The job market today is like a dangerous wolf pit; only the strongest, fiercest, and most versatile make it through. The value of a well-earned degree is no longer what it once was; even a well-qualified individual has a hard time getting a well-paying job.
The only way to get ahead of your competitors is by setting yourself apart. Sounds easy, right? Surely you can prove that you are not like anyone else and are your own man/woman.
It actually is quite easy to stand out in a crowd; the real issue is doing it the right way. For example, it is quite unique that a person can burp the names of the entire periodic table, but will that skill get you your dream job? Not likely. The real task is to present the right information.
Now, let’s discuss what the right information is and the means by which you can effectively make this information available to a potential employer.
What is the right kind of information?
As I mentioned above, standing out isn’t really the challenge. Standing out in the correct way is.
Let’s take an example; I’m looking to hire someone for a managerial position. There are two candidates (Candidate A and Candidate B), both of whom are equally qualified and have the same level of experience and they happen to share some of the same hobbies, too. After having a look at their resumes, I move on to conduct an online search on each candidate in turn (according to a study, four out of five employers are likely to carry out an Internet search before picking an employee). I personally use Google.
Google Search of Candidate A
The first result is his Facebook profile; I try to go through it, and find that I cannot. The profile has private privacy settings. The second and third results are about a blog the candidate writes. I go through this as well.
The blog is related to his field of work (managing) and I notice that he posts regularly and writes about ideologies of some of the great leaders. He also has a section dedicated to book reviews. There are a few personal posts that I find interesting rather than incriminating.
The rest of the search results show his name in a couple of charity events, which contain some pictures and mention his name in a list of volunteers. Those are all the results on the first page; I don’t bother with the next page.
Google Search for Candidate B
The first result is about Facebook, again. I go through his Facebook profile (its privacy is set as public). Quite a general profile, nothing that displays any alarming behavior. The rest of the results are about someone else he shares the same first name with. There is nothing else.
Who do I hire?
I hire Candidate A. Why? Because he’s clearly more involved with the society at large, while Candidate B is simply mediocre. I don’t want a mediocre employee. No one does.
This is a perfect example of “Brand or be branded." Candidate A brands himself, while Candidate B is branded.
Now, some of you may feel that this is an invasion of your privacy, and a Google search is inaccurate, as it does not present the whole picture. You’re correct; a search on the Internet will not tell me much about your personality. But what it does tell me is your level of self-awareness. If you’ve an impressive online presence, that tells me that you have taken steps to ensure that your digital footprint fits your career choice. It also shows me that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get things right.
And for those of you who feel the Internet search is an invasion of your privacy and that you’d rather not work for someone who does not respect what you do with your personal time, then go on and continue ignoring your online presence.
But for those of you who are done making excuses and would really like to make a better digital footprint, here are a few tips.
The first result in Google will most likely be Facebook, so you may want to be careful about what you post on your homepage. This point may not agree with some of you, and with good reason. Facebook is a social media site that is meant to help you keep in touch with your circle; therefore, you should not filter your interactions on this medium. This is a very valid point, so I recommend that you put some stringent rules in place when it comes to your profile privacy. Doing so will inform the employer that you like to keep your personal life private.
Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a blog nowadays, so why shouldn’t you? Blogs are a great way of sharing your thoughts and impressions of the things that surround your career and your life. So get a blog and be sure to post frequently (this shows that you are a committed individual).
There may be some of you who feel that they couldn’t keep with keeping a blog. Perhaps they ought to consider Twitter, which is a form of micro-blogging and is great for sharing useful information and connecting with the right kind of people. Yet, it does not require the same level of commitment as an actual blog.
Participate and Contribute
Read the news and articles related your field of work and comment on them. Share your thoughts; have discussions and debates. There are various places on the Internet where you can talk about your ideas and opinions freely.
The above points will definitely affect your digital footprint.
That is all the advice that I have, for now. If you wish to understand how to improve your online presence more profoundly, read this article on Social Media Strategists. It talks about the role of social media in marketing and how companies use it to their advantage. It is a form of digital footprinting, and it contains some ideas that can help you personalize your brand.