It’s that time of year when both high school and college graduates are looking forward to putting constant test prep and exams behind them and moving on to a (hopefully) more exciting phase of their lives.
But in the digital age, not everything is so easily left behind. Ever since they were young, our sons and daughters have been developing an online presence that can define them just as much as high school diplomas and university degrees. Through their contributions to Facebook, chat groups, and other online forums, young adults have created a digital footprint that’s often not easy to change or cover up.
As graduates strive to make the transition from the study hall to the workplace, from the dorm room to sharing that first apartment, the last thing they want is an online presence that works against them. However, there are various actions that they can take to make that online presence more appealing. Here are a few suggestions that you might want to pass on:
1. Purge your Facebook account
While pictures of you at all-night keggers might have underscored your popularity at college, they will do nothing for you as you search for that all-important first job. Clean up your Facebook page and get rid of anything that could be considered offensive or held against you. Remember, the test is no longer ‘Would you want grandma to see it?’ but ‘Would you want a future employer to see it?’
2. Use a professional looking photo
A picture is worth a thousand words, so make sure that first impression is a good one. Again, what worked at school is unlikely to impress the recruiters. Also, be consistent and use the same photo on all your online platforms. Make it easy for people to recognize you and start to build your brand.
3. Make sure people can find you
While you may need to clean up your Facebook account, an online presence is still vitally important. Make sure you are easy to reach online and off. By the way, that firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address is no longer going to cut it. Get a Gmail address that’s suitable for professional interaction. If you have a common name, add your middle name or use various initials to make it unique.
4. Grow your network
While it’s important to make the transition from school to the workplace, you don’t want to leave everything behind. Make a point of keeping in touch with your school friends, teachers, professors, councilors, camp friends, sports coaches – anyone who could be helpful to you as you establish a career. The best way to land a job is still by word of mouth.
5. Make a contribution
It’s never too early to start giving something back to society. Pick a public service or a favorite charity and get involved. And don’t be shy about promoting your cause. It will make you feel good and people will look at you in a different light.
6. Have an opinion
While nobody likes a ranter, it’s important to have an opinion on the important issues of the day and be able to articulate your position when asked. Write as frequently as possible. Start a blog and promote it among family and friends. Be active on Twitter and other online forums. Be passionate without being strident; committed with being a fanatic.
7. Be yourself
Nobody can be more like you than you. Conversely, it’s easy to tell when you are trying to be someone you’re not. Make sure your online presence is representative of who you really are. Turn your social networking pages into your own personal web site, and start marketing your own individual brand!
Monica Vila is TheOnlineMom -a community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in our lives. She’s constantly chatting on Facebook here or on Twitter @TheOnlineMom where you are more than welcome to join the conversation.