Category: Learning

The secret to effective professional branding using social media: Part I – building your brand

What is professional social networking?

Professional social networking is the use of social websites and applications to interact with people in your field of work.  It’s the fastest growing form of connecting and sharing. Social media has not only changed the way we communicate but also the way we are perceived. Everything that you share online will form a perception in a potential or current employers mind—this is your online brand. It’s valuable to develop a positive, strong, personal and professional social media presence to leave a positive lasting impression.

Building and managing your online brand           

Most organizations recognize that the reputation of their staff can impact their business. Recruiters, employers and prospective clients commonly check a candidate’s online presence as part of the hiring due diligence to safeguard their corporate reputation. Maintaining a good reputation and brand on and offline will impact your career.

LinkedIn is the number one professional site that recruiters will first seek out when shortlisting a candidate. In Quarter 2 of 2016 LinkedIn reported it had a total user base of 450,000,000+ members worldwide in over 200 countries. Recruiters sometimes go a step further and look into personal social pages such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Use these tips to ensure you are presenting a positive online brand:
  • Search yourself to see what comes up: past photos, comments, posts, tweets and interactions can all show up
  • Ask friends and family to remove tags, unprofessional posts mentioning you or pictures inconsistent with your professional image
  • Set up an ‘alert’ for your name to stay on top of what is posted about you (or others with a similar name)
  • Keep in mind information and images are ‘cached’ so never really disappear
  • Become active on professional networks to push new content to the top of search results, moving less professional material further down
  • Avoid negative comments and controversial subjects
  • Ensure privacy settings for accounts are high
  • There is no way to completely control who sees information so be professional
  • Using a nickname does not always ensure privacy
  • Connections can be uncovered through groups, e-mail addresses, schools attended
  • 25 per cent of LinkedIn users still do not know about the setting that allows them to hide their connections, this is an important feature for those using LinkedIn for competitive research or to connect with competitors
  •  Use a professional head shot, ideally across multiple platforms
  • Identify two to three niche topics in your professional field that you would like to stay current on, and create alerts on these topics
    • More than three topics require more time than most people are able to consistently commit to

Establishing and maintaining a professional online presence takes time and requires regular attention. As a rule of thumb, consider all information online as public information that will be seen by past and present colleagues, supervisors and prospective employers. It should be factual and match your resume.

Read Part II of this post next month. Now that your brand is on point it’s time to start networking!

For further information, read the full tip sheet available on the Mount Royal University Career Services website. 

Content for blog was adapted by Arla Ewing, Career Services Work Experience Coordinator, from source document: “Online Professional Presence – Focus Tip Sheet”, written by Elaine Balych, Career Education Coordinator, Mount Royal University Career Services. 

Mount Royal Career Services offers services to graduates of Mount Royal University credit certificates, diplomas, bachelor degrees and applied degrees.

The importance of developing career resiliency

Finding a job at any time can be extremely stressful and even tougher in a challenging economy. Whether you’re on the hunt for full time gig  in your field or you’re in the process of making a transition into a new career— the value of a positive and resilient attitude can make a huge difference.

…more than education

…more than training

…more than experience

RESILIENCE determines who succeeds and who struggles. ¹

Resilience defined

Resilience brings security in a constantly changing world. It means anticipating risks and feeling comfortable with change. Resilience involves limiting damage during turbulent times, absorbing hard knocks, regrouping and bouncing back when the worst happens. It’s the ability to start feeling better and bolster your confidence after a setback. It’s remaining engaged in the midst of shifting challenges.

Resilience is a MINDSET:
  • It’s less about who we are and more about “what we think”
  • Our mindsets or “mental models”  directly influence how we view the world and how we view ourselves in the world
  • This view influences how we respond to adversity and stress with a healthy response or an unhealthy/unproductive response
  • The strength of our resilience mindset and the force of our behaviors enable us to influence or shape our environment
 You can build resilience

Resilient people aren’t necessarily born with a unique ability to bounce back or forge ahead. They are ordinary people who learn behaviours, attitudes and work patterns that allow them to keep going and growing, even in difficult or uncertain times.

By learning to become more resilient, people can bring new power, direction and energy to their careers. They can be more comfortable in dynamic environments where change is constant and the traditional ways may no longer work. When people gain resilience, they can create a more successful career path and at the same time find greater enjoyment in all aspects of life.

Kerry Hannon recently wrote in Forbes magazine about the six essential steps needed to develop career resilience.

