In 2014, everyone has some sort of online presence, so it makes sense that employers are increasingly checking out potential employee’s online identities to get more information about them than a standard job application, or two page CV provides.
With that in mind, it’s important to take stock of your online identity – once you’ve created your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Blog, Pinterest or other accounts, you either need to make sure they present you as a professional, employable person, or you need to ensure they can’t be found.
Making them anonymous might seem like the easier option, but in an employment market where digital, and social media skills are so valued, having a coherent online identity shows that you have these skills. You can list it in your CV and cover letter all you want, but without easily accessible proof you run the risk of being passed over for a candidate with a well developed blog and twitter feed that clearly showcase their skills and experience. There is, of course, always the option of having both public accounts and private, anonymous accounts, but that’s an individual choice very dependent on how organised you are and what your desired profession is.
The first and most important thing is to decide how you want to be seen by the professional world of which you hope to be a part. This will inform the tone as well as content of your online identity. Generally speaking, the more formal the profession, the more formal your online presence should be. Those of you hoping to go into a teaching route need to make sure that everything you post would be acceptable if your students were to come across it, whereas those hoping to pursue a career in lifestyle journalism and blogging can afford to be more relaxed and share the odd Buzznet quiz or viral video. If you are training to become a surgeon, your future patients may not wish to know how much alcohol you consume or that you disclose personal information about them to friends for a laugh. In general, a good rule of the internet is don’t post anything you wouldn’t be happy for your nan to see, or that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, or that may conflict with the ethics and duties of your desired profession.
When you’ve chosen the tone you want your online identity to have, the first step to creating it is using the privacy settings to restrict what you want to keep personal. This is especially important for Facebook, so that employers can’t see any ‘summer in Magaluf’ pictures that helpful friends might have tagged you in. Each website will have its own how-to guides for privacy on the site which are linked below, and should be your first port of call.
After the profiles comprising your online identity are set up with a privacy level with which you’re comfortable, you need to make sure that what you post showcases your skills and professional achievements, so link anything that shows these off. For example, if you write an article for a magazine, share it on Twitter, and add the link to your LinkedIn Projects. It is also important to show that you have an active interest in your profession-to-be, the issues that it currently faces, and the wider contexts in which operates. If you’re planning to go into higher education or academia, comment on recent publications or retweet features from respected academics and share your thoughts on the latest issues of relevant newspapers and magazines.
These are just the basics, but the idea of creating your online identity is explored in more depth in some helpful pieces: there’s 10 Ways to Build Your Online Identity; this piece on GoThinkBig by blogger Becky Mount, this Cyberspace Communications analysis of online identity options, 10 Steps to Creating an Online Identity, and this piece in Forbes.
Site Privacy Guides: