I live in the Pacific Northwest, and winter came in a hurry last week: It snowed here the day after Halloween, and I spotted Starbucks holiday cups in every commuter’s hands at the bus stop. Grumble all you want about brands jumping the gun to market the winter holidays, but the truth is that the out-of-office responses are going to start piling up the week before Thanksgiving and won’t abate until after New Year’s.
Unless the year end is your industry’s crunch period, that means the next few weeks are a great time to clear up some back-burner tasks. Whether you’re an employee, a jobseeker, or a solopreneur, here’s how to get a jumpstart on whipping your email inbox and social media accounts into gear for the year ahead.
1. Conduct A Year-In-Review, Then Tout The Highlights
Don’t wait for Facebook’s automated New Year’s video to reflect on 2017. Look back through old files and emails, and make note of the good work you’ve done. For years, I’ve kept a folder on my desktop and in my emails labeled “smile file.” Testimonials and accolades are filed there, and then forwarded to bosses before review time. If you’re your own boss, these notes remind you of what you’ve accomplished, and they’re a great jumping-off point for making personal-branding updates.
Add a mention of an award you’ve won to your bio on Twitter, or use clients’ remarks (with their permission) as testimonials on your website. On LinkedIn, update your summary, add new portfolio projects and delete outdated ones, and add any pro bono or volunteer projects you did this year.
2. Check Who Can See You Do What
Since LinkedIn defaults to making your activity public, you might want to disable that feature, otherwise you’ll alert all your connections to every single update you make:
- Click on “Me” in the upper right corner.
- Select “Privacy and Settings.”
- From there, select “Privacy.”
- Change “Sharing profile edits” to “No.”
While you’re there, check your other privacy settings to make sure you have an appropriate level of visibility. While the administrators of Company Pages on LinkedIn don’t get alerted when you visit them, individuals do receive a notice that you visited their profile; you can prevent that from happening by adjusting your “Profile viewing options” accordingly. So if you’re conducting a stealth job search, and weren’t last year, now’s the time to make these changes.
3. Update Your Profile Photos
All the social platforms you use to connect professionally–LinkedIn, Behance, Twitter, Facebook–should bear your current likeness. Even if you don’t think you’ve changed, it’s smart to update your profile photo anyway. It only takes a minute, so just do it.
4. Write Recommendations
Take the time to write recommendations for colleagues and ask them to reciprocate. You can recommend people on LinkedIn and businesses on Yelp, Google, and Facebook. You don’t have to wait until you’re no longer working together. Writing the recommendation while the project is fresh helps you capture specifics about their work, which in turn makes for a stronger recommendation.
5. Give Your Website A Spit-Polish
You don’t need to undertake a complete website redesign. But you do need to make sure your links are still good and your images still display. And if you don’t have a website, now’s a good time to create one. Check out About.me, WordPress, or Squarespace for options that start at free, require little technical knowledge, and look professional.
6. Follow Up After Holiday Parties
You’ll be tempted to leave those business cards in a heap on your desk–don’t! Hop onto LinkedIn and connect. Always include a personal note with your LinkedIn connection requests. Remind them where you met and follow up on anything you offered to send them:
So great to meet you at the Freelancers Meetup holiday party last night. I enjoyed chatting with you about your project. Here’s a link to the that thing I mentioned.
That’s all it takes! If it’s more your style to connect on Twitter, great. Set up a Twitter list with a snappy name (“Awesome Folks, Winter 2017,” “Rock Stars I’ve Met” . . . you get the gist). Keep the list public and add them to it. They’ll get a Twitter alert saying they’ve been added to “Really Cool People.” I’ve set up dozens of Twitter lists for clients, and I regularly see the most engagement from people I’ve added to lists named “Cool People” or “Tweets Good Stuff.”
7. Google Your Name
Recruiters, employers, and prospective clients will all run searches for your name, so you’ll want to find out what the internet says about you. Search yourself on Google and Bing, and also within Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Consider how the publicly available information portrays you, and adjust the privacy settings of your social media accounts if you need to. For example, if you don’t want your Facebook profile discoverable, go to “Settings,” then “Privacy” to change whether your profile shows up in search results, whether people can find you based on your contact info, and so on.
A colleague recently asked me to talk with someone who was struggling with a job search. The candidate has a long history of leadership in her industry, an outstanding portfolio, and solid references. It didn’t make sense why she wasn’t getting any interviews–until I searched her name. Within the top five results was an old news article about a previous employer, suggesting she’d played a role in the failure of a public works project. She can’t get the article removed, but she can address it proactively in her job search now that she knows how prominent it is. If you’re really in a bind, you can look for reputation management firms for help.
If you run a small business, perform these searches on your company name. Respond to negative reviews on the sites where they appear. Remain polite, thank the reviewer for their feedback, and offer to make it right. Your response will help rebuild trust with the customer and others who see the review.
8. Make A List Of Companies To Follow Next Year
If you’re considering a job change next year, use this time of year to follow potential employers on social media, where many post opportunities before announcing them elsewhere. This also helps you see if you have any contacts who can introduce you to the right people at these companies.
If your Twitter profile is public and you don’t want your current employer to see that you’re following a bunch of competitors, for instance, add those companies’ profiles to a private list. You don’t need to actually follow an account to add it to a list. And if your list is marked “private,” the account you’ve added doesn’t get a notice. Your list effectively functions as a mini-feed of just the posts from the list members.
9. Get Into An Editorial Habit
Nobody cares what you had for lunch, but no matter what industry you’re in, getting some form of content out there into the world is a great way to set yourself apart. You can keep it small and simply plan to schedule regular posts on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or go big and launch a blog. Whichever you choose, the end-of-year slump is a great time to get onto a regular schedule. Start with once a month and work up to weekly or more after you’re comfortable with the pace. If your website doesn’t have a blog function, LinkedIn, Medium, and WordPress are solid, free options you can explore.
Use the time around the holidays to start drafting posts and preparing them to go live. If I don’t have someone available to proofread my drafts, I like to use to Grammarly and Hemingway to check my grammar and style.
10. Set Up Social Media Automation
At some point, you’re probably going to be out of the office yourself. Automation helps keep your profiles active while you’re away. You can schedule posts across all your social media platforms with freemium tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, or RecurPost.
11. Start Scheduling Stuff
Now that you’ve done all (or some of) this, it’s time to start thinking ahead about the period after the holidays. Write down your plans, start making calls, and send a few emails. If you get an out-of-office reply, make a note to follow up after their return. In Outlook, you can schedule your message to send later. In Gmail on the Chrome browser, you can schedule send times with a browser plug-in like Boomerang.
With the coming weeks full of family obligations, school closures, and major religious and national holidays, it’s inevitable some of your key partners will be hard to reach. Be patient, and set some calendar reminders for yourself in January so you’ll remember to get back in touch. In the meantime, spend the weeks ahead getting your online presence ready for a happy, productive new year.
Allison Durazzi is a digital marketing instructor at Seattle Central College.