  1. Get connected. Develop a strong network of positive relationships. Don’t wait until there’s crisis, but start now to methodically extend your circle.   Go out to events even when you don’t feel like it.  Join groups.  Recruit mentors and find ways to mentor others. Look for ways to support friends, colleagues and even casual business acquaintances. And know that they will be there to accept, support and inspire you during the hard times.
  1. Choose optimism. Positive people are more resilient than pessimists, and you can work to become more optimistic.  A starting point is to stop thinking so much about what goes wrong and start focusing on what goes right. Keeping a journal can help you do that. If you notice that the same old worries and regrets keep going through your mind, write those thoughts down and decide whether you want to let them go or address them in some way. Start keeping a record of the good things. At the end of each day, write a few lines about what went well and what you’re most grateful for in your current situation.
  1. Learn something new. To deal effectively with change, it helps to be engaged in changing yourself. The most innovative and resilient professionals tend to frequently engage in learning or improvement efforts.  When you’re in the process of learning, your viewpoint changes and you spot connections that you never noticed before. If you don’t know what to do next, start learning something new.
  1. Think like an entrepreneur. Know that you own your career, and that nobody else is going to chart your path. Even if you feel like a cog in the middle of a big organization, you can run your career like a one-person business. That will help ease your transition, if you need to make one. Think about your brand, recognize who your customers and bosses are and be clear about what they pay you for. Look for new ways to add value, in effect expanding your range of product offerings.
  1. Look at the big picture. Let go of your preoccupation with this week and think about how success might look for you five years from now. Know that your career can’t soar when you’re neglecting the rest of your life. Write a brief personal vision statement, make a list or draw a diagram touching upon your most important values and the key parts of your life. Even when you’re engaged in a career crisis you will feel better if you can keep your perspective.
  1. Get in shape. Your career is influenced by everything you do to stay in shape – physically, emotionally and spiritually. To do your best work, and to build the resilience that will keep you going, manage your fitness and energy level, as well as your time.

A positive and resilient approach to your career pursuits can help you achieve your goals.  And remember…keep going! You got this.

Article written by: Thomas Labelle is a Certified Career Development Professional (CCDP) and Certified Career Coach (CEC). Currently he is a career & employment development coordinator at Mount Royal University.

Mount Royal Career Services offers services to graduates of Mount Royal University credit certificates, diplomas, bachelor degrees and applied degrees.

¹ Michele M. Tugade, Barbara L. Fredrickson, and Lisa Feldman Barrett, Psychological Resilience and Positive Emotional Granularity: Examining the Benefits of Positive Emotions on Coping and Health Journal of Personality Volume 72Issue 6pages 1161–1190December 2004

Some takeaways from “Use LinkedIn for Career Success”

Alumni Relations at Mount Royal is all about helping our alumni reach their full potential while connecting them back to the University. As the coordinator, alumni outreach,  part of what I do is listen to our alumni in order to find out how we can support them in meaningful ways.  The number one thing alumni ask for? Career support. You want to make connections in your industry, improve your personal brand, move into a new field or find a job. We decided to turn that listening into action and hosted a learning session on how to “Use LinkedIn for Career Success.” Did you know half of the Canadian working population is on LinkedIn? Just one of the things we learned at the session—read on for more.

What we learned about LinkedIn:

Profile box:
  • Above the scroll is prime real estate (digital version of above the fold from the newspaper word). Make sure to have a professional photo (which we provided for free at the session thanks to our partner Lifetouch photography) and a descriptive headline.
    • Professional photo: it should represent the industry you work in or want to work in. No half couple pictures with your face cut-off…please.
    • Descriptive headline: the automatic setting is your job title but you can change it to better represent your expertise.
  • Don’t put “looking for opportunities” it looks desperate.  Instead use a phrase like “experienced designer”. It’s code to recruiters that you’re looking.
  • You can customize your profile URL to to make it shorter and better for including in documents such as your resume.
Summary section:
  • Your summary is most important.
  • Highlight in your summary not just what you currently do but what you aspire to do in your career.
    • Paragraph 1 = What is the problem you solve?
    • Paragraph 2 = Build your credibility.
    • Paragraph 3 = Additional interesting information.  Add some personality and include who should/how to contact you.
  • Please don’t write your summary in the third person! It comes off insincere and a bit strange.
Skills section:
  • Your skills with the most endorsements automatically go to the top.
  • You can rearrange your skills to better reflect the industry you are in or want to enter.
  • Try to come up with at least 50 different skills.
    •  20 technical skills (social media management, accounting, event planning).
    • 15 soft skills (interpersonal communications, leadership, public speaking).
    • 15 IT (Photoshop, Excel, HTML).
What to know about Groups:
  • Groups are a great tool for sharing what you know
  • Posts/comments can show up in Group members’ home feeds whether or not you’re connected with them.
  • Keep it two ways: ask questions and comment on other people’s posts.
  • Join the Mount Royal University Alumni Group to find alumni in your industry or an industry you want to enter and invite them for coffee.
  • Take advantage of your existing alumni community. Pose questions, share an interesting article and comment in the Mount Royal University Alumni Group.
LinkedIn Alumni feature:

