I read a little while ago about the idea that your online bio is a key part of effective recruitment; via Lifehacker, who was sourcing 99Percent – and gosh darn it – the source article is good and worth a read.
I was a little surprised that this needed to be said, as I think it is almost a blinding flash of the obvious. Most people who work in a digital or online world would also be familiar with the risks of living in that world. Many years ago the worst thing you had to worry about was a barrage of spam from sharing an email address, but now that almost everything is indexed, our most peripheral and random thoughts are available for everyone to review.
It is kind of an arrogant attitude though to assume it is obvious to everyone (shamefully I had this initial view), and it makes me realise just how many folks are “facebook enabled” but not thinking about how else a digital lifestyle might influence their careers. Scary really. The same folks who are commenting publicly that they hate this, or like that, might find that ten years later their attitude has changed, but the Internet archive is not reflecting their new values.
Not just text and chatter, but images too! The thundering amount of strange and useful photos you can find on people online is a disaster. I’m not quite ready to go all Howard Hughes and lock myself away, but I am darn keen to keep my digital personality within my control.
If you need convincing then search for your name or common email addresses (you have more than one right?) through Google. A regular online contributor will find many cross references to their work. You might find things like sporting results if you play in a public team, posts or comments from blogs, societies you have assisted, or even (hopefully not) a few scathing comments.
By way of example the first few images found for my name are the avatars and bio pics I’ve chosen for a few social networking sites and that is good. At least I chose them. What I did not sanction was that another Andrew Breese, an American, obviously likes to party and has a group photo posted. I share his name, so I guess he might be as frustrated by sharing my bio pic too; but this is classic internet indexing and association beyond the control of either of us.
The truly unlucky might find Facebook or other social tool with something to say about them. You might find that your digital persona is not what you would wish it to be, regardless of how much good work you’ve done.
It is not all fear, uncertainty, and doubt though. You cannot control what is said about you online by strangers, but you can regain your personality back by publishing some authoritative sources. Engage in some counter-spin. Consider joining a social or professional service which allows the creation of a profile. Create that true presentation of yourself, keep it humble and straight forward, and always present facts that you know are beyond dispute.
This way you control the spin. The false or harmful records will always be present, but you are offering an official view. An alternate to the strangeness that can be populated through the web.
Consider tools like LinkedIn (et al) as personal ads. If your profile is present it is likely that a potential employer will browse through it to get an idea of your personality and ethos. They will have your CV already, and the material presented in your online profile should enhance that story. You use it to widen your background, and not worry about padding your CV away from your core competencies. Heck I’ve also used these tools to dig up information about employers too. You can surmise the background and a lot of other useful information on somebody, and that background might make a difference in getting to know the person, and establishing a basic rapport.
Obvious? Yes. Useful too. Happy searching.