Using Instagram for #CareerGoals

Katie Hagar image
Katie Hagar
April 11, 2024

Just because I work in social media doesn’t mean I’m not asking myself the same questions that plague all of us: “Is social media good for my mental health?” “Am I spending too much time scrolling?” “What kind of picture am I painting by only sharing the best moments in my life?”

As with anything, I think you take the good with the bad. But I’ve recently found myself thinking about how Instagram in particular has often given me important moments of self-reflection. 

For most of my time on Instagram, I’ve essentially used it as a photo album. I’m not there for likes, but to share my favorite photos and log my favorite memories. This has produced a collection that I think represents a lot of what’s important to me: friends, experiences, travel, horseback riding, the Adirondacks.

But I also realized there’s a lot that it doesn’t represent, like internships, jobs, side hustles, family (at least not all of them!), and deeper interests. It doesn’t paint the full picture. 

I’m someone who feels pride in being a professional, working adult with a unique skill set—but even typing that out felt a little like gloating… which is where the challenge lies. After spending some time with this “mirror” that I’ve created on Instagram, I decided that LinkedIn isn’t the only space for my professional self anymore, especially as someone on the cusp of Millennial and Gen Z generations. 

Now, I’m not dismissing LinkedIn altogether, but I’ve been noticing the same kinds of posts over and over again. It often comes down to people sharing new jobs, promotions, event recaps and articles (I’m guilty of this too), and it’s often shared with “corporate speak” geared towards the workplace. And I get it—that kind of content is what LinkedIn was literally made for, but it doesn’t let me see behind the curtain as much as I want to. Sometimes it feels even less authentic than a picture-perfect Instagram.

Hence, I’ve realized Instagram actually is the place where I can integrate my personal and professional selves in a way that lets my true personality shine, and ultimately better supports goals in both spheres, rather than splitting myself across multiple platforms. Here are a few ways I’m setting out to do that.

1. Crafting Authenticity

I’m great at capturing the personal stuff on Instagram. It comes naturally, especially for those of us who grew up with social media. It’s easy to talk about the vacation I’m excited about, the great dinner I had with friends, or the cool hike I went on. Pictures also inherently come with those moments, so everything aligns for a perfect post. But alongside those memories, I’ve had some really great professional wins too. I’ve gotten to present to a room of 25+ people, I’ve advanced into multiple new roles, and I’ve established myself as an equestrian in a semi-professional/transactional capacity. There are glimpses of these moments on my Instagram, but you won’t find them touted like the rest of my personal life. 

I’ve started to think more intentionally about showing both of these sides of myself. It’s surprisingly challenging sometimes to talk about these accomplishments without it feeling like bragging (I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling), but the beauty of Instagram is that the photo or video can do most of the talking for me. I shared this video on LinkedIn, for example, where I gave a presentation to a client team. Doing so at this scale and in this setting was something new for me. 

But as you can see, even on LinkedIn I found it difficult to put emphasis on my feeling of accomplishment. This is perfect to highlight on Instagram, letting the picture tell a thousand words about my role as presenter, and adding some of my own perspective and excitement. Sharing that excitement is authentic and tells people a lot more about what I care about in my work. 

2. Network Building

“Networking” sometimes feels like a buzz word to me. I don’t know that I can say I’ve taken it all that seriously in the past. But I’ve also realized that I’m at a stage in my career where networking might be the next step for my professional growth. I’ve established my skill set (although I’m forever learning), and use it daily in my workplace, but discussion and knowledge transfer with people outside of my office always proves to offer great new perspectives. I know that these opportunities don’t usually just land in my lap, so I’ve started finding ways to seek them out. 

I’ve always been in the habit of adding new connections on LinkedIn upon meeting new people. Now, I’ve started swapping Instagram handles as well. Of course, I’ve always done this with new friends for the sake of staying in touch, but I’ve found that I learn more about people in a professional capacity on Instagram as well, as more young professionals showcase their work and portfolios there. This makes it easier to bridge the gap between personal connections and our professional selves, and opens new doors to what others are learning about, working on, collaborating on, etc. LinkedIn is still ol’ reliable, but Instagram can be a lot more fun and telling!

3. Strategic Storytelling 

Okay, so Instagram is a good place to pat yourself on the back for work-related accomplishments—but surely highlighting your resume skills still lives on LinkedIn alone? 

I thought so too, until I started this journey of creating one unified self on one unified platform. Beyond sharing professional moments, Instagram is sometimes an even more effective space for showcasing work as a portfolio. I have seen people in creative roles do this super successfully, intermingling personal content with creative work they’ve produced in a more formal or intentional capacity. It’s so seamless, and I get to see how someone’s personality reflects in their work. That’s not always a perspective that’s easy to find when interacting with someone in a professional setting. 

As someone who doesn’t produce work that’s inherently built for Instagram photos or videos, I sometimes find it challenging to formulate a “portfolio” as it applies to my work. Luckily, my work often gets showcased as part of larger projects. Whenever I get the opportunity, I reshare project work that I had a hand in. 

Event management with Rebuild PHL.
Creative strategy and shoot management.

My role in these types of projects takes a little more context and explanation to understand, which is something I hope to lean into more. Using a combination of Instagram stories for timely moments and shoutouts, along with feed posts for big project features, can easily produce a portfolio on Instagram that’s fun to flip through and shows personality. It also gives me an easy way to regularly share with people what I’m working on lately, and hopefully start a conversation along the way. 

Using social media for professional growth is by no means a new concept, but it’s something that I’ve started to see in a new light. It’s not just about professional growth, but personal reflection. Becoming more intentional about integrating my personal and professional selves on Instagram has helped me focus on how I want to grow in my career, how I want my career to play a part in my personal life, and vice versa. So the next time you’re headed to LinkedIn for another obligatory update, give Instagram some thought. I bet your IG friends will want to hear what you’re up to!