their potential to employers, academic entities, and other stakeholders.

Share your credentials on LinkedIn and actively engage your network through thought leadership opinions and discussions. Depending on your career niche, you can also consider creating a professional portfolio website to showcase your work.

As you build your professional online presence, you are essentially curating your personal brand that can set you apart from others in competitive situations, such as scholarship applications or job interviews.

Keep your online profile information current, use an appropriate photo to identify yourself, and beef up your bio to deliberately convey what you want potential stakeholders to know about you.

But remember, being professional doesn’t mean being boring. Just look at some of the engaging content by LinkedIn Top Voices. While potential stakeholders may scrutinise your profile, it is you they want to get to know. So don’t forget to let your personality shine through your personal brand.  

After all, brand building takes time, and it is always better to start earlier than later.

Virtual Learning & Remote Work Opportunities

As you transition into higher education and your professional lives, you will find yourself participating in more and more virtual learning opportunities, conference calls, and remote collaboration on projects. It is important to consider your online image in these scenarios and be sure to present yourself in a way so that people, especially those who have not met you in person, will take you seriously.

If you are looking to freelance or take up a side gig during your student years, with remote work being the most accessible and flexible option, having a professional online presence can make you more visible and credible, increasing your chances of being considered for such opportunities.

The Backlash of Unprofessional Online Conduct

We all have our impulsive moments, and in the fit of the moment, we might lash out with an inappropriate comment. You might also think, “What’s the harm in having some fun”, “Who will know?”, and “I can always delete it.”

But remember, everything you do online leaves a digital footprint that might not be erased completely. Your deleted content can still be accessed via screenshots and archives. It is crucial to be aware that your online actions and statements can come back to hurt your reputation and future professional prospects.

So always think twice. A good rule of thumb would be that if it’s not something you would want to show your parents or grandparents, it’s probably not appropriate to post it online. 

Final Thoughts 

Use your online presence as a tool to enhance your personal, academic, and professional pursuits. Don’t wait till you graduate or only when you are looking for internship or employment opportunities to start paying attention to your online presence. Start reviewing your digital footprint, cleansing your social media accounts, and professionalising your online profiles now.