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Online Presence: Is anybody out there?

It’s very simple. The modern world is a plugged in world. Sometimes that’s an inconvenient truth, but it’s a fairly inescapable one. Everyone from old acquaintances to prospective employers is looking. What will they find?

Personal Branding

Your online presence is a bit like a smile and handshake between strangers. Is yours welcoming, open, strained, creepy, firm, damp, or limp-wristed? Or, do you avoid eye contact altogether, keep your hand at your side, and carefully stay apart from the online world? It’s very possible that you’re reading this thinking, “I don’t care. My offline persona is what counts. I don’t need to bother with all that time-wasting online.”

It’s very simple. The modern world is a plugged in world. Sometimes that’s an inconvenient truth, but it’s a fairly inescapable one.

That could be true. If you are privately wealthy, you might find it beneficial to keep a low online profile. If you are close to retiring, it might not matter. Do you work in a low paying dead-end job with zero aspirations for improvement? There’s certainly no reason to fuss if that’s the case.

For everyone else, both having – and monitoring – a personal online ‘brand’ could be the difference between a mediocre career and a great one. If you aren’t talking, either others are talking for you, and you are not in the conversation, or quite possibly worse – you don’t exist.

Assess your Now. Build your Then.

Your online presence is a bit like a smile and handshake between strangers. Is yours welcoming, open, strained, creepy, firm, damp, or limp-wristed? Or, do you avoid eye contact altogether, keep your hand at your side, and carefully stay apart from the online world?

I will readily admit, when I meet a fellow professional who is in the web or marketing world, and discover they don’t exist online, I feel a red flag coming up. If you specialize in marketing or development online,  it stands to reason you’d put those skills to use to market yourself on some level. It’s an easy way to show that you know how.

It’s logical to think there’d be some track or trace of you and your work online verifying what you say you are. If there isn’t , even if your reasons are the most innocent possible, you place yourself in a very unfair position. It’s not fair, but people – and prospective employers – have to consider the real possibility you have something to hide, be it indiscretions, burned bridges and bad blood with past employers, or simple lack of advertised skill. Someone is bound to ask the question, “What do they have to hide?”

Now is the time to take stock. If you do have an online presence, does it truly represent who you are? Update your site(s) to ensure that they provide a true and accurate picture of your personality and skills and aren’t filled with things you’d be ashamed to showcase in a professional environment. Flesh out that LinkedIn profile. Tidy up that Facebook account. Update your Twitter user description.

If you aren’t talking, either others are talking for you, and you are not in the conversation, or quite possibly worse – you don’t exist.

If you don’t have an online presence or personal brand identity yet, you’ve got some homework to do.

  1. Ask the tough questions. “Who am I? How do I want to be perceived?”
  2. Use your answer to compose a short biography for online consumption. Be sure you select an image as well. Your face is your logo. Put your best one forward, but be yourself. Do not lie to make an impression.
  3. Sign up for LinkedIn. If you don’t participate in any other online community, at least take the time to build a career identity and history in this one. You’ll want to be sure to include more than just your current job, and to add an accurate description of what you do. Include that image from step two.
  4. Sign up for Google+. Set up your profile using the bio and photo you prepared in step two. Do this to make sure you have claimed your identity with Google. If you choose not to post anything, that’s fine, but it is highly beneficial to set up the account.
  5. Last, create a portfolio. You can do this inside of LinkedIn, in a limited capacity, or you can use a site like Behance or a blog like  WordPress to set up a free online portfolio you can share.

That’s it. A little bit of time invested can change your destiny so to speak – taking you from shadowy figure to trusted professional with some careful effort on you part.

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