Boosting your online presence

You may not be aware of it, but the way you present yourself on the internet matters. It doesn’t matter if you are a recent graduate, a professional with years of experience or still a student, but dedicating a little attention to your online presence can boost your possibilities of promoting and getting a new job.

There are many social networking sites on the internet. Great tools for promoting yourself online are specialized sites like LinkedIn, which focus on professional networking, or Naymz, which focus on creating a reputational network of people that may potentially refer you. Other sites that you may want to check are AboutUs.org, where you can create a professional profile within your company one, and ZoomInfo, a professional directory where you want to have your profile.

The problem with online networking is not if you use it, but mainly the way you use it. The main difference between these specialized sites and your MySpace or Facebook account is that the specialized sites give you little option to include information that you do not want other people to find about, while MySpace and Facebook do. The main thing with these two sites is that you may be giving an image of yourself that may be cool and fun among your friends, but that is clearly inappropriate in a professional environment. Is not only that your employer (current or prospective, it does not matter) is going to Google you, but they may also look for your information in these social networking websites.

I found via Scott Monty’s The Social Media Blog that according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, 80% of the employers Google you, and 20% of them is getting into the social networking sites to learn more about you. Their main areas of concern are the following:

  1. Information about alcohol or drug use (41% consider this a top concern)
  2. Inappropriate photos or information posted on a candidate’s page (40%)
  3. Poor communication skills (29%)
  4. Bad-mouthing of former employers or fellow employees (28%)
  5. Inaccurate qualifications (27%)
  6. Unprofessional screen names (22%)
  7. Notes showing links to criminal behavior (21%)
  8. Confidential information about past employers (19%)

In other words, and among many other things, you may not want to post pictures of the last time you got drunk (especially if you are underage), and you may consider changing your screen name from JoeSixPack to maybe your real name/last name.

Finally, just try to think that your online presence may be as valid as your real-world presence, and that no one is anonymous on the net anymore, so you want to make your online profiles look as good as possible

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Social Media

It’s somewhat ironic that it’s now important to utilize social media websites to create a professional image online. As with most cultural phenomena that start out below the radar, social networking has now become mainstream and highly commercialized. The extreme case is MySpace, which is now more of a business model (i.e. – intended to sell things to you) than a networking model. But really, social media started as an outgrowth of the strange allure of AOL chat rooms. In fact, the first social site that I can remember hearing about was Hot Or Not. The concept was as simple as you may have already guessed. People load a portrait of themselves, and the audience rates the person’s “hotness” on a scale from one to 10. There wasn’t much interacting, but it was essentially a Web 2.0 concept. The audience contributes to the site and provides reviews for the “content.”

I heard about that site in 2002. Needless to say, a lot has changed in the past six years. By 2005 people started realizing that they need to exercise at least some caution about what they post on these websites, even if it is semi-anonymous. For individuals getting a kick out of the brave new world that the Internet offered, this wasn’t always a fun realization. Some sites did choose to protect the adventurous nature of the web. By 2007, Facebook had ramped up their security features, so that you can specify what parts of your profile will be visible to which people.

Still, the Internet feels a lot different now. Pretty much all our online activities can be traced to us in some way. That makes us more accountable for our actions, and, in some cases, more cautious. I’m confident that the benefits of the Internet will always outweigh any possible disadvantages. And even as things do change, being web savvy allows you to take advantage of the system. Students and recent graduates are in a position to utilize social media to the fullest potential. I didn’t hear about LinkedIn until early 2008, but now it seems to be the number one professional networking site on the web.

The best way for graduates to utilize social media is to stay on top of the wave. Being familiar and practiced with the sites and services as they become standard will make you a desireable employee in this increasingly digital world. Take our internship for example. In the first week we worked with blogs, LinkedIn, Naymz, AboutUs.org, and ZoomInfo, to name a few. If graduates show that they can capitalize on the emerging technologies and tools, they won’t miss the best of the surf.

This also means minimizing or hiding the “recreational” activities like Hot Or Not. If you wouldn’t enter a hot body contest at your local pub, maybe it’s best to follow suit in cyberspace.