(Alternate title: How I used the Word Adscititious in a Title and Won Fifty Dollars from My Husband)
I am a Geek Girl Groupie from way back. I dreamed of putting resumes on the web in 1994, and heard about this "WWW" thing much earlier; I'd been doing some contract work with Digital in the late 80's, and with Chemical Abstracts in the early 90's, and the Scientists were all abuzz and giddy (which means there were low murmurs and intensely attractive - to me at least - geeky discussions all about the land).
As I watched the Web evolve, it seemed to me that there were (and still are), two distinct groups of users: the Private and the Public.
The Private went off and made millions creating Private type content: "Adult Entertainment" sites, game sites, private chat rooms, casinos, and if you can make it up and want to do it privately they have a site for it stuff, and the Public group did what they do best - they published - publicly. They proudly put their names and reputations out there - sadly in the early days, in funky, animated, florescent font, but you'll have that.
The challenge became and becomes, when those two group types exist in a single user - which I believe goes against the Pauli Exclusion Principle, but hey, I'm no physicist.
At some point, your Private persona may collide with your Public persona and poof! there goes the ‘hood.
I understand if you want to spend half your life on Second Life. I completely understand World of Warcraft, MMORPGs, or Pogo for that matter, which is exactly why I stay away - I understand the time investment and potential traps that exist in maintaining a second persona, or a pseudo-public persona that doesn't complement the professional me.
(At this point you may be asking yourself, "Why is she using so many "Ps?". The answer is that they are surprisingly affordable considering how important they are.)
Here's the issue: let's say you spend hours and hours on a game site, and eventually, the real you starts to creep through your Avatar's skin; people know your "real name", your "real" email.
You use the same Nick or email on a lot of sites, and the web starts to "know" you.
You post and comment on YouTube and some of your content/comments are less than wholesome.
Your Second Life persona uses your real name but is a bit more risqué than the You sitting on your couch in your bathrobe with your laptop and a bowl of popcorn.
Your Blog picture is a photo of you sitting on your couch in your bathrobe with your laptop and a bowl of popcorn.
You Twitter/Tweet/Twinkle/Plurk inanely and are at times abusive and rude.
Your Facebook/Blog/whatever site is an embarrassment to your mother and Puritans everywhere.
Your FriendFeed is one big flame against religion, politics, your ex-, Crocs, etcetera.
Then you get laid-off.
Yup: transitioned, downsized, right-sized, riffed, re-orged, restructured, and made redundant.
So, you update your LinkedIn profile using your personal email "firstname.lastname@example.org".
You take a stab at your resume and link to it from your less than professional Blog. When you email the resume, you name the saved, attached file with the generic, forgettable “RESUME.doc” label, and do not check the document properties, so it carries the credentials of the person you copied it from.
You spam your contacts with "Yo, just got laid-off. Anybody hiring?"
And surprisingly, no one contacts you, so you get frustrated and join an "I Hate My Former Company" website, and use your hotchick email to post angry messages, and you point to your aforementioned offensive Blog/Facebook/whatever page.
I tell you from my heart friend, these are not good strategies for impressing a potential employer.
You need to make a choice - either everything you do on the web is the Public You and you're proud of it, or you must be very, very conscious of the radioactive half-life web footprint you leave, IP and otherwise.
Intelligent, public, thoughtful activity on the web can and will lead to intelligent, public, thoughtful interactions off the web if that is your goal.
If you're on the web, to borrow loosely from the Buddha, "all things are with the web".
Everything you have done in the past on the web becomes the first example of your work product and ethic to a potential employer. Remember that.
So, what to do now?
1: Search yourself thoroughly through a variety of engines; not just your name, but your email(s), your Nicks, your YouTube comments and vids, variations on your name (in case one of your buddies posted a nekked Spring Break photo of you on their Facebook page and you had no idea), newsgroups, usergroups, domain registrations, whois, EVERYTHING.
And don't think this advice is just for the Text Generation or the Baby Boomerangers - the longer you've been on the web, the more "stuff" there is about you. That means lawsuit filings, how much you contributed in the last election. Lots.
2: Commit to creating value for other people on the web - in your name. Professional friendships are reciprocal - you can’t just take so you must provide value - I'd like to think this article will be valuable to someone.
3: Use sound, organic SEO strategies to allow this new content to replace (or at least push back) the old. (Lots of references on the web for this, go to the Scobleizer link below for this general subject and he posted a great one in 2008 here).
4: Don't be afraid to be yourself (I know, I know, how cliché is that?) but it's true. If you are a funny person, be humorous, be REAL, be balanced. If you are a real jerk, understand that you will probably end up working with people just like you. Make your choice.
My friend Kelly Love Johnson does a great job of this - she's smart and funny, so when she wrote her book, she successfully handled a professional subject with humor and candor. ‘Gotta love that.
5: Keep people who support you in your effort updated and aware of your status in a respectful manner. I saw a great message on Twitter today from a student to an influential technologist; she was letting him know she got an internship she was seeking, and he was supportive and encouraging in reply.
It was a good moment, and speaks volumes about both of them, in a very public way.
p.s.: Adscititious: to receive with knowledge, approve; ad-, to + sciscere, to seek to know
Next Entry on this subject will be: "Did You Just Text Someone in the Middle of Our Interview?"
p.s.s: If you want to read a very good example of what NOT to do on the web that happened today - see Peter Shankman's Blog article "Be Careful What You Post"
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