Your avatars aren’t blue and sparkly and on another planet, like the ones in the movie of the same name. But, they are in another world: Cyberspace (or maybe we should call it “Google-Bing-Blekko-space”).
In a sense, we’ve been using avatars in our job search for years. We called them “résumés,” and they are still important today, particularly when you are reaching out to potential employers.
Your 21st Century Avatars Bring Employers to You
Unlike resumes, which are similar in function to a product sales brochure, the new, 21st century avatars are more like a smart marketing campaign attracting employers and jobs to you! You aren’t trying to find employers, employers are finding you because they are finding your avatars everywhere.
Seen Avatar, the movie? (No? GO! Or watch the DVD!) Picture your avatars in cyberspace, showing you at your best - demonstrating your skills and knowledge, cataloging your accomplishments and education, collecting and displaying recommendations, helping you pull the jobs in to you rather than you reaching out for them.
You don’t have a 21st century avatar? You could! You should! And you probably do, whether or not you know it. Here’s how…
Now, in the 21st century, we have many more avatars than just our resumes, and they are much more active and visible than in the past. We have our LinkedIn profiles, our Google Profiles, our Amazon Profiles, our Twitter Bios, and our Facebook pages, even our VisualCVs and (millions of) blogs.
A recent study, funded by Microsoft, shows exactly how important those new avatars are to our careers and, particularly, our job searches:
- 29% of job seekers think their online reputation is important, but…
- 79% of employers research potential employees online - always or most of the time!
Negative Avatars – or a Lack of Avatars – Can Damage Your Prospects
The newest aspect of 21st century avatars is that we haven’t created all of them, and don’t own all of them, but we need to monitor them, and, as best we can, manage them.
Watch for negative avatars (e.g. report of a DUI conviction) - even if the person involved is not you but someone else with the same or a very similar name. An employer may not be able to discern the difference, and could assume that the negative avatar belongs to you. You will drop off the list of “possible hires” as a potential problem or just someone to avoid hiring.
While being “invisible” is a goal for some, viewed as a means of protection against indentity theft and other hazards, having few or no positive avatars (e.g. a LinkedIn Profile) is both a credibility issue as well as a personal marketing issue. Without them, your job search will take much longer. You will drop off the list of “possible hires” because nothing about you can be confirmed by another source online.
So, Put These New Avatars to Work for YOU
Technology has changed the rules of the game, particularly in the last 18 months, and smart job seekers manage their avatars. For example, in addition to your résumé, you may – or should- have several of these avatars, too:
- Your LinkedIn Profile and LinkedIn presence (Groups, Discussions, Answers, etc.), including LinkedIn for a stealth job search.
- Your Twitter Bio and Tweets (on-brand, hopefully)
- Your Google Profile
- Your blog and/or guest posts on other blogs
- Your Facebook account
- Your Amazon profile (books you read and review, etc.)
- Your Business Week Business Exchange Profile
- Your Fast Company Profile
- Your Visual CV
- Your Brazen Careerist Profile
Manage Your New Avatars
- Don’t wait until you need your avatars to create them.
The longer you work with them, the stronger they become. Just like waiting until you are unemployed to start networking, waiting until you are unemployed to create your avatars is not the best plan. Nurture your avatars when you are employed, and you may never need to job hunt again.
- Keep feeding your avatars – new information, new posts, new Tweets, new Friends, new Followers, etc.
Keep them looking cared-for and current to present you at your best.
Put Google to Work for You
Google yourself regularly to see what’s online. Is someone else’s avatar hurting your chances for a new job – has someone with the same name done something that could damage your chances at a job (murderer, child abuser, porn star, etc.)? If you find bad stuff, pick a different version of your name (with or without your middle name or middle initial, etc.). Then consistently use that new version of your name online to separate yourself.
Set up Google Alerts on your name and topics. It’s simple to do and free (thank you, Google!). Google Alerts help track new or high-ranking references, comments, or posts about you and your favorite topics.
For more on this topic, check out my SlideShare show - 21st Century Job Search Revolution.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg.