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Postgraduate Futures 2011: "Be What’s Next"

by Tahira Majothi on June 25, 2011

“Be what’s next!” That bold statement is attributed to Jas Dhaliwal, Head of Communities at AVG and one of our Keynote Speakers at this year’s Postgraduate Futures: Career Management in the Digital Age. Needless to say our keynote speakers (Jas, along with Chris Harrison, Director of Research and Innovation at Salford, Helen Keegan, Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media, and Cameron Neylon, Biophysicist at the Science and Technology Facilities Council) all positively enthused over the opportunities social media can provide your research, career, network and entrepreneurial ventures.

Jas also cited a phrase coined by blogger Hugh MacLeod that did really seem to make the attendees sit-up “Change the world or go home”. Now the pragmatic amongst you may be thinking, ‘Really? Aren’t you just giving undue importance to something that is a fad at best, what is its real value to me?’ Well check out his full presentation.

Pretty convincing don’t ya think? Here are a few more thoughts from the speakers that may help redefine your opinion of social media.

Have you Googled your name?

Of course you have! Taking up my colleague Mary’s challenge (Also great blog post on PG Futures :-)) when I typed in my name, up popped my Postgraduate Careers blog posts as well as my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. What comes up first in your search and would you be happy for an employer to see it?

Do employers really use social media to research candidates?

Representatives on the employer panel said that whilst employers were more interested in your professional rather than personal profile, LinkedIn and Facebook feature high on internet searches, so it is about what is on the internet and by extension how you ‘brand’ yourself.

What does this mean? Well I think Cristina Costa (Research Technologies Development Officer) summed it up nicely in our Creative Job Search panel “If you do not want your Grandmother to see it, don’t post it!”

Starting out

Pick a platform you are comfortable with, try to provide a complete profile (Inc real name and photo) then check your privacy settings, remove any inappropriate/offensive material and be careful of what others say about you, even on your profile!

Cristina also suggested that if you were not happy with old information about you, change it by using LinkedIn, Twitter or blogs. More recent items will have higher prominence on search engines.

Ask people who have known you in a professional capacity to recommend you on LinkedIn. See onlineastevens blog on making the most of LinkedIn.

Social media for job search

Jas (Also a panel member on ‘What do employers want!’) used social media successfully not only as a job seeker but also as a recruiter. He said that candidates research employers, but employers will research you in turn.

In addition, Jas said personally he would not be impressed by people who did not have a digital footprint, as there is no history of what they have done. Which again begs the question, how Google-able are you?

Helen mentioned how sometimes being cheeky can also help, citing an example of a former student who used Twitter to apply for a job using the line ‘Gis a job!’ which for its sheer audacity worked.

Furthermore a representative from Kellogg’s mentioned how employers consider whether candidates match the values or ethos of their company. Now this is somewhat of a company line but it happens to be true, as borne out in this survey of employers by Career Builder.

If you are lucky enough to get through to the interview stage, you will be asked about why you applied for the position (I’m always bemused by students/graduates who say they’ve been stumped by this question?!) Research the company. Your online profile has the further potential to demonstrate your suitability by showcasing your creativity, your communication skills, your professionalism and recommendations.

Which one? Which one? Managing the demands of various social media identities

Helen stated that even she struggled with this sometimes, her tip would be to pick a social media platform/s that you will enjoy, that makes you laugh and you can have fun with as that means you will commit.

Cris also felt that it was possible to use one identity on social networks, to balance the professional and personal as it creates a voice, an authenticity as long as you observe social netiquette, try to avoid these pitfalls.

Social media: A threat or opportunity for researchers?

Cameron (BTW gets special recognition for flying in from Washington to be with us and for managing to hold off the jet lag :-)) uses social media to improve data sharing and blogs to reach out and connect with other researchers. Cameron stated that social media should not be viewed as a threat provided you know your rights. Speak with your Supervisor/s if you plan to use it to gather data, publish or further your research. You may also wish to check your Employer/Institution’s social media policy, don’t just do it “unilaterally”.

Cristina and Cameron also ran a workshop on how to make best use of new technologies in your teaching and research practice, more information can be provided on Cris’s blog here.

