Thursday, October 28, 2010

Managing Your Online Identity

Whether you are a former CEO looking to make a company change or a recent graduate figuring out the first step in your career, you need to actively manage your online identity. No doubt you know that this is the information age, since you did receive this message in cyberspace. Make sure others find you too.

When you are beginning to build your online profile, make sure you get a LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter account.

From my perspective, LinkedIn is the most important for your career identity, but maybe not the most fun to use. This probably is a good thing. Go on, put your profile together as if it is your resume. You don't need to put as much detail as a resume, but put your titles, companies, years of service and education on there. Major achievements are helpful too. I recommend editing it carefully so it looks professional. Use any of the option to have an online ID so that your information gets pulled up as often as possible when someone is searching for you. Now, see who you know on there, and ask them to link up. Also, join groups. You can be selective, but try to get the industry networks that would help you. Often you can build your network through people who are in your groups.

Facebook can be your best friend, or your biggest enemy when it comes to building your professional profile. So, if you are considering looking for a new job, keep any racy photos off of there. This includes anything you may have in albums. That photo of my potential candidate at the party with lots of questionable paraphenalia does not make me think he is all that innocent. Clean up your profile. For those of you with squeaky clean profiles, make sure you have important information on your Facebook profile, such as your current employer, the geographical area you live in, and your education. For all you Facebook gamers out there--maybe don't have so many games showing on your profile. If you are spending that much time building your farm or putting out hits in the mafia, are you really dedicated to your current job--let alone your next one. You can also choose to remove posts by friends on your page. While this may cause tension with those friends who want to gift you something, if they know you are looking to better your career prospects, they usually understand.

Twitter is its own beast, but I think it is great to have yourself represented on there. Get your twitter username and build a profile. While I love Twitter, I think it isn't everyone's favorite social networking vehicle. Twitter is mostly a tool for you to share your thoughts, craft an identity and build a network of people. You can keep your profile locked, but this does prevent you from building a large following--which can be good and bad. Having your profile public means anyone can follow you, and they will get your updates as quickly as you put them up there. So, say you are unhappy at work and you put a mean post about your company--a public profile could be viewed by your boss, and get you in hot water. Try to keep your tweets professional and informative. But all info and no fun makes your tweeting very dull. Try to put some light, interesting tweets in from time to time to let people know you aren't just using it as a data dump.

You get out what you put into your online identity. Careful management allows you to have a well honed, professional online personality. When that future employer checks you out on Google they will be able to find you quickly, and possibly learn a bit about you. And then send you a message to connect. Could be an exciting next step.

There are many other social media applications to explore, but I think these three are the priority when you are first getting your job hunt underway. Oh, and make sure you stay on top of your messages in these social media applications. They keep you aware of any potential opportunities, and connected with your friends.

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