Your Electronic Identity in a Time of Career Transition

By Christy Glick, Project Manager & Research Associate
Robertson Lowstuter, Inc.

I recently read an article that explored the perils of expressing oneself – or unknowingly being represented – via social media and other internet venues.  The article, entitled “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” appeared in The New York Times several months ago, authored by law professor Jeffrey Rosen.   What struck me the most about the article was the notion that the development of our identity occurs as we engage in electronic communication – be it social or professional media or otherwise.

Identity can be both the instigator and the outcome of internet communication, even as identity shapes and is shaped by our life experiences.  Some aspects of this identity are under our control; some may be beyond our influence.  For instance, my height is something over which I have limited control.  I can wear heels to boost me up a few inches, but ultimately that doesn’t change the fact that I’m 5’2”; it’s a part of my identity.  On the web, I can make myself look taller with just the right photographic perspective, but when you meet me, there is no denying the truth.

You may be wondering, “What does all this have to do with career transition?”  Rosen would tell you that the connection between identity, internet, and job search is powerful, knowing that hiring parties of all sorts can do a quick Google search to find out who you “really” are—or how you portray yourself online.

In today’s world, it is not a question of whether or not we use the internet in some aspect of our job search.  Rather, the question is:  what principles underlie our electronic engagement in the job market?

So as you face the electronic day, here are a few items for personal reflection, to refine your purposes before you hit “comment,” “post,” or “send.”  Ask yourself:

1)      What do I want to communicate about myself?

  • With regard to my qualifications and experience?
  • With regard to my career goals?
  • With regard to my family and personal life?

2)      How do I best align my methods & style of communication with my values?

3)      Who is the audience I am expecting to read this?  Who else might have access to this information?

4)      What are the best e-venues for engaging in my job search?

5)      How can I best leverage professional media for networking purposes?  How will I know when my attempts to network prove self-serving or self-destructive?

6)      What are the potential repercussions in my job search if I say too much of the wrong thing?

7)      Which friend or trusted colleague can partner with me in honesty and accountability to ensure I represent myself well?

When it comes to communicating in the digital age, how and what you communicate is largely up to you.  You may protect your job search by tempering your online comments or by simply refraining from participating online.  Like anything, you’ll likely find that electronic communication—via email, professional networking media, or blogging—can be good or bad.  And at the end of the day, the recruiter or interviewer will have a chance to meet you and see for themselves who you really are.


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