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Identifying your online identity

establish an online identity, create a powerful online presence, job search personal brand,
Creating a strong, business-like online identity
can help impress hiring companies.

So, your job search is not going as well as you would like. 

The phone doesn't ring and you're tired of only receiving emails about questionable jobs nobody in their right mind would consider. 

It sounds like you need a better, more visible, online identity to help you land a good job. 

The key question is … what type of identity is right for you?

Before we go further, let's make sure you've got the basics covered.

Have you:

  • Got a good resume that talks about the benefits you bring?
  • Mastered the art of cover letters?
  • Got a current LinkedIn profile with a number of good recommendations?
  • Joined five or more LinkedIn groups relevant to your profession?
  • Posted your resume to at least three job boards so potential employers can find you?

If you answered "Yes" to all of these things, it's time to move to the next level. You need an online identity or brand.

But before you rush out and get a Twitter account, publish the link to your Facebook wall, start a blog, etc. -- take a few minutes to think about who you are, what you want to tell others about you, and how you want to be perceived.

And remember, anything you publish online will be available for many years to come, so try not to make choices you will regret when your children, grandchildren, or a future potential employer find them.

I suggest the following approach:
1) Decide on your identity
Are you planning a professional identity that you will retain throughout your professional career? Or, are you looking for an identity that reflects your personal interests? Or, perhaps you are seeking an identity that is primarily professional, but with some personal information?

Whatever you decide will have a huge impact on how you build and maintain your online identity, so consider your decision carefully.

The rest of this discussion will assume you are creating a professional online identity with some personal information, because that's what most job seekers need (or want).

2) Identify your professional specialty
Anyone looking at your identity needs to quickly understand "what" you are. So, if you are a "software sales executive who really likes selling enterprise software," say so. Don't beat around the bush or try to be all things to all people. People quickly categorize someone when they first meet them, so make it easy for them to categorize you by telling them what type of professional you are. Otherwise, they may assume something very different from what you are (or want) and it may take you a long time to correct their perception.

Remember -- online identities are different because you never know who is looking at yours. You can't see their eyes or check out their body language. So, you may not ever know how well (or poorly) you have been understood. Thus, it's best to be very clear from the beginning. And when in doubt about something, leave it out. You can always add it later if necessary.

3) Decide which personal aspects you want to disclose
A bit of personal information about yourself is good, because it makes you seem more real and human. And it gives people a way to relate to you, especially if you have something in common with them. Thus, if you have a neat hobby that is not too risky or controversial, include it.

If you are the president of the local chapter of an extreme political movement, don’t advertise this information, especially if you are seeking employment with a conservative company. Or, if your favorite hobby is sky-diving, which many companies consider too risky, avoid mentioning it.

Also be aware that some companies may use the personal information you include online to disqualify you before they ever meet you. So, if you are a single parent with very young children, you may not want to advertise this point, especially if you are seeking a role where long hours or significant travel are common.

4) Add a good picture
Include your photo in your online identity, because as the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Use a "head shot" image that is a good representation of yourself. If you are a top sales executive, get out your good suit and have someone take a good professional-looking picture of you. You don't need to spend a fortune or buy special equipment -- almost any reasonable digital camera will do. Just make sure the photo is appropriate for the type of position you want. Avoid pictures of you in a bar with beverage (or cigarette) in hand or where there is something unprofessional or highly personal in the background.

5) Pick a good user id
Use a common user id on all of your online accounts. For example, if your name is "Fred J. Smith", your LinkedIn profile, e-mail address and Twitter user id should all include fredjsmith. By doing so, you will have an easier time establishing a consistent online identity. Before you discard this idea, consider how difficult it is to tell someone how to contact you if you have many different user ids. How will they remember which one to use where? In many cases, it will be too much work for them, so they won't bother.

Pick a user id that matches your image ... whatever that is. If you are a young female corporate tax lawyer in a conservative firm, a user id such as "sexytaxlawyer" is not the best choice. And even if it is a good choice now, will it be a good choice in 10 years when you have young children and are (hopefully) up for partner? Remember … "online is forever."

(6) Sign up for the following free accounts

  • Gravatar (https://www.gravatar.com/) – Establish a global avatar (or profile) on this site. Many systems will use your Gravatar profile (and picture) which means you only have to maintain your profile (and picture) in one location.
  • Twitter (https://www.twitter.com/) -- Twitter can be your free, personal news feed. It allows you to broadcast (or "tweet") short items that you think are interesting and to read items that are broadcast by others. Don't worry about saying anything yet, just establish an account.
  • Blog (https://www.wordpress.com/, https://www.blogger.com/, or similar site) -- Establish your personal blog. You may not recognize the importance of blogging now or believe you have anything to say that others will want to read … perhaps you are correct, perhaps not. But for now, get an account using your selected online user id before someone else does. Leave the decision about how much (if at all) you're going to use it until later.

That's all for now, but we want to hear from you. What tips or questions do you have about establishing your online identity? Add your comments ... and then go find that next great job.


A guest post by David Fulton.

Guest blogger David Fulton is a Boston-based software product management professional for enterprise, web-enabled applications. 


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  1. You should google yourself really hard and try and get yourself to the top of the pile.


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