From an interview with Mansi Bhavsar, Learning and Development specialist, image consultant, and Arrive Ambassador.
In the era of social distancing, most of us are adjusting (with varying degrees of success) to the new normal, the new digital reality: staying home, working from home, and for many newcomers, looking for work from home. Rather than meeting face-to-face, people are faced with conducting business, coffee chats, networking, even job interviews over the phone – and more and more often, on video calls. Along with the inherent awkwardness of speaking to our computer camera, there is a whole new set of challenges to presenting our best selves online.
To help us understand the new rules and how to make a solid impression in uncertain times, we connected (by phone) with training consultant Mansi Bhavsar. As a learning and development professional, she has expertise in image management and a passion for personal branding. She also has unique experience in the area of landing a job online.
When Mansi and her husband Mudit arrived in 2018, Mudit had a job in hand, so Mansi set her sights on settling in before actively searching for employment. But first, she updated her LinkedIn profile. What happened next was a little surprising.
An international training company reached out to Mansi based solely on her LinkedIn presence. Mansi chatted with them on LinkedIn, and although she was not yet looking for work, they had phone interviews, follow up video interviews, she provided video demonstrations and ultimately landed the job – all online – without ever meeting her new employer. In fact, they have never been in the same room together. Who better to guide us through the process of making a great impression while social distancing?
I started my career in a client-facing role at Microsoft, where the onus of representing the entire brand is on you. This is where I was introduced to the concept of image management and personal branding.
Traditionally, your image – the projection of who you are, or what makes you, you, is based on Appearance, Behavior, Communication – and, more recently, Digital presence. These are the basic A, B, C, D’s of personal branding.
In a world of social distancing, the ABCDs of personal branding are turned upside down
D) Digital Presence: Making yours known
In this current situation of social distancing, the D of digital presence becomes a lot more important. Your digital presence is the only way to showcase the other three pillars. If you can’t go to meetups, and you can’t show up physically; you have to show up digitally, you have to ensure that you are networking digitally across social media platforms.
When it comes to the professional side of things, LinkedIn is the go-to platform to make connections, talk to people and seek help, and importantly, to let people know that you are looking for job opportunities.
Your LinkedIn headline should say that you are either seeking opportunities or open to new opportunities (#ONO). You should also include the kinds of roles that you are looking for. It doesn’t matter if you are actually working in that particular role at the moment, have them as part of your title.
This will enable recruiters and employers to find you. You will pop up in people’s searches for people just like you. The next most important thing on LinkedIn is to have an appropriate summary. It’s a really important part that people often overlook. You need to have data points here, so use the same keywords. This will help you optimize it for search, which will help your case.
Get recommendations. Ask people you’ve worked with, managers, or even clients to write a recommendation. They provide social proof to anyone who is viewing your profile. Try to have at least two to three strong recommendations, to begin with.
Be active. The LinkedIn algorithm works in a way that it is always going to strengthen your profile in people’s searches if you are an active user. So, spend time on it. This includes engaging with other people’s content, whether it’s videos, documents or articles. Comment, share – do as much as you can, and do this with intention. Make your digital presence known.
C) Communication: You are what you say, read and share
Communicating and engaging with people on LinkedIn is the best way to build relationships and make it easier for you to be found on the platform. Actively comment on people’s posts, and make sure that your comments are meaningful and add value. Share and react to posts by the people you look up to and learn from, and engage with content relevant to your profession. Also, keep making new connections on a daily basis – send out requests and accept the requests you get.
You can also post content of your own – video, photos & graphics, or text only. LinkedIn algorithm rewards engagement, so aim to write posts that inspire conversations. Posts with questions and a call to action tend to do better than others. Remember to be authentic, share your learnings and experiences, and use relevant keywords and hashtags to gain extra traction.
Build a content calendar and try to be regular about it.
Reach out to recruiters. It’s as simple as searching for recruiters in your chosen industry on LinkedIn. Send them connection requests, and the most important part of that is, write them a personalized message when you do so. You can also connect with people in relevant organizations. Again, personalize your message. Write a note to them outlining what you appreciate about their experience or the content they shared on LinkedIn.
These are the gateways; you then have to work your way ahead to build the relationships. Once your connection requests are accepted, thank them. As the next step, you could ask them if they’d be open to a quick video chat or call to discuss your career goals or provide some guidance.
Allocate 30 minutes a day to making connections and engaging with people. The ideal goal of LinkedIn is to take your online connections offline – in these physically distant times, that would translate to video chats.
When it comes to video calls, we’re talking about verbal communication, body language, your vocals – and how you use them all to present your best self. If you are not comfortable speaking on camera, you should practice. Before you have a professional video call, give it a try with someone you know. Give it a go with your sister, with your family in some other place (remember, it’s important to connect with them during this time anyway). Do it a number of times, so that when you actually get on those professional video calls, you feel more comfortable. Confidence comes with practice.
You can practice in front of the mirror, make a presentation to someone you live with, or a plant in your apartment. You can also record your own practice interviews. What kinds of expressions are you using? Are you moving your hands too much? Are you moving your eyebrows too much? Are you maintaining eye contact?
Tip: If you feel uncomfortable looking the person in the eye, you can look at their nose.
B) Behaviour: Recruiters can see the kind of person you are online
How you communicate also depends on your online behaviour. For example, even if you don’t know me, but you know my full name, you can type it on LinkedIn, or Facebook or you can find my Instagram handle. If my profile is public, you get a synopsis of what kind of person I am: What I stand for, what my viewpoints are, and what’s happening in my life. You can also see what kind of content I have talked about. Is it controversial? Is it something that paints a bad picture of me? Am I showing anger on social media? Do I show any sort of biases?
These are the kinds of things that social media picks up.
In times of social distancing, where jobs, companies, recruiters, and people, in general, rely so heavily on your social presence and how you show up digitally, it becomes all the more important for you to be mindful of your online behaviour and how you project yourself.
Learn more about how to adapt your job search during these uncertain times.
A) Appearance: It’s now all about how you look through your computer’s camera
Just like you would in-person, if you are meeting with someone on a video call in a professional capacity, you must look professional. You cannot look like you’ve just woken up – unless you wake up with really neat, in-place hair like my husband. For me, it takes a little bit of work.
Your hair, makeup, what you’re wearing as your top, your facial expressions and your hand gestures are most important. That’s all that’s going to be visible on your video call.
Remember to smile. Just have in mind that you are actually meeting this person in front of you, and you will be able to bring your presence and respect both for yourself and the other person.
Be as authentic as you can because, again, you’re building a relationship and relationships are built on trust. You need to be coming from a place of genuineness, and that takes time. And that takes effort. You cannot do all these things just for the heck of doing them. It’s not a checklist. You need to invest your time in building relationships.
We may not know where we are headed or when this is going to end, but it will end. So, we need to make sure that when it does end, we are prepared to take on the opportunities that will come our way, or find ways to seek those opportunities and reach out to the world.
So, you cannot take this down time for granted. Yes, take care of yourself, maintain your mental wellness, and be kind to yourself, but make use of this time to be digitally present, ensure you’re networking with people and making the right connections.
Remember, it’s important to support one another and be mindful of other people’s circumstances. Understand that everyone has their own challenges; they might be dealing with kids at home, health concerns, loneliness, job insecurity or financial concerns of their own. Remember to be kind and patient.