By Robin Gericke, Features Editor

Writing a resume isn’t the only way for students to showcase their abilities to future employers; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms can all be used as part of a professional portfolio.

Social media continues to grow as an important and popular means of communication. According to the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of all US adults use social network sites. Dr. Elizabeth Jones knows the professional benefits of social media. “Given the wide reach of social media, one’s social media presence can be an important professional tool,” said Jones. “For example, posting one’s work through social media channels can open doors to connections and collaborations with others from similar fields or potential employers. Checking out a candidate’s social media presence is becoming increasingly common in hiring decisions.”

Competent social media skills are also important for those in the fields of communication and media communications. “Those in communication-related fields are adept at knowing their audience, crafting persuasive messages and telling compelling stories,” said Jones. “These skills transfer easily into the social media environment and are crucial for success.”

Social media accounts can serve as an ongoing portfolio to showcase student’s personal brand and best work. “One way to do this is to explore other top professionals in their desired profession – which social media platforms do they use? How are they using social media? What kinds of content are they posting?” Jones recommends. “With this information, students can then begin to publish the kinds of content on their social media accounts that make them marketable professionals in their desired field.”

Publications Relations Director of Student Congress Claire Van Der Eems says that social media should reflect personality. “Featuring personal social media accounts in your portfolio is a way to showcase your creativity, professionalism, personality and overall aesthetic,” said Van Der Eems. “I have found that social media profiles serve as a general representation of who you are, your creative niche, and your overall eye or style.”

Students can start creating professional profiles by being mindful of what they share. “Each person has a ‘digital footprint,’ so it is critical to communicate online in a way that honors ethical standards,” said Jones. “Assuming ethical communication, the balance between personal and professional on social media depends on the social media sites being used and the person’s goals. Even though some social media sites are more ‘professional’ in nature than others, it makes good sense for those trying to secure employment in a given field to brand themselves across social media sites in a consistent way that makes them marketable.” There should be a balance of personal content and professionalism across all social media platforms.

“In our personal life, we should always be professional to a degree,” said Van Der Eems. “Heed the cliché social media warning – don’t post content that could keep you from being hired. However, it’s too easy to be overly worried about how a picture looks in the Insta feed or if a graphic is Internet worthy. Remember that your social media is still your personal account to connect with friends and share about your life.”

Michelle Kratzer, the director of the Center for Career and Calling, recommends LinkedIn as a professional social media platform for students looking for jobs. It allows users to create a profile, post a resume and upload projects to a profile that doesn’t require scrolling through fifty photos of coffee. “The people that are doing the hiring are on LinkedIn, so it makes sense that the people looking for jobs should be on LinkedIn too,” said Kratzer.

Social media, from LinkedIn to Instagram, is useful for building a portfolio, but also for networking. “Follow people that inspire you. Be actively involved with other creatives online, get inspired and work towards a goal,” Van Der Eems suggested. This can also serve as an inspiration for better content. “If you find a feed you like on Instagram, look at the common themes and compositions of their photos.​ You should follow blogs and accounts of people that inspire you,” said Van Der Eems. “Don’t be discouraged or have outrageous goals either. The best thing I’ve realized is there’s little chance that you will become interweb famous, so post content that you’re proud of and that showcases your abilities.”