A newer cool feature on LinkedIn is the Alumni feature. If you go to, it will populate a list of other MRU alumni on LinkedIn. You can then filter the list by job, city, place of employment, industry, etc. This is a great tool if you’re planning a move and want to make connections with other MRU alumni in a new city. Take advantage of the fact that you’re both Mount Royal alumni and reach out. Maybe invite them for coffee?

Other things to consider:
  • Be wary of going overboard with information. You want to leave people guessing and wanting to approach you to find out more. If you put too much out there, you risk them seeing something that turns them off.
  • It’s not what you know or who you know; it’s who knows what you know. So write about what you know—try out the blog feature.
  • Being on LinkedIn does not equal networking. LinkedIn is a networking tool. Having lots of connections isn’t beneficial.  Interacting and engaging in conversations on and off LinkedIn is where the real value is.

Special thanks to our coach Eric Pye, professional networking strategist and career advisor at CPA Alberta.

This post was written by Tierney Edmunds, coordinator, alumni outreach at Mount Royal University. If you’d like to see more sessions like this one or have other learning ideas, email Tierney at, or even better, ask to have “Tea with Tierney” and chat about your ideas in person.

The truth about “NETWORKING”

The word ‘networking’ gets loosely thrown around at recruitment events, employment classes  and professional business functions – which could lead to the view that everyone has become an expert in networking. But the actual truth is that there is an art to effective networking. It’s not just something that you should do, but a key skill set that all professionals should have in their repertoire.

A common misconception is that networking is all about calling or meeting with strangers when you need a job. We think it’s collecting lots of business cards, that truthfully, we do nothing with afterwards!  In reality, most of us merely scratch the surface of networking.

By definition, a network is an extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support. Many people use networking as a means to build a database that will add value to their business or service, or to try and find a way into a company for employment purposes. To gain the full benefit of networking there should be benefits or mutual assistance between both parties.

It’s a well known fact that we like to do business with who we know!

According to a study released by Connect Canada, “Networking, whether direct or indirect, was credited in providing over 61 per cent of new jobs and clients obtained of those surveyed. These results show that most organizations and educators are now including networking in their curriculum and their programming.”  Further, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “70 per cent of all jobs are found through networking.” This statistic takes into account the number of jobs that are available but never posted (internal hires), as well as positions filled by someone the employer knew. The Canadian job market is no different in this practice.

The key is to foster professional relationships that have mutual benefits for those involved in the network – even if you are in search of a new job or a new client base!

Are you networking effectively? Try this quiz and see where you are at!

I have developed a brief introduction to clearly and concisely describe my professional interests
and goals in 15 to 30 seconds that can be used in a casual setting, on the phone or to focus
a conversation.
Y / N


I have a process for keeping my professional contacts database up to date including current contact
information, last contacted, common topics of interest, areas of expertise, people referred and contact history.
Y / N


I have identified individuals I want to connect with regularly to keep them informed of my career
development and others I will connect with occasionally.
Y / N


I have identified organizations and associations which are relevant to my career interests
and have a plan for volunteering and attending a minimum number of functions this year.
Y / N


I have built an hour a week into my schedule to stay in contact with my network members.


Y / N


I have a specific goal for each networking event such as the type of people I’d like to make contact
with or the number of follow-up meetings I will finalize.
Y / N


Too many nos? That’s the reality for most of us! Here are some tips for turning those nos to yeses.

Practical steps for effective networking


Networking isn’t something that needs to take a lot of additional time. It can be done by phone, e-mail, online or in person. There are four broad types of professional networking.

