Your Online Presence: What is it and why is it important?
What online presence means and how you can use it could fill a book. What I want to talk about is how potential future employers are going to evaluate you based on your online presence.
What it is:
Simple. Your name + The internet = Online presence. This means anything on social media including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. It also includes blog pots or contributions to an online community and sites such as GitHub.
How employers use it:
You should assume that a company will google you if they are interested in hiring you. About 70% of all employers do. In the tech industry, that number is likely to be higher. Employers are most likely to check LinkedIn, but almost as likely to check Facebook and Twitter. Employers are not necessarily trying to vet you, they are also checking to see if your credentials match what you have in your resume, and to see if your online presence is another asset that you can bring to the team. Use this opportunity to demonstrate skills such as communication and creativity, something that can be hard to convey on a resume.
Don't think of your online presence as something extra that you have to do. Almost everyone is already using social media in one form or another. All you need to do is tailor what you already have to your advantage. Think of online presence as a free marketing tool for your personal brand. When you are looking for a job, you are selling yourself to companies that you want to work for, and you get to control the narrative of who you are. People learn and evolve, who you are right now is probably not who you were five or ten years ago. This is hard if not impossible to convey in a resume or even portfolio, and using your online presence you get to express yourself in a multidimensional way. How to represent yourself is up to you, but you should try to have a consistent voice across all platforms.
If you ignore your online presence that does not mean it will go away. No online presence or no activity is a red flag for employers. They want to know who you are and where you come from. If a candidate doesn't exist online, it can suggest that they are hiding something at worst and not tech savvy at best, which is still pretty bad if you're applying for a position as a developer or something similar. We are all busy people, and maybe you are not the type that wants to have five different social media account. That's ok! Focus on what you do have, maybe that's only Facebook and Linkedin. But keep these accounts active. That can be as simple as sharing an interesting link or liking an article that someone else has posted once a week.
I would prefer that you didn't, but it's ok to be ugly. If you don't have the time, energy, or interest in cleaning up your online presence, you can keep your accounts searchable but change them to private. What do I mean by ugly? I'm not talking about 4chan troll level ugly, I'm talking about anything that could be considered unprofessional. We've all heard of someone getting fired or denied a position because of what they said on social media. The stories could, once again, fill a book.
No one wears business casual all day every day, but what happened in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas, it goes straight to the Cloud. During your job search and after, you want to present yourself in a professional light. That means no inappropriate or discriminatory content in what your post, and less obviously no bad mouthing current or former employers. If you wouldn't show a photo from your account to your grandma, keep it on a private account. For Facebook, this means that your profile picture at a minimum needs to be grandma worthy. If the company isn't doing a deep dive, profile pictures can be the most important thing that employers look for, Please note that if your Facebook profile is public, someone searching for you can see all past profile pictures.
Still don't care about your online presence?
You may be asking yourself, why does this matter? If what I do outside of work doesn't affect my ability to do my job, why are companies researching their prospective employees? There's a couple of reasons, but the most important one is that employers want to see that you show good judgment. Because if they hire you, you will be representing their company. Just as your online presence represents your personal brand, when you are associated with a company online, you are representing that company as well. It can be frustrating that our lives are no longer so compartmentalized, but this can also be used to your advantage. A strong online presence means multiple platforms with many connections, different outlets, and a larger following. And if you have one, your addition to the company means you are bringing your online presence as an additional asset should they choose to hire you, so it's something you should take seriously.