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Setting Up Your Digital Game Plan

One of the greatest job search assets is right at your fingertips: the online world. Take the discipline you learned as a student-athlete and apply it to your social media use.

You picked a major, studied hard and earned your degree, all while competing in sports at a high level. Now it is time to conquer the biggest competition ahead: the working world.

Many tools can help you navigate the professional journey, but one of the greatest assets is right at your fingertips: the online world. It is time to take the discipline you learned as a student-athlete and apply it to your social media use.                                    

Know that future employers, mentors and bosses will look at your social media profiles. They will make preconceived notions about you, right or wrong, based on what you post, tweet and blog.

The wide availability of your online presence can be a positive, though. Social media and your digital footprint are powerful tools when used the right way. As a former student-athlete, you can leverage online tools to sell the skills developed along the way. Make social media your right-hand teammate as you start the job search.

So how do you champion the digital space when looking for a job? Below are nine tips to help you develop your game plan:

1. Clean up your social media footprint.

As you shared your experiences in college, you left digital footsteps everywhere. Now it is time to take a step back and audit what your personal brand looks like online. Potential employers will screen you online, so you should assess your social media profiles before they do.

Take the time to go through your social media accounts to make sure everything reflects the best version of yourself. If anything is inappropriate or provocative – even remotely – remove it. Tools such as simplewa.sh and heyclear.com can make the process less cumbersome.

2. Check your privacy settings.

If you use certain social media platforms for more personal use (such as Facebook or Instagram), make the profiles as private as possible. Privacy settings are complex and change frequently, so you should check your settings every month or so.

And remember, while your accounts might be private, nothing in social media is ever completely private. (Ahem, screenshots.)

3. Draw a distinction between personal and professional use.

Some platforms make more sense for personal use, while others make sense for your professional life. Take the time to define each social media platform’s purpose. This distinction will help you decide what content to share, privacy settings to set and people to request/accept.

Typically platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are better for personal use while LinkedIn and Twitter have professional value. Set the boundaries that are right for you.

When crafting your resume, link only to the profiles you have designated for professional use.

4. Sign up for LinkedIn and maximize it.

As a former student-athlete, you have developed strong relationships and skills throughout your time in college. LinkedIn is a powerful tool that will help you maintain those relationships and sell your skills. With more than 300 million users, the platform is the epicenter of networking online.

As you begin your job search, set up a LinkedIn account and fill out the profile completely. Many employers look to hire former student-athletes, so focus on the skills developed from that experience. You don’t need a work history to be relevant on LinkedIn; the experience you gained as a college athlete is applicable, too. Be sure to highlight the qualities you developed as a student-athlete such as leadership, time management, discipline and more.

Once you have filled out your profile completely, connect with the people you met in college, from teammates to coaches and professors. The relationships you have built now might open doors in the future. Maintaining them is important, and LinkedIn is a great tool for doing that.

Finally, LinkedIn is a powerful job search engine. Leverage the opportunity to search for jobs on the platform. Their hub for recent college graduates is a good place to start: https://www.linkedin.com/studentjobs.           

5. Create connections.  

Thanks to the Internet, professionals in your field are right at your fingertips. Find people whose career paths interest you on LinkedIn and Twitter and proactively engage with them. Retweeting someone’s content on Twitter or asking for advice on LinkedIn, including to your peers on the NCAA After the Game networking group, are great ways to build relationships. Remember, social media is a front door to talented and smart professionals. Open it to begin a dialogue, and a mentor or job could be down the road.

6. Use a professional email.

Email addresses help present a polished image, so setting up a professional one is important. Using your name is a best practice for a professional email address. If you have a common name, then consider adding random numbers at the end. Just don’t use anything that reflects your age. It’s also important to stay away from nicknames, hobbies and even your beloved sport.

7.  Be searchable.   

Recruiters often find candidates through social media, so optimize keywords to ensure you will show up in search results. Craft your bio and summary on LinkedIn and Twitter to showcase your career interests and student-athlete experience. The more detailed you are, the more likely recruiters will match you to open jobs. 

Although Facebook is a more personal platform, consider adding your professional skills there too. Keep the personal aspects of your profile private, but make yours skills, location and job history public.

8.  Be a joiner.  

Joining groups and communities online will help you build stronger connections. Search for alumni groups and industry associations to join on LinkedIn. On Twitter, participate in chats that revolve around the industry in which you want to work. Do not just sit back and watch the conversations unfold: Join, take part and stand out.

9. Create an online portfolio.

An online portfolio can increase your visibility and marketability and help your application stand out. It’s a crucial piece to your online presence because the job search is all about marketing yourself.

An online portfolio does not replace your resume or cover letter; it is an extension of them and an opportunity to tell a broader story. When creating your online portfolio, include information about your student-athlete experience, awards and honors, writing samples, presentation slides, recommendations and anything else that highlights your qualifications.

Many free options exist for setting up an online portfolio, including carbonmade.com, about.me and weebly.com. Once yours is complete, be sure to add the link to your resume and social media accounts.

Jessica Smith, a social media manager at IMG Live, was named in 2014 to Business Insider's "The 30 Best People in Advertising to Follow on Twitter" list. She is a former cross-country and track and field student-athlete from Auburn University.

“There is no substitute for hard work or integrity. Every successful company is looking for a team player that is collaborative... that means you already have a competitive edge because no other arena can prepare you to work on a team to achieve a common goal like the NCAA. Just as you represented your school in competition, you are commissioned to be leaders wherever your life journey takes you.”

- Bell Jordan, Talent Acquisition and Recruitment at Google, Women’s basketball, University of Alaska Anchorage ’02