livingfamilytravelmediahome decor

What Guidance Would You Give to An Algonquin College Student on Online Identity and Career Advancement?

The last time I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker at Algonquin College, I asked you what advice you would give to a student soon to be graduating from the Advertising program. I thought that the comments that came in were really valuable, so I’d like to do a repeat performance.

Today, I’ll be speaking to a class that is in a business stream (as opposed to a creative stream) in the Advertising and Marketing Communications Management program. And the specific class is: Digital Marketing.

Karen Kavanagh (@KarenQuips) is the co-ordinator of the program and the professor for this class. She explained the objective for the Digital Marketing course is to help expose the students’ minds to all that can be done using digital and how pervasive this tool is for marketers. The students will review strategies that include a wide breadth of channels/aspects such as: online advertising, the website as a communications/marketing tool, video, blogs, social media, mobile, search, gaming and analytics – phew! I’m pooped just from moving through that list and that doesn’t even cover it all.

Karen approached me to come and and speak on a sort of blogging /social media / personal branding trifecta. I have to admit that I haven’t had much time to prepare anything too detailed, so I’m really hoping these students will have a lot of questions or aren’t shy to jump in and start-up discussions or debates!

So this is where you come in … I’m going to share examples from around Ottawa of how marketing and communications professionals have used blogging (and other digital media) to create an online identity that serves to advance their careers (think Kelly Rusk, Joe Boughner, and Nick Charney). I’ll also be sharing a ton of examples from those who are self-employed as well, since so many are increasingly choosing this path. As readers, you’re all familiar with blogs and some of you are also bloggers yourselves, so what advice or guidance would you share to a student looking to enter the workforce when it comes to establishing a positive online identity?

Naturally, we’ve all heard the “Don’t post drunk photos of yourself on facebook advice,” but do you have any more nuanced advice for establishing a blog such as: “Pick a defined niche and stick to it to establish yourself as an expert” or “Keep it general enough to progress as your career progresses” … all comments would be so welcome and appreciated! 


  1. spydergrrl says:

    Developing an online presence can establish your authority and help build your reputation related to skills that may not be entirely relevant to your degree or even to your first job. By researching and writing about topics that interest you or in which you may be knowledgeable, you can demonstrate how multifaceted your skill set really is (vs. how it might appear on your resume). Case in point: my LinkedIn profile is full of endorsements for social media, but my work history includes far more web management, analytics and e-marketing. The social media rep has grown from my involvement in the medium and the community, especially ranting away on my blog and Twitter accounts. Those have led to pro bono projects and speaking engagements that, at the time, were entirely unrelated to my day job — another great way to build skills and reputation to further my knowledge base, and in turn my career. It’s important to remember that your current (or first :) job is not going to define your career; it’s a stepping stone. Whether you blog your obsession with video games or you offer insightful critiques of world events, you are developing a persona and a voice (and probably skills) that can make you even more attractive to future employers. Branching out and demonstrating your capacity beyond the job, through social media and especially blogging, can open up your network and potential future career opportunities.

  2. I think I spoke to this class last year on a similar topic 😉
    My advice to students is to be proactive about using the tools–as the smart people say:  “your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what others say/think it is.” So while it’s important to have a full profile, use keywords inline with your interests etc. The MORE important aspect is that you go out of your way to help people, start conversations and add value to others in everything you do. 
    People will remember you for what you do–and your online presence is your little space to back that up. 
    And a few other tips I’d definitely throw in there:
    1. LISTEN more than you speak. My favourite saying is “You have two ears and one mouth, use accordingly” The key to fitting into online communities is to stand back and listen to what others are saying before jumping right in.
    2. Your personal self is always a reflection of your professional self online. People aren’t going to separate the two if you’re posting publicly.
    3. Reach out to people online — Twitter is a great networking tool. Follow the people you want to meet in your industry, listen to them and reach out to them first, comment on their blog etc.

    • coffeewithjulie says:

      @krusk These are such great tips! I think there’s been a massive societal change … where at one time you could separate your work from your professional life. But when you go online, it’s all mixed in (whether you like it or not).

