Make no mistake: no matter how stellar your interview, the first thing a potential employer or client will do before hiring you in this day in age is head straight for Google. Fifty-two percent of employers say they use social networking sites to research applicants. Even more enlightening? That figure is up from 43 percent in 2014 and 39 percent in 2013.

And when they come up dry?

“If they don’t find anything about you, or find that the last thing you did was give to a political campaign in 1992, that tells them you haven’t done anything career-minded in years,” says Pamela Weinberg, a career coach and personal branding strategist.

Instead, you want a potential employer or client to get a good sense of your experience and interests when they search your name, which contributes to your personal brand. “Getting [it] right enables you to articulate to others what you’re looking for,” says Maggie Mistal, a career change coach.

“It’s really all about stories,” Weinberg says. Your brand is the story you want people to find when they look you up. “Maybe you were an attorney and now you want to start your own party-planning business, so you want to tell that story of why and how you’ll transfer those skills,” she says. Another story might be your desire to return to finance after a decade as an investment banker.

Getting It Online

Whatever your story, write a mission statement that lays out where you want your career to go, and how you’re going to get there. This will help direct your strategy for building an online presence.

With so many personal branding platforms available, including Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Medium, telling your story can be overwhelming. Don’t feel like you have to use them all. Weinberg suggests picking one or two platforms to post to on a regular basis.

Some, like Instagram, will be a more natural fit for those in a creative, image-driven field like graphic design or advertising. A registered dietician might use Instagram to post photos of restaurant meals, with notes on portion size, healthy swaps, and low-cal, low-fat ingredients. For others, Twitter, makes more sense, since it enables one to editorialize and share news and insights. This might work best for someone looking to dive into an industry or sector like equity research or digital marketing.

If you’re starting a blog, make sure you have the time to keep it current.

“You don’t want someone to find a blog you haven’t posted in since 2013,” Weinberg says.

And be genuine. Mistal says the best social media happens when there is an authentic connection made.

“Post what speaks to your heart and mind when it speaks to you, and share what’s not work sometimes, too,” she says. “It helps you seem more human and relatable.” But keep in mind that professional contacts will be looking at your social media accounts, so don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want a potential boss to see.

Regardless of the platform you choose to tell your story, you should supplement it with a profile on LinkedIn.

“You get a custom URL that you can send people to so you don’t even need a website if you don’t want one,” Mistal says. LinkedIn also automatically comes up as a top link on Google. Plus, many recruiters and employers are using the site to search for talent. In addition to a detailed resume, post a professional-looking photo, contact info, and recommendations from those who know you well and can tout your talents and abilities.

Taking It to the Next Level

Just because you’ve been away from the workforce doesn’t mean all your expertise and skills from your prior experience are moot, but you will want to supplement them with more current industry knowledge, and include this in your online presence.

“Stay in the loop by reading trade publications and blogs,” Weinberg says. Then look for opportunities to be quoted in articles or contribute your own writing to platforms like Huffington Post, Medium, or Forbes.

If you have very limited time but still want to demonstrate some expertise online, Mistal suggests commenting on other people’s blogs and Tweets.

“Do a search and find a top blog or two in your field,” she says. “Then make a comment once a week. Take time to post something that speaks to your experience and perspective. Others will appreciate it and your string of comments will give you an online presence.”

Check out our career coaches and branding specialists for help in creating your online presence.

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