Traces of You – Digital Identity

In many cases, but especially in recruitment, I believe that first impressions are rapidly moving from the personal encounter to a digital one. This makes your digital identity really important since ”First impressions last”, right? I certainly think so. Or at least, a bad first impression leaves you with a long, long way to go.

What is a Digital Identity?

We leave traces all the time and these traces could be what tips the scale. As a potential employee, they could get you your next job, and as an employer, they could very well save you from a bad and costly recruitment.

Everything you write, upload, comment on, twitter or post becomes a part of your digital identity. What’s worse is that it will also include what others say about you, what you write, your tweets, or blog post. So it’s a matter of (literally) not being caught with your pants down at any time. Or it’s a matter of creating and maintaining a good, representative digital identity.

Where to Start

There’s lots and lots to consider, but here’s the rough list of where you leave traces and from what your digital identity is built. Use them well:

  • LinkedIn
    From an employer/employee point of view this is the one. Make sure to keep it up to date. Keep your profile nice and tidy. Link to everything you would want your future employer to see. The recommendations are great for both parties, since they are personal and traceable. Someone is actually putting up their name for you so you must be doing something right. In case you’re not there yet, do it now.

    example: my Linkedin profile

  • Blogs
    Pretty obvious. If you have one or more blogs they’re bound to turn up and they’re gonna define you. Much more and better than you will ever squeeze into some cheesy cover letter.
    example: you’re here now 🙂
  • Twitter
    I put micro-blogs first but let’s face it, we’re talking Twitter here. It’s short, but I think tweets says a lot about people. Keep an eye on your Google Buzz and Yahoo! buzz as well.
    example: my Twitter-feed
  • Facebook
    At the moment not that public, if you have your settings in order. But consider your profile picture, it will turn up. Also, the world is not all that big. Your future employer may be a friend of a friend so don’t go all crazy thinking you can post anything. Especially pictures seem to spread like wild fire on Facebook.
    example: a public Facebook profile (I don’t have a public one so I’ll use Alexander Bard’s instead)
  • MySpace
    Much more public than Facebook. Take care of your space and make it a nice one. (Don’t worry about the visual stuff, MySpace always looks like crap).
    example: Lady Gaga’s page
  • Sharing your bookmarks
    Bookmarks you save says a lot about who you are and what your engaged in.  Delicious, Technocrati, Digg and Netvibes are all made for saving and sharing your favourites. Use them and they will make a good contribution to your digital identity.
    example: My bookmarks on delicious
  • Communities & Forums
    There are hundreds of thousands. Many of them score pretty good on Google and hence, so do you. Anonymity or using aliases may be good, but if you actually contribute you wanna show it to a future employer.
  • Posts and replies
    If you are some what digitally savvy and have your own blog, you will be reading and even commenting on others. If you’re smart your ”signature” has a link back to your blog. A simple way of getting people to read your stuff rather than the one they’ve just read. As you can see it leaves a pretty obvious trace back to you, so think about what you’re saying and where you’re  saying it. You don’t ever want your name next to some shady URL.
  • Images & video
    Flickr, Picasa and YouTube. This is important. Keep an eye on what images and or videos that are associated with you. You simply don’t want something like this popping up… example: my public images at Picasa
  • Articles/papers
    You would probably wanna see to it that all the great stuff written about you on newspaper sites, in research papers etc gets really well exposed. If they don’t score high enough on the search engines you should link to it from where ever you can.

Hey, I’m pretty exposed here…

Putting all this together really got me thinking. Even though I always consider what I write, upload and comment on; my life is really, really public. The easiest way would be to just stay out of all this and not leave any traces at all. Well, first of all I would say that’s pretty hard to do these days. Second, being in the online industry, I would never hire anyone who didn’t turn up on Google. Hence, the important thing is what turns up.

On the other hand, since I believe that digital identity is important, I would never work for a company that didn’t have the sense to Google me. I mean that’s just … stupid … and that company is probably not one I would enjoy working for anyway.

Tools of the Trade

You don’t need much. Try these out and you’ll get a good overview of anyone.

  • Google
    The mother of all. By far the most important way to get a grip of your digital identity. Use it for all kinds of searches and use the different kinds of searches they offer; web, images, blogs etc. While you’re at it you might try Yahoo!, Bing and Ask as well.
    example: me as google sees it
    Scary and/or really good people search engine.
  • Any local directory
    Check out local directories. Sometimes they pick up stuff that others miss.

That’s all for now. Thanks for taking the time to read this and best of luck.

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