  3. phdinparenting says:

    My advice would be to be cautious and think things through.If you are going to use your real name and put something out there online, whether it is an opinion, a picture, or something else altogether, would you be comfortable with prospective employers seeing that? What about your future children once they get online? What about your neighbour, your mother, your child’s day care provider, your boyfriend’s best friend, your ex girlfriend?
    Even if you opt not to use your real name, remember that people may connect the dot at some point. So using a pseudonym may give you more freedom, but it isn’t a ticket to being reckless.
    Beyond that, I would say work on building relationships with people who care about the things that you care about, whether that is on a professional level or a personal level. Those connections will be fulfilling in their own right and can also be useful when you are looking for professional opportunities.

    • coffeewithjulie says:

      @phdinparenting You’ve raised some really important points. In particular, I often grapple with what my children (or future) children would think if they read this? It’s hard to know, but being conscious of it certainly helps.

  4. coffeewithjulie says:

    @KarenQuips @krusk I should have asked if I could copy her presentation 😉

  5. KarenQuips says:

    Kelly Rusk (@krusk) spoke to my class last year at it was wonderful! Thanks for posting Kelly — your thoughts are always great.
    The students are really looking forward to Julie speaking this year, too. I’ve assigned them a project that aims to help them both learn a new social media tool AND to expand their own online brand / presence. This is very important as by next March they will be on work-placements and in the Spring graduated. Julie’s talk comes at the perfect time.

    • coffeewithjulie says:

      @KarenQuips I really enjoyed your class … they all seemed really engaged and I’m sure that they be manage to secure some excellent work-placements.

  6. KarenQuips says:

    @coffeewithjulie Me too! After today I won’t just know you virtually. 😉 @algonquincolleg #adprofs #DigitalMarketing

  7. An amazing example of a blogger with a ‘brand’ whose business developed from her blog, is Olive, of “Let’s Big Happy”.  Started as a music blog, she helped a band with a stunt, and suddenly was deluged by other bands requesting stunts.   She created her niche!  And the very cool part:  if you have netflix, check out “Let’s Big Happy”.  It’s a series of funny short tv- webisodes, where she makes you laugh and promotes herself, AND continues to expose her clients.  Bet the college aged crowd would enjoy this example.

  8. Joe Boughner says:

    I feel like I’m a bad person for this because I’ve never made a conscious effort to build a brand or be strategic in my own use of social media. I think I was lucky enough to get involved with the PR/marketing/communications community on Twitter while it was still nascent to some degree. “Big names” were a lot more willing to answer questions and engage in conversation with the lesser lights like me because there just weren’t SO many people clamouring for their attention.
    The market is saturated right now with people trying to network and make a name for themselves. Some of the efforts to build a brand are so transparently… contrived, I guess… that it makes it sort of hard to take them seriously. So I guess it all comes down to just being sincere, listening and contributing where you can add value, and generally not being a douchecanoe. Like Kelly says, the personal/professional divide is something of a myth these days so focus on being a good person who people want to be around – online AND off.

    • coffeewithjulie says:

      @Joe Boughner Yes, it’s all quite saturated these days. But as I was telling the students — if only one person reads your blog and it’s a future dream employer — then that’s all that matters. Just do what you do well. You don’t need internet fame, you just need your own community. (p.s. I used the term “douchebaggy” as an adjective in class today. Oops!)

  9. I really like what Joe, Kelly and Annie said — they’re the experts!
    But as (only) a reader of blogs, I appreciate when someone I follow updates their blog regularly. If that means prepping a few extra posts for those weeks you’re insanely busy, so be it. But if you stop providing new content regularly (every few days, every week at the very least), I’m probably going to stop reading. And you may never get me back.

  10. All the advice here is really good. I would add to that, being responsive and interactive with the people who take the time to interact with you is critical.  As Joe said it can’t really come off as contrived, but showing genuine interest and gratitude for people is a big part of what builds loyalty.

    • coffeewithjulie says:

      Yes, from my own experience as a book lover, I know how fabulous I’ve felt when a big-name author I admire takes the time to respond to something I’ve said about their book. (This post from UnMarketing tells it all:

  11. This chip of writing is actually a appealing one it assists fashionable web viewers, who are wishing among favor of blogging.

Speak Your Mind