4 Ways to Leverage Your Professional Online Presence to Secure an Academic Job

If you are on today’s academic job market, it’s crucial that you have a good professional online presence. It is now possible for potential employers to Google you and look at your social media profiles. What they find could determine whether or not you get the job you’re hoping for.

You can leverage this reality to your advantage. Here are four things that you should be considering when creating your online presence.

Related: Get advice and insight from established professors on surviving graduate school and the academic job market. Sign up for IHS’s webinar series for graduate students. 

Your name is the most important part of your professional online presence. 

It’s worth noting two things on this subject for now:

  • First, you want a web address to serve as your digital hub that is uniquely yours and (most likely) relates to your name.
  • Second, you want it to be easy for people to find you. When was the last time you went past the second or third page of search results? You should seek to be one of the first names that comes up on a Google search.

As you navigate the academic job market, a professional image will help people remember you.

Most people process images more easily quickly than words, especially when it comes to browsing the web. For many, your photo will be a first point of contact. (First impressions matter. One study shows you have 0.2 seconds to make a good one).

Across all social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, your website, blog, etc.) you should strive for a continuity in the way you present yourself. This could mean using the same picture for all of them, though this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

Next, you will have to find a suitable professional picture of yourself. Here are a few valuable guidelines.

Decide what you want to portray about yourself as an academic and then as a person. How scholarly, academic, professional, casual, serious or easy-going do you want to appear? As a general rule, err on the side of professional. Aim to have a photo of just you (not you cropped out of a group photo), and preferably not posing, making faces, or holding a red plastic cup.

Consider what you want to say when developing your online presence.

You’ll want to carefully consider what you want to put up on the internet and where you want it.

One of the first decisions you will probably make is whether you want to blog, and, if so, what you want to blog about. This is a great way to publish your thoughts on an ad hoc, informal basis. If you have good content, it can help you promote and start conversations around your ideas.

An example of two academics who have done an excellent job of this is Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok with their site, Marginal Revolution. It has become one of the most popular economics blogs on the internet.

Even more basic than blogging, though, you’ll want to think about what social networks you want to engage in. Beyond Facebook and Twitter, there are more academic-specific and professional social networks you should consider like LinkedIn, Branch Out, Academia.edu, or Research Gate.

Your tone compliments your content. 

Tone is critical (but often overlooked) because it ties together the entirety of your online presence. Extending far beyond what you write on your blog, it includes what you choose to write about, how often, and where. It is also a natural and inevitable extension of your personality.

Again, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok are examples worth following. Marginal Revolution is an economics blog. But even more accurately, it provides a place where economists talk about what they find interesting from an economist’s point of view. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that Cowen and Tabarrok use to initiate thoughtful, informal conversations about the topics they are most passionate about.

Having a clear understanding of your online tone will help you set a plan for which components of your identity you want to make public and why. Once you have an idea of this, you can get started on launching a successful internet presence to promote your ideas, and increase your chances of getting a job soon after graduate school.

Related Events


IHS Webinars

IHS webinars offer graduate students the chance to get personalized advice from an academic who has already been through the process.

Over the spring, we’ll be updating our calendar frequently with new webinars, and we encourage you to sign up for notifications on new and upcoming events.

A quick preview of our upcoming webinar topics includes:
- How to network as an academic
- How to find the right academic journal for your paper
- How to shape your research agenda

See more posts: The Academic Job Market 

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