The New Online Identity
As I begin writing I can remember sitting in my "Career Capstone" class at Johnson & Wales about 13 months prior to today. Ahhh.. dreadful, boring memories.
For those of you who don't know what a capstone class is; it is the additional cherry on top of the cake that college shoved down your mouth for the past four years. It's supposed to be the culmination of everything you've learned, and in this particular case, it served the purpose of getting you ready for your career. Now, one concept that was constantly shoved into our brains was the concept of always keeping your résumé and portfolio up-to-date. If you can remember your first résumé and how hard it was to create (unless you were a word publishing god from the get-go), then that concept seemed like a chore for you. This subject came up again today while I was talking to Jenni about the inevitable creation of a backup plan in case my "ideas" didn't work.
One of the things I valued greatly during my term at Facebook was Mark [Zuckerberg]'s idea of information flow. While I won't go into depth of what that means, I'll pick out the part that went, "people like to provide and share information about them that's relevant." Of course it's paraphrased, but I hope you get the idea. Let's use myself as an example. Let's say I go to a site, or launch an application that will provide me with some benefit, I'll do everything in my power to make sure that I can gain the most benefit. In the case of Facebook, I'll fill out my profile for friends to see; in the case of LinkedIn, it will be for potential employers to take a look at. I may be an edge case in this situation; however, I find it a lot more redeeming when I run into a profile in which the person took time to fill out the information that's relevant to them.
I realize I'm using the phrase, "new online identity." A large percentage of the people that read Avalonstar have their own blogs, so I'm sure those of you are wondering what the hell I'm referring to. In your case, your online identity is composed of your blog. However, as we've talked about in the past, many people aren't comfortable enough with just throwing their blog into a potential client or employer's face. It's a huge risk, but thankfully there are services out there that we can use to extend our online identities providing a way to control what others see. We're going to be focusing on two services that I feel should play a large role in your professional life--services which I hope will play much more of a mainstream role in the years to come. I've already touched on LinkedIn, so we'll cover that first.
LinkedIn: Your New Résumé
I've talked a lot about LinkedIn in the past; hell, I was even on my way to getting a job there before Facebook snatched me. However, I feel that LinkedIn is a misunderstood service. In the past I've talked about how they're the best place to go to for jobs, this time will hold something different.
If you take a look at their motto, it's composed of two words, "Relationships Matter." This extends into their mission, "Our mission is to help you be more effective in your daily work and open doors to opportunities using the professional relationships you already have." There are many facets to LinkedIn, such as creating professional groups, finding jobs through their system and even grabbing potential clients. As with most services that provide the member with a profile, LinkedIn's profile is a groundbreaking piece of work.
For those of you that are not familiar with what goes on a LinkedIn profile, you can view my profile as an example. It is more-or-less your typical résumé; it has an objective, work history, skills, etc. But something that it allows that a normal résumé doesn't is the ability to get endorsed by former co-workers, managers and clients. Granted, they have to be on the network to take advantage of this feature, but there's no reason they shouldn't be. Now you have the equivalent of the often "hard-to-acquire" recommendation letters and acquiring an endorsement via LinkedIn proves to be easy and rewarding. Next, one of the best features they included when making periodic upgrades to the system was to allow members to publicly display their profile. Voila, that created what I call the "next-generation résumé." Your whole work history plus endorsements from former employers is now in the palm of your hand, ready to be used both off and on the LinkedIn system.
When I've talked to people about the use of LinkedIn, I've gotten responses along the lines of being the "Facebook for professionals." While this holds true in many cases, the power the LinkedIn profile can give you is bound only by what you put in it and what you use it for. If somebody were to ask me why he or she should join LinkedIn, I would say an abbreviated version of my above claim, "it's the new way to make a résumé." Even if you had to make a resume in Word, then you could just copy and paste all the information down from your profile. There's no more, "shit I've lost my résumé" excuse.
If you're not using this service, then you're missing out, the same goes for those people who have half-assed their profile. You've seen through my recent situation that things don't always go as planned, so always be ready and be prepared.
In order to help you be prepared and to also give you a sense of nostalgia when you need it, I'll be going over ClaimID next. For people like myself that generate a lot of content, as well as have content generated about me, it's nice to have it all in one place.
ClaimID: Your Life in Links
Developed by future doctors Fred Stutzman and Terrell Russell, ClaimID is a service whose mission is to give you more sense of control over your online identity. Here's a little bit from their about page:
Imagine that you are applying for a job. You know that your prospective employer is going to search for your name online, and since you're a rational person, that worries you. How will your employer know what online stuff is actually about you, and not about that other person who shares your name? And what if the good stuff about you online doesn't mention your full name, or uses a name you no longer go by (such as a maiden name)? How would your prospective employer ever find it? Why do you have to lose out in the eyes of that employer? And the worst part is there's no way for you to easily influence what search engines say about you.
I'm no doctor, but I can tell you that ClaimID serves a larger purpose than just allowing you to claim your identity back from the search engines. In fact, if you were to search for "Bryan Veloso" right now, you wouldn't see my ClaimID until the 3rd page of results. On your way there, you would have passed over results that blamed me for spreading a meme, had me looking sorrowfully into a mirror (in freshman year of college no less) and showed how short I am compared to Jonathan Snook. Depending on the person the placement will be different; obviously, search engines seem to like blogs and other pieces of user-generated content (such as Flickr photos, etc.).
This is a service that does let you take control of your online identity by choosing the links that provide insightful and relevant information about you. But although the content you may link off of ClaimID might not be generated by you, those links on your profile are. If somebody were to ask you to show off a few sites that shed an interesting light on your identity, then all you really have to do is throw them your ClaimID link. Using this service in the right way can provide you with a sense of nostalgia, since you would probably be adding pages that had an impact on you. You could use this filter your blog's content to include only those posts that show off your superior writing skills. If you have been interviewed in the past or featured in galleries and other writer's articles, which would also be perfect material to place in your profile.
Putting it Together
Let's progress a bit; let's say you're planning on getting interviewed for a job in the near future. LinkedIn is your next-generation resume full of people who have endorsed your work. ClaimID is that portfolio full of insightful information about who you are. Using these both to your advantage would serve as an additional way to position yourself. Granted, the best way to show these off would be through the initial email phases of an interview, since I still believe that no old-and-worn interviewer would "get" it yet. Either way, show them how valuable this information is and if that employer is really keen about hiring you, it should help you get the rest of the way. You've shown them in good faith what content is most relevant, so there should be no reason for them to try and go look for themselves. Essentially, you're doing the grunt work for them and I know from experience that interviewers love a person that's prepared.
As is the nature of the beast, you in the end have complete control how you portray yourself online. This was a process that began the minute you started generating content, whether it was under your name or not. So even from that point, you've had control over your identity. However, as with all things in excess, it gets out of control. You could have very well started creating irrelevant content from the minute you opened, say, a MySpace account. When you get to a certain point, you can't control what people start writing about you, but what you can do is filter that content to the necessary parties. Remember, it's about being pro-active and taking control of what's out there. These services won't do the work for you and you'll only get as much out of it as you put into it.
To reiterate what we've gone over, these services provide you with a new way to show off your skills and control what people see about you. In the end, it's up to you whether or not to sign up and use these services to their fullest extent. I've told you only a few things that either of these services can help you with, so take that knowledge and do what you see fit.