If you’re like most people, you probably think that marketing is something you don’t need to worry about. If it’s not part of your job description, or you don’t own a small business, then what would you need to market? The truth is, if you’re serious about building a strong career in your chosen field, then digital marketing is of increasing importance. What is your digital self? How can you best present yourself online to improve your career prospects?
The Concept of the Digital Self
The digital self is the persona you use when you’re online. Some people maintain one or more online identifies that are distinct from their “real world” selves; others have a single online self that’s more or less the same as the one they inhabit in the real world.
Why is the digital self so important for your career? The simple reason is that once you go online as your real self, using your own name or appearance, you have an online presence that can be traced back to you in the real world. Your online presence is hard to hide, difficult to control, and easy for recruiters and hiring managers to find. Because of this, it’s important to manage your online identity carefully, to ensure that your public image—your brand—is presented in the best possible light.
By doing so, you reap a number of advantages:
- You have more control over your digital identity. It’s not possible to have 100% control, but by building your own online presence you’ll always maintain the lion’s share.
- You can build a consistent identity, and reduce the impact of problems that might put hirers or recruiters off contacting you. Think of the damage control that celebrities do when salacious stories start circulating—it’s this kind of approach, but on a much smaller scale.
- You have the chance to develop your own reputation as an expert or thought leader in your industry. This can mitigate the negative effects of issues such as employment gaps or an otherwise spotty work history.
Elements of the Digital Self
Your online identity is like an investment. You start out with a small amount of capital, and the way you use it over time determines how much you end up with later on. The difference is, it’s actually a lot easier to control your online identity than it is to predict the stock or real estate markets.
What goes into building your digital self? It can and does include everything you say and do under your own name. Some elements of your digital self include:
Developing Your Identity with Online Content and Social Media
Given that your online behaviour makes a huge impact on how you present your digital self, it’s important to always use social media with care and consistency—always aware of how your personal brand can be affected by what you say and do. Always assume that potential employers will perform an online search, so make sure that everything they find is positive and professional.
LinkedIn is always the best place to start when you’re building your professional identity. It’s the world’s biggest online professional network, and both hiring managers and recruiters use it to find and vet new talent. It’s always cheaper, faster, and overall easier to hire via a referral than to open up a job to applicants, so make sure you’re the one people are referring, by building a strong and active LinkedIn presence. Complete your profile and keep it updates; join and participate in groups; build up a network of connections—then ask those connections to write recommendations you can include in a resume or job application.
Twitter and Facebook
If you think Twitter is not appropriate for professional purposes, think again. It’s actually a valuable tool, giving you the chance to follow and chat informally with people in your industry. The beauty of Twitter is that it can be whatever you want it to be. If you want it to be a place for building your professional digital identity, make it happen by following industry experts, leaders, hiring managers, recruiters, and other people you want to hear from. And don’t be shy: Twitter is a public forum, so get involved in conversations, and tweet your own thoughts too.
Even Facebook can be useful in this way, if you’re following the right people. It’s the most popular social media platform in the world, with more than 1 billion unique users, so there’s huge potential there for developing professional connections, especially when used in conjunction with LinkedIn and Twitter.
Create a Personal Blog
Have unique ideas about your industry that you want to share? Creating a personal branded blog is a great way to start sharing your own content, and blogging offers some unique advantages. You have the chance to develop your thoughts in much greater depth than on social media, and this makes it easier to truly define who you are and what you can offer in terms of professional skills.
Read our earlier post on a guide to the different blogging platforms.