Online Presence, Your Calling Card

In the age when Facebook has surpassed 800 million users, I still often hear people say that they don’t like to join social networks or put any information about themselves on the Internet.

Whether or not their apprehensions about their privacy being compromised is justified or whether they feel that “it’s simply a waste of time” or that they “just don’t get it,” the impetus for us to all establish and nurture our online presence is getting more important than ever.

In the competition for the best jobs, schools, even mates, and other opportunities, our online credentials are becoming key.

We’ve heard previously about jobs checking candidates backgrounds on the Internet and even bypassing candidates or even firing employees for their activities online.

Numerous examples of people badmouthing their companies or bosses have been profiled in the media and even some politicians have been forced out of office–remember “Weinergate” not too long ago?

Now, not only can negative activities online get you in trouble, but positive presence and contributions can get you ahead.

The Wall Street Journal (24 January 2012) reports in an article titled No More Resumes, Say Some Firmsthat companies are not only checking up on people online, but they are actually asking “applicants to send links representing their web presence” in lieu of resumes altogether.

What are they looking for:

– Twitter Accounts
– Blogs
– Short Videos
– Online Surveys/Challenges

The idea is that you can learn a lot more about someone–how they think and what they are like–from their history online, then from a resume snapshot.

Of course, many companies still rely on the resume to screen applicants, but even then LinkedIn with over 135 million members is sometimes the first stop for recruiters looking for applicants.

Is everything you do and say online appropriate or “fair game” for people screening or is this going over some sacred line that says that we all have professional lives and personal lives and what we do “when we’re off the clock” (as long as your not breaking any laws or doing something unethical) is no one’s darn business.

The problem is that when you post something online–publicly–for the world to see, can you really blame someone for looking?

In the end, we have to be responsible for what we disclose about ourselves and demonstrate prudence, maturity, respect, and diplomacy, perhaps that itself is a valid area for others to take into account when they are making judgments about us.

When it comes to children–parents-beware; the Internet has a long memory and Facebook now has a “timeline”, so don’t assume everyone will be as understanding or forgiving for “letting kids be kids.”

One last thought, even if we are responsible online, what happens when others such as hackers, identity thieves, slanderers, those with grudges, and others–mess with your online identity–can you ever really be secure?

Being online is no longer an option, but it is certainly a double-edged sword.

(Source Photo: here; Image credit to L Hollis Photography)