Internet Presence for Job Candidates

<p><span><span style="font-size: small"><span style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'">The internet has great potential as a means of professional marketing for many soon-to-be and recent graduates. Not everyone in planning, however, uses it well. The following tips aim to help you realize its potential and avoid its pitfalls.</span></span></span><span><span style="font-size: small; font-family: 'Times New Roman'"> </span></span> </p>

January 17, 2011, 6:28 PM PST

By Ann Forsyth


The internet has great potential as a means of professional marketing for many soon-to-be and recent graduates. Not everyone in planning, however, uses it well. The following tips aim to help you realize its potential and avoid its pitfalls. 

Present yourself professionally: Creating a web site is simple these days using one of the professional services like LinkedIn or even Google Sites. Make an attractive, uncluttered, professional looking page with pertinent information. Post your resume, some work samples, and a general description of your interests. This can be a terrific marketing tool. As a reference writer, I have really appreciated it when students have sent me links to their (well-written and nicely illustrated) web sites. It can be a good place to present an online portfolio as well as to provide a bit more of a sense of the person. For example, one student turned out to be an activist dedicated to creating children's play spaces with a section of his web site devoted to this topic. It's a good idea to get a friend to look over before you go live, however. 

If you have a blog, unless is it fully private, write like it is a magazine not an email to a buddy. I have employed someone because his travel blog was reflective with nicely composed images and thoughtful commentaries about the places he had visited. It clearly demonstrated that he was interested in the connections between people and places. A more free-form, stream-of-consciousness-style blog will at best leave potential employers wondering about your writing skills. One that divulges too much personal information-from romantic affairs to the gory details of your cat's health-will be hard to interpret at the very least. If you are critical of other people, even if because of their policy actions, be careful that the critiques don't seem unnecessary and unfair. Of course you can criticize poorly conceived policies or misplaced investments in wasteful infrastructure. Working against injustice and environmentally damaging actions is part of the ethic of planning. However, make very sure any criticisms are well reasoned and well written. Employers want to know that you will play well with others--in the office and outside it. And if you really do want to include more personal information try to first get feedback from several people who have been employers.  

If you have a private site, like Facebook or a private blog, keep it private with a small number of highly trusted users. If it has a large number of members, or weaker passwords, remember that eventually someone else may see it and plan accordingly. On many sites it is also apparently easy enough for someone to link to a private page in a way that lets the public see them. 

Reduce problems from other people's sites: You should not need to be told this, but Google yourself when you are looking for a job and no less than once every six months. If you, or close friends, are on Facebook then search it and any other relevant sites as well. Remember your friends may post public information about you even if you do not. Certainly employers were once in their 20s and understand youthful indiscretions. However, it really helps if you make this easy for them by reducing the amount they need to turn a blind eye to, particularly if it might cause any criticism from their bosses and the public. If you find problem materials, try to get them removed, particularly if they come up on the first one or two screens on Google. It isn't only social sites that can be problems. A colleague once discovered that the entire job applications for dozens of people had been placed on a public server, rather than the private one, by another university. The university was told quickly, but more minor versions of this happen all the time. 

Lastly, and not quite on the same theme, don't expect faculty members, employers, or similar people to join your Facebook and similar pages: Many faculty members have a rule that they don't join such networks, rather than having to make a lot of decisions about who is a "friend" and who is not. Instead, a public Facebook page can reach such people-but remember it reaches the world! 

My other blog is at http://healthymetropolis.blogspot.com/ 


Ann Forsyth

Trained in planning and architecture, Ann Forsyth is a professor of urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. From 2007-2012 she was a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell.

Chicago Transit Authority Green Line Train at 35th-Bronzeville-IIT

A New Transit Equity Dashboard

New data technology has made it possible to measure transit equity in ways that were impossible before. TransitCenter is making good use of the new capabilities.

June 17 - TransitCenter

Car-Centric Planning

Mapping Environmental Justice Hotspots

A new map of Virginia illustrates the stark contrasts in pollution burdens depending on location.

June 18 - The Virginia Mercury

California Gas Statin

The Big Taboo of the Senate's Bipartisan Infrastructure Proposal

Ten bipartisan senators have proposed a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure deal with no new taxes, but it does include indexing the current gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, unchanged in 28 years, to inflation, thus potentially increasing gas prices.

June 17 - The Washington Post

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Case Study Posted on HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.