What Does it Mean to be Virtually Responsible?
No matter how many precautions you take, what privacy settings you hide behind, or what website you use, a virtual "footprint" is always left behind. Someone somewhere will be able to access your work whether you want them to or not. This may be beneficial or detrimental to your online persona, as many employers use internet searches to learn more about candidates for jobs. Everyone has at least two personas; the one seen in person, and the one found online. These two personas can coexist to build each other up, or one can destroy the other. If you aren't careful with your online activities and posts, your online persona has the ability to make you seem like someone you might not want people knowing you as. On the other hand, everything you do online can work hand-in-hand with what you want people to see in you, and your online persona could make you stand out among the crowd in a good way. It is important to develop your online persona into what you want others to see in you, because many possible employers (or sometimes even perspective dates) can simply Google your name and find out some important information about you. I'm here to tell you the Do's and Don'ts of online etiquette that might land you that dream job.1
Be on the Web
Go Google yourself. See what you find. I did it and had to dig through piles of websites on an Australian actor and a comedian before I found myself. If I had a perfect online presence, my information and websites would've popped up first on the search. As a result, I've found you need to put yourself out on the internet in order to be found easier. The easier you are found, the more important you seem to anyone searching for you. In a similar sense, Merge Social Media understands the importance of an online presence, especially for companies. According to their website, companies need to be involved in the conversations on social media sites because of the vast number of users. They explain, "Without joining the conversation, you leave it up to “the internet” to craft your brand."2 Similarly, you need to join in on the conversation so you can craft your own "brand".
Don't Post Negative Information About Yourself
So now your online profile(s) is/are the first to appear on a Google search of your name, but the first item on the list is a page about your membership with the National Get Drunk Society. This is a good example of something you don't want professional employers to find. Be sure the information you're posting online and the groups or websites you are joining don't throw out red flags to employers or anyone looking online. Negative information creates bad online personas. Keep in mind everything you post is view-able to most everyone on the internet, sometimes even if you have strong privacy settings. Your post is just a snapshot away from being posted to the entire online community.3
Have a Professional Networking Profile
If you haven't already, join LinkedIn or another online professional networking site. LinkedIn connects you with friends and colleagues, similar to Facebook, but in a more professional sense. The site allows you to update your work history, special skills and interests, and it even lets you follow companies that have joined LinkedIn. A professional networking profile does exactly what it says it is; it networks you with other professionals. The profile also is a great start to putting yourself online in a professional manner because it is virtually a resume linked with other resumes and companies. Just like Merge Social Media said, companies are using these social media sites.2 Not only do they use these sites to promote their own companies, but they check in on applicants and current employees to get a feel for who they're dealing with.1
Don't Use Facebook More Than LinkedIn
Do not under-utilize your professional profile. It is easy to forget about because it might not be as fun to use as Facebook or Twitter, but it still needs more attention because it is a more professional profile than your social media sites. Try to check on your professional profile and update it daily.
Use Facebook or Other Social Media
That being said, I still suggest you use Facebook and other social media sources in moderation. You can still give yourself a degree of professionalism through your posts and information on social media sites. If you're using social media, be sure to mention some professional things, such as your visit to the University's career fair or an upcoming interview you're looking forward to. You can even post pictures of yourself at formal events or company events to give yourself a more professional look online.1 Be sure you are in control of your social media site and it reflects your professional self.
Don't Post Incriminating Pictures or Statuses
Sometimes social media is an easy way to be noticed by a company, but you could be noticed for the wrong reasons. If you're always in pictures of crazy parties, or you're seen doing illegal or unethical things through your social media site, that is an immediate red flag. Also, status updates may leave a negative effect on your online persona. Employers will find it unattractive if you are posting about controversial political and societal subjects often. Keep controversial subjects to a minimum or, if at all possible, nonexistent on your online profiles. As mentioned before, no matter how private you have set your profile, a friend of yours could easily take a picture of the incriminating evidence on your profile and make it view-able to the rest of the web.3
Post Personal and Professional Publications
By posting some of your personal work, you are showing other professionals how competent you are with your writing skills and what you are interested in. If you have written any essays, research papers, etc. in class reflective of your professional interests, consider posting them on your online profile(s).1 Employers enjoy seeing people's work, especially when it gives them a handle of your communication skills and knowledge about certain subjects.
Don't Post Bad Work
Use discretion when posting your work publicly. Your work will give the opposite effect you intended if it is poor in quality. Just as an employer can learn how well you communicate from a good piece of work, they can learn of your writing deficiencies from a poor piece of work.
You need an online persona, but make sure it benefits you and your purposes. If you want a professional image of yourself online, follow these simple guidelines and you're well on your way to your next interview.