Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Steppin’ up that ladder

So you’re looking for a job or you want that promotion and you just don’t know where to start. Your boss and your colleagues barely notice you, recruiters skip past your profile and you didn't hear back about that last job you applied for. Yep. I have been there.

What can you do about it? Well, there are some realities to working in the corporate world in particular but generally, in business it is those who shout the loudest and have work that is “good enough” are often the most successful.

But one of the things that I notice far way way way beyond anything that people get promoted or land jobs based on. Is often their ability to present. That's everything from your basic business-based social media to your portfolio to how you stand up in front of others and present a pitch or presentation.

For those of us who just want to sit and nerd away building fascinating bits of technology in a corner somewhere, this is a total violation. I am just not naturally an outgoing performer, and I have only the most basic ability with matching aesthetics. But the good news is, it is something you can both improve and learn.

The tech community is VERY active on Twitter — but it is also a bit of a bubble-like all other social media. The business community is also fairly active but nothing like those of us in tech. I would say if you are a developer or engineer or working in technology in general you should be on Twitter. A lot of investors are also very present and post a lot of good tips and content as well as look for investment leads and networking. If you’re a start-up founder this is worth bearing in mind.

For anyone in the design, media, advertising, fashion or creative spaces really Instagram can really be a big channel. Anything visual. If you are budding front end developer who LOVES design you could pick up a good following if you post regularly enough about design based topics.

LinkedIn is a business networking site. Presentation is very important but its really formal compared with say Twitter which you should consider when you post content. Most recruiters are on LinkedIn and not Twitter — something I struggle to understand frankly since they complain endlessly about not finding tech talent — which is mostly sitting on Twitter…go figure. Anyway, LinkedIn is a powerful tool if you use it correctly and one you should have a profile and presence on if you are serious about business.

Overall make sure with business-based social media that your private life is separate from your work. Personal pictures of you on a drunken night out with your mates on Facebook can put recruiters off. Search yourself to see what media comes up and make sure you hide and restrict anything that is personal.

The other important thing here is consistency — make sure you are consistent with how you present yourself. Images and descriptions make it easy to find you and also gives you a certain “brand” and that should be the best professional version of you.

I would get a good recent head and shoulders portrait picture to put up with a plain colour background. I would find an image also on Unplash to use for the background header behind the portrait shot. https://unsplash.com/s/photos/technology You can download and use them for free some will look good as a background some won't just try a few and see what looks ok.

It's like a mini sales pitch really. What do you want people to think immediately they see your profile? What's their first impression gonna be?

For your profile picture — something that is worth considering is how you want to present yourself and the type of work you want. So…if you want to work in a big corporate or in a management position its good to show formal clothing in images like wearing a suit. But if you want to work in a start-up you should have an image that might also fit into an advertising or design agency. So something professional but a bit less formal.

A good example to the left here (Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash). Its a balance between formal and informal, and a facial expression that makes you look approachable. Unless you’re a creative director working for hipster.io I would avoid looking too serious and intimidating.

I have seen some business profiles with a very bright plain colour in the background for the portrait photo this can work well to get you noticed but make sure it reflects what you want to put across.

Its worth also considering that post-COVID a lot of dress codes have been relaxed and since we don't live in the world of Mad Men(I hope) anymore a lot of formality will seem at best old fashioned at best. Bare this in mind in terms of your presentation.

For the text — LinkedIn uses keywords to drive its algorithms so you need to make sure you are easily searchable.

For the description summary, I would put in a line about what you do professionally but also what you aspire to and what inspires you about your work and technology(if that's your trade? doesn't everyone work in tech nowadays?).

For work experience — put some lines describing more about each project, what you did, what you learnt and something you achieved. So if you helped colleagues learn something, or improved a solution or achieved a target sooner than expected. All those are achievements. Also, put clearly the tech stack if you are a developer or engineer, and a link to work examples. Make sure there is a clear easy link to your portfolio website. Achievements should also always be listed first, and then anything where you had a managing responsibility. Latest experience should also go to the top as long as it represents what type of work you want.

The trouble with recruiters is that they skim loads of profiles every day so any small things you can do to make it easy for them to pick you over other people is a good idea.

Read this for guidance on keywords for LinkedIn https://www.job-hunt.org/linkedin-job-search/linkedin-keywords.shtml

Other things you can do to help boost your profile. Write articles — this is a real bonus for developers — just a short article on dev.to shows you have a good understanding of a particular technology and are keen to show and share your knowledge.

Posting content, commenting on articles also can help, but make sure you are either positive or objective. Be careful to avoid politics and focus on business topics unless it is directly related or impacting you in your professional situation. It's a tricky balance to strike and you should speak out if you feel that something is morally wrong — but consider what you post carefully, the impact on yourself and others in terms of how it is perceived. Campaigning and activism are to be admired but it should be separated from your professional profile and presence.

Posting content also needs to look good. I have deleted posts that didn't post the content correctly or had to go back and edit because I mistyped something in a hurry. I am dyslexic this is realistically a struggle. But it is also important to try and take care of these details as far as you can. You won't inspire a lot of followers if you don't take care of consistent details.

Social media operates in a vacuum so the more focused your content is on a specific area the more traction you will get. Posting regularly gets results but make sure it's authentic.

If you have the time and inclination — another way to really get noticed is to present at events, even your local coder's event can be helpful. I used to arrange knowledge sharing sessions and workshops for my colleagues at a previous job to practise my presentation skills and took presentation training. You do improve with practice. People will see you are active professionally and after a bit of effort start inviting you to contribute.

If you are busy posting whilst in a fulltime corporate position it can also be useful to post positively about work you are doing. Make sure you reflect positively about yourself and your employer. I really noticed when I started posting regularly not only did I get more noticed but I got more internal engagement and my colleagues were also inspired to post their own projects. It also helped bring up important topics internally when I posted articles publicly to help share knowledge. I was careful to focus on certain areas which were relevant to our internal work. Don't underestimate the value here but do be careful with what you post. Check company policy first.

It can seem like it takes forever to get that leg up the ladder, for someone to notice your hard work. Indeed I have often felt cynical about the number of folks in shiny suits and pretty PowerPoint presentations who were promoted over people whos skills were clearly significantly superior. But I have also met a lot of genuinely inspiring, interesting and brave business people who risk their reputations to further the opportunities for both their organisations and the people they represent, without the latest fashion suit. Whatever your journey. Make sure you’ re the next person to get noticed.

Good luck.

:-)

Business Developer, programmer, solution architect, runner, swimmer, a culture and tech nerd. Busy building new solutions in emerging technologies.