  • Informal Networking: Everyday interactions, community, volunteer and personal activities can be used for informal networking. This is the easiest way to begin a professional network. Develop a script describing your professional interests clearly and concisely and asking a clear question to open conversations on ‘professional’ topics with people you know.
  • Formal Professional Activities/Events: In every field there are organizations, meetings, conferences, committees, events and trade shows. If you are a new member or not yet a member, volunteer to help out at such events. This provides opportunities to meet and talk to professionals of all stages working in multiple settings. A great place to start is getting in touch with the Mount Royal University Alumni Association.
  • Arranged Networking Appointments: While much networking can be done through events, calls and e-mails, it is worthwhile to arrange occasional one-to-one face time to really connect. Be aware and considerate of busy times when arranging appointments, lunch or coffee.
  • Social Media Networking: It is becoming increasingly valuable to develop and maintain a strong professional online and social media presence. Websites such as LinkedIn, including the Mount Royal University Alumni LinkedIn Group, provide great opportunities to grow your professional network. Each social media site has its own etiquette but when in doubt, use what would be your best professional in-person behavior as a guide. Remember, nothing is as personal as ‘face-to-face’ interaction. Be aware that information on  social sites such as Facebook and Twitter may be seen by potential employers/colleagues. Ensure these reinforce your professional image rather than negate it.
  • Practice. Talk to friends, people you work with, club members or the person who regularly sits with you on the bus about what they do and what you enjoy doing right now. People in all businesses and those not recruiting have information, resources and contacts, too. Consider everyone as a valuable potential network member to explore.
  • Make a list of people you already have a connection with: current/former co-workers, relatives, friends, neighbors, instructors and people from volunteer, community and religious activities. Identify five people from your current network you would like to consider as part of your professional network.
  • Develop specific strategies to prioritize building ties and be a dependable resource. Monitor your activities and the growth of your professional contacts.
  • You do not have to know exactly what you want to do to start to network. Seek information from friends of friends. This is easy and the most common way professionals network every day. Before calling, do some research on their company, position and questions you’d like answered to provide a solid starting point to put both you and your contact at ease.
  • These are just a few examples. Don’t expect contacts to remember you or be part of your network if you only contact them once or twice. Occasionally relationships develop quickly; most take longer. To develop professionally rewarding relationships, build goodwill through multiple contacts.

Networks are important to people in positions of responsibility who don’t like to take risks when they do not have to. An unfamiliar worker can be a risk, so employers often hire people they have met through their professional networks. For job seekers, knowing about a group, department or organization ‘from the inside’ can help you identify hidden ‘unadvertised’ opportunities, and target positions that best align with your qualifications and experience.

  • Let your established network contacts know you are looking for new opportunities and would appreciate leads or contacts. Update them on your search efforts.
  • Make it easy to help. Ask for advice, suggestions, leads or industry feedback on your resume rather than if they know of jobs.
  • Email a thank you and tell them about results from leads or suggestions they provided.
  • If you are interested in a particular company or department, ask established contacts if they are able to provide you with an introduction.
  • Ask contacts you have worked on projects with if they would serve as one of your references.
These steps are just a starting point! Below are some additional resources and information links.

For more information on effective online networking, check out our next post coming in July!

Blog content adapted by: David Babaganov, marketing assistant, and Patsy Valenzuela, Career Services.

Original content: Career Services Focus Tip Sheet: “Networking” written by Elaine Balych, career education/career development coordinator

Mount Royal Career Services offers services to graduates of Mount Royal University credit certificates, diplomas, bachelor degrees and applied degrees.

There are still jobs out there!

Despite the recent challenges in Alberta and the fear of ongoing job loss, there are still plenty of job opportunities out there. At Mount Royal University’s Career and Recruitment Fair on March 9, 83 exhibitors were collectively offering more than 1200 job vacancies in multiple industries. That being said, there is also more competition and it is true that there are fewer opportunities in some industries. In order to gain a competitive edge in this challenging job market, be proactive and have a plan. Creating an effective job search plan is your first step towards a successful job search. Even if you are currently employed, knowing what an effective job search plan entails can set you up for future success.

Big picture, there are two main things to consider before taking any steps:

  • Know what you are looking for:  Before even starting your job search, you need to understand your skills and interests and know what type and level of work you are looking for. One of the keys to a successful job search is knowing what makes you a unique candidate, knowing what qualifies you for the position you want and communicating this effectively to the ‘right’ prospective employer.
  • Be proactive and have a plan: In some industries you will not see many ‘job postings’. You need to know how and when different industries “hire” their top talent. Researching employers, figuring out how to make contact with them and preparing yourself can seem daunting, but if you break it out into small steps it’s much more doable and you can measure your successes as you go.