Creative Job Search Tips

This session run with the kind assistance of Chi-Chi Ekweozor, founder of Realfreshtv, not only focussed on best use of LinkedIn , and Twitter but also new trends such as Infographic CVs and YouTube videos or video CVs in helping applicants stand out from the crowd.

Final thoughts…

As you can see the conference offered a full and varied programme. Some of the attendees commented “I will become more Google-able”, “Dedicate time and focus to developing my online presence”, “There is a choice about the level of engagement you put into social media” and “One of the most thought provoking conferences. Been contemplating many of the things I heard for hours!” by @salfordgareth (Twitter name).

We would love to hear about your experiences of making use of social media to aid your career/research. We will also be posting more from the day on the blog. In the meantime you can catch up on the key talking points of Postgraduates Futures over on Twitter using the hashtag #pgfutures2011

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jas Dhaliwal June 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Hi Tahira,

Thanks for the great write up! Though, I must credit “Change the world or go home” to the esteemed blogger Hugh MacLeod –

It’s a great thought provoking line and something I hope students will think about with their careers ahead


Tahira Majothi June 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hi Jas,

Thank you for your kind comment. I have amended the blog accordingly. I agree with you “Change the world or go home” is a thought provoking line and I think your use of it at the conference achieved it’s aim. Some of the feedback from attendees including colleagues really seemed to suggest that this was one of the key lessons they took away from the day. It seems a bold statement can be what’s needed to galvanise people, so Fiona and I would like to thank you for helping jolt people into action!

A lot of students also asked for follow up practical lab sessions on creating a social media profile. They are obviously keen to do it right, so hopefully this is something Cristina Costa and I can collaborate on.

Best wishes



Tahira Majothi June 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Hi Everyone,

I didn’t manage to fit this into my blog but I also wanted to make you aware of the increasing use of social media when screening candidates as well as for recruitment purposes. In 2010 the Jobvite website ran a social media recruitment survey with 600 HR and recruitment professionals. The results can be found here:

Obviously there are ethical questions on whether employers should use social media to ‘screen’ suitability and the time or capacity to be able to screen all candidates, but the truth is that it may become common practice. You can have more control over what an employer can see about you if you follow the advice in the blog, see it as an opportunity to devlop your professional identity, you can make employers aware of your work by using for example blogs, videos or podcasts.

If you have any questions or would like to know how to start to build your profile than visit the Careers Service:

Best wishes



Fiona Christie July 20, 2011 at 8:20 pm

I have been meaning to comment for a while on this. I wholly support effective use of social media in the job-hunting and career development process. However, one big question I have is around how individuals who are wanting to keep their identity more anonymous manage this. I think particularly of people who for example are perhaps trying to escape a stalker/ abusive partner etc.

This may sound dramatic but the challenge is real for many and it’s definitely going to be tricky utilising some social media which especially encourages the authentic voice if you are trying to escape the glare of unwelcome eyes.

Not a cheerful thought but something I am still working out my line on.

I really need to work out how to comment with my twitter ID.


Cristina Costa July 29, 2011 at 9:22 am

I take your point Fiona.
That is really a tricky one…

There are ways to do that – although none of them are perfect because when you start using online networks people know of you being there through others.
Still you might want to have an online presence that reflects your work and areas of interest. I think the way of going about this then is to develop a very tight moderation strategy regarding people’s comments to your blog – always hold them in moderation; privacy settings of network sites such as Facebook or Google + so that only people you know can comment on it. In this case I would even say it might be worth locking twitter – although that would not be my preferred choice – but there are certainly exceptions.
I would like to draw attention to the fact that people going through such experiences should then avoid to have their pictures uploaded on to these networks and photosharing sites.
To all users: never share personal data, such as address, phone number, etc


cristina costa August 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm

forgot to mention: avoid geo-tagging as much as you can!!


Tahira Majothi August 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Hi Cristina,

Thank you very much for these suggestions, I had not even heard of Geotagging!

I also liked this post on Microsoft’s website

Guess the key thing is knowing your privacy settings, think about what you would like to post before doing so and common sense when it comes to sharing personal details.

I appreciate it :-)



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