Who are you, online?
“Fish swim in water, humans swim in a social context. With the advent of social media on the Web, we are no longer just swimming in a pool; we have moved to an ocean.”
Your online presence can be more than merely how you keep up socially (or not). It can be a key part of your professional profile.
Many experts would even say that any strategic employment search today must involve at least rudimentary, if not sophisticated use, of online elements. The range and number of online elements you can involve in your strategy will be unique to you, your interests and your aspirations, as well as to the opportunities for online connection available in your fields of interest. Generally, the latter are proliferating exponentially.
More than selfies
Online presence is about more than posting selfies, liking and commenting on the world's best-known and most popular social sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
There are many ways to become involved online: in forums relating to business, government and academia, for example. (Remember, before the internet became a popular consumer and business phenomenon, it was already widely in use through bulletin boards and email, among academics and parts of government.)
You may decide that one or all of the well known social sites are not even appropriate to your needs, but that industry-, field- or interest-specific fora are more applicable to you.
Audit your online self
Before you even start thinking about what your online presence ought to be however, it is worth finding out what your online presence is right now.
Gone are the days when you had some immediate measure of control over what future and prospective employers might find out about you. Today's employers are less likely than they used to be to check your resume references, because they can quickly find out about you by looking online. What will they see when they type your name into a search and tap the enter key? Many positive endorsements and recommendations, or something less friendly to your professional interests?
If your search results bring up anything you consider less than desirable — whether out-of-date or in some other way out of step — it may be time for you to “take control of your online footprint,” making sure “it is congruent with your resume and the person you actually are” (Frank, 2015:199). See the activities section for help.
Frank (197) also says it is a myth that it's a good thing if an employer finds nothing about you online. It more likely says, "Either you are out of date and don't realise the importance of an online presence, or you are hiding something."
Frank goes further, suggesting it's not only important to be online, but to make sure content relevant to your career profile is accessible. If your Pinterest page shows you have great decorating taste, but shows not even a hint of interest in your career in pharmacology, architecture or legal matters (or whatever), something is awry.
Such assumptions may seem neither fair nor true, but if they are employers' perceptions, they are real, and if they are real, the next question ought to be, 'What can you do to change the perception?' The easiest answer of course, is to update and makeover your online professional profile.
Bolles, Richard Nelson. What Colour is Your Parachute? Ten Speed Press. NY. 2013.
Frank, Christy. Stand Out & Succeed: Discover Your Passion, Accelerate Your Career and Become Recession-Proof. Nero: Collingwood. 2015. pp. 206-7.