Steps for job searching in a competitive economy:

1)  Network, Network, Network 

Take inventory of the people you know, connections you’ve made, and future connections you would like to make. Consider doing a mind map that lists all of your contacts including those met through volunteering, social clubs, associations, special projects, job fairs, school events and employment. Begin to network at every opportunity that arises; this will help connect you to prospective employers and future employment opportunities. Talk to our team about the Calgary Connector Program for recent graduates that helps under or unemployed alumni connect with employers in their field of study. Visit the Career Services events page for weekly updates on upcoming networking fairs and events. Also, think about joining an Alumni Group and attending alumni events to meet other alumni from your program or industry.

  • Spring clean your social networks: Maintaining a professional presence on ALL social media is vitally important. It doesn’t matter if your profile is set to private, you need to assume the image you are portraying on any social media is open for public display and potential scrutiny of future employers. Remove any images that could cause embarrassment or cost you a job offer if viewed by future employers. Use social media to build a better professional network, trace down contacts and job leads. Our ONLINE PRESENCE TIP SHEET is a valuable resource with step by step instructions on how to use your online presence to enhance your professional job search plan.
  • Create personalized business cards: Personal business cards are a great way to pass on information about yourself when you first meet someone. Include your basic contact information, a few of the primary qualifications you can offer, and links to any sites you have created for yourself, such as a digital portfolio.
  • Access the hidden job market: While you should apply to posted jobs with tailored resumes and cover letters, experts agree that many jobs are not posted.  You need to access this hidden job market! Learn how to network and build relationships with professionals in your field. Connect with people that have similar roles to yours but that work in other fields or industries.
2) Customize your Job Search

Be clear and intentional when applying for positions. You should clearly know and be able to articulate both verbally and in writing why you are well qualified for the position at hand.

  • Customize your resumes and cover letters: Customizing your marketing materials will go a long way in helping you stand out. Do not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to developing your marketing materials. Tailor each resume and cover letter to the particular opportunity you want. Clearly specify how your experience and education connect to the position. Try to obtain the name of the hiring manager to personalize your cover letter. Ensure your materials provide specific proof points of why you are a good candidate for the job you are applying for.
  • Put your experience to work:  Don’t short change yourself. Find the value gained from all your experiences. Look at your volunteering, internships, work, committees and memberships, education and academic projects. Take stock of the transferable job related skills you acquired from these experiences and include them in your resume and share specific results achieved during interviews.
  • Fill in the gaps:  If you are aiming for positions that have experience or education you do not currently have identify HOW you can acquire those skill sets. Assess what jobs you are currently well qualified for, and what it would take to get you to that next level. Don’t apply for positions that far exceed your current experience, but rather work towards those opportunities by having a clear and strategic plan over time.
3) Make a Plan

Looking for a new job is a full-time job! Take some time to identify where you are today, and where you want to be in one month, six months, and one year.

  • Set goals: Goal setting includes writing out a plan of action, including what you want to achieve by when. Your plan should be specific, measurable and realistic. If you are not where you hoped to be at your check-in point, don’t get discouraged. Remember, the best plans are always in transition. Share your action plan with someone you trust, a mentor or coach perhaps, someone who will hold you accountable.
  • Keep an open mind:  Attitude can make or break an opportunity. Be prepared to look outside the box, and assess how this current opportunity could impact your future. Some companies may offer all sorts of great incentives, unique learning experience, or opportunities to advance. Know what is important to you before you attend the interview, as this will give you the upper-hand when it comes time to negotiate your value.
  • Prepare for formal and informal interviews: Make a great first impression! For formal interviews, do your research on the company, dress for success, practice your handshake. Make certain you can support the claims made in your resume and show proof of your competencies. Interviews can be stressful. Preparation is the key, therefore, practice, practice, and more practice.  Informal interviews happen all the time. You never know when a chance encounter may lead to a real opportunity. Be prepared to share who you are, what you have to offer in a professional context and what you see yourself doing. These one to two minute elevator speeches are key.
  • Get started: Read more about each topic covered above in our career and employment tip sheets. You can also begin by visiting your Career Services Centre or using free Alberta Government services to get professional assistance in leveraging your career. Services may include professional critiques of your marketing materials, interview preparation, access to job banks, job search assistance, labor market research and more.  Get started by creating your own custom job search plan today


Article written by: Patsy Valenzuela, Career Services supervisor, Mount Royal University. BLOG content adopted by David Babaganov, marketing and communications assistant. 

Mount Royal Career Services offers services to graduates of Mount Royal University credit certificates, diplomas, bachelor degrees and applied degrees.