Developing a Professional Web Presence: A Primer for Undergraduate Students

I teach business and professional writing courses to undergraduates. Earlier this week, I led a workshop for students in Francis Marion University’s Career Connections program. Led by Dr. Ronald Miller, the Career Connections program is a fantastic opportunity for FMU students, and I was glad to be a part of it.

In the workshop I developed, program participants learned about monitoring and developing a professional web presence to aid in the job search. To benefit Career Connections participants and others, I’m publishing my lecture slides and handouts (including an activity guide) at the end of this post 

CC-licensed photo by flickr user Beta Soluciones

CC-licensed photo by flickr user Beta Soluciones

Workshop Focus

The workshop began with a brief lecture about monitoring and maintaining one’s online presence or digital footprint. We also discussed the likelihood of hiring managers finding this information and the ways they might use it to make decisions about applicants. After the presentation, students participated in activities to help them use Twitter to establish a professional web presence.

Relevance to Undergraduates and Others

Many of today’s traditional college students are familiar with Twitter, but they use it solely for social and entertainment purposes. As a result, they need guidance in using this social media platform in a professional capacity and with an eye towards securing an internship or post-graduation job.

Developing a professional web presence not only is advantageous to rising university graduates; it also can benefit established professionals who are switching careers. Even if you’re happy in your current position, developing a professional web presence keeps your name out there in the event other opportunities were to arise. This is called the passive job search.  

Sources and Resources

The workshop materials below are based on my teaching, research, experiences being on the academic and non-academic job markets while in graduate school, and observations of leaders in the field.

As an educator, I’m especially indebted to Mark Schaefer’s book, The Tao of Twitter.  It describes how to use Twitter for professional development, but it also illuminates the measurable, tangible benefits of networking online. These success stories provide valuable incentives for skeptical students who think Twitter simply is a way to keep up with friends and celebrities.

Job seekers and educators also may be interested in Karl Stolley’s How to Design and Write Web Pages Today. In the past, I assigned students the chapter “Why Write for the Web,” which includes extensive information on privacy and safety concerns.


Tools for Building and Maintaining a Digital Presence

Activity Guide to Help Students Implement Strategies in The Tao of Twitter

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Posted in Blog Lab, Cultural Phenomena, Digital Humanities, Everything in Between

Baby Dust: The Digital Spaces and Identities of Women TTC (Trying to Conceive)

I recently returned from an academic conference where I presented a paper entitled, “Baby Dust: The Digital Spaces and Identities of Women TTC (Trying to Conceive).” In my paper, I examined pre-pregnancy message boards the websites Baby Center and Baby and Bump. I focused exclusive on posts by women who are trying to conceive without ongoing surveillance by or extended discussion with healthcare practitioners.

I’m sharing “Baby Dust: The Digital Spaces and Identities of Women TTC (Trying to Conceive)” here in its entirety. Following ProfHacker Adeline Koh’s advice in “Publishing Your Dissertation Online: What’s a New PhD to Do?,” I’m making my paper available through Scribd at the end of this post. The paper is free to read and download, but as I indicate on the cover page, the work is covered by a CC-BY-NC-ND license, which means that it can be shared, but it must be attributed to me, cannot be remixed, and cannot be sold for commercial gain.

CC-licensed photo by flickr user Selbe B

CC-licensed photo by flickr user Selbe B

In my presentation, I argued that women posting on Baby Center and Baby and Bump narrate their pre-conception journeys while also recording and tracking health data in order to improve future outcomes. As others have noted, online health communities such as those found on the two websites I examined allow participants to amass and distribute collective wisdom.  I claim, though, that TTC message board posters also create ad hoc algorithms that transform data into metrics by which users can compare health statistics. Interestingly, while TTC posters reconstitute the clinical space and medical authority, their overarching ethical appeal to “baby dust” or luck suggests, at first glance, that they reject rational, scientific approaches to pre-pregnancy planning. I believe, however, that their seeming cognitive dissonance actually reflects an awareness of the impossibility of normalizing one’s reproductive capabilities in any space—virtual or clinical.

I’m excited to make my conference paper available online. In fact, this blog posts roughly marks the one-year anniversary of my commitment to public scholarship. In September of 2012, I announced my intentions to “blog my research,” especially in relation to conference presentations. In the past, this has meant that I transformed much of my pre-writing and note-taking into blog posts.

My usual system of sharing conference preparatory work has improved my productivity, as I consider myself to be a Beethoven-style writer: I write in order to discover my argument and work out a structure for expressing it; as a result, I write slowly. In working on my “Baby Dust” presentation for the PCAS/ACAS conference, I worked more like a Mozart-style writer because I delayed writing and spent more time in the idea-generating and outlining phases; as a result, the writing and revision process came together pretty quickly. For this reason, sharing my preparatory work here on The Ambulant Scholar simply wasn’t feasible. Instead, I decided to share the paper itself.

I’m also sharing the full version of “Baby Dust” because online health communities and TTC women represent a new direction in the health humanities for me. I envision “Baby Dust” as a part of a larger project that examines lifewriting published in electronic spaces by pre-pregnant and pregnant women. I’m also interested in the support that such women receive in shaping and narrating these experiences, including self-help books (e.g., Jean Twenge’s The Impatient Women’s Guide to Getting Pregnant) or publishing platforms (e.g., Pinterest).

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Posted in Blogging My Research, Medical Humanities
Who is the Ambulant Scholar?
Amy Rubens

Amy Rubens

I'm an Assistant Professor of English at a state-sponsored university in South Carolina and have over ten years of experience teaching at the college level.

I regularly teach courses in composition, professional writing, creative writing, and American literature.

My primary research interest is the medical humanities, particularly the depiction of contagious disease in American literature and lifewriting. I also have research interests in digital writing and social media and how electronic environments shape notions of health.

I'm inspired by the great outdoors and enjoy backpacking and hiking. When I'm not reading, writing, or hiking, I like to blog and spend time with my two cats and two dogs.

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