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Activate and Manage Your Social Media Avatars

By Susan P. Joyce

Avatar, the movie

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-Yahoo-DuckDuckGo-space").

In a sense, we’ve been using avatars in our job search for years. We called them "resumes," and they are still important today, particularly when you are reaching out to potential employers.

Your 21st Century Avatars Can Protect Your Reputation

Now, we have other avatars, in addition to our resumes. These avatars are our social media accounts -- a major method of communicating with family, friends, and complete strangers that became most visible after the start of the 21st century.

Used correctly, your avatars can protect and manage your personal online reputation, an increasingly important aspect of a successful job search. They are visible online, expanding our reach and our impact.

Used inappropriately, these social media avatars can damage your reputation and scare employers away, limiting your options and making your job search more challenging.

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Your Social Media 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.

They attract employers, recruiters, and jobs to you...when you are using the right keywords for you and your goals.

You aren’t trying to find employers, employers are finding you because they are finding your avatars everywhere. When those avatars are clear and consistent with your personal brand, your next job may find you!

Seen Avatar, the movie? (No? Watch it sometime!) Picture your avatars in cyberspace, showing you at your best (hopefully!):

  • Demonstrating your skills and knowledge.
  • Cataloging your accomplishments and education
  • Showing your communications skills.
  • Collecting and displaying recommendations.

This helps you pull the jobs to you rather requiring you to hunt 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 Twitter Bios, our Facebook About pages, Pinterest, Instagram, even YouTube and SlideShare, plus our blogs (or LinkedIn Pulse articles).

A privacy study funded by Microsoft, shows exactly how important those new avatars are to our careers and, particularly, our job searches:

  • Only 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 Social Media Avatars – or a Lack of Avatars – Can Damage Your Job Prospects

We must all create and manage our social avatars for 2 main reasons:

  1. Invisiblity is viewed as a bad sign by employers.


    You will drop off the list of "possible hires" if nothing can be found about you in a Google search. Employers will assume that you are either out-of-date or hiding something -- neither of which will encourage them to consider you for a job.

    The lack of social avatars which confirm your qualifications and give an indication of your personality and communications skills will dramatically limit your opportunities.
  2. Negative information (about you or someone else with the same name) can hurt you.

    Perhaps someone else with the same or a very similar name has publicly done something that an employer in your field wouldn't want. Employers may assume that you are that person unless YOU have a clear presence that is obviously different. (Why Defensive Googling Is Necessary is a real-life example of name confusion making a job search very difficult.)

    If you have published nasty political comments or photos of yourself doing something illegal, delete or remove those comments and images if possible. If not possible, push those items off the first page of search results with other more positive things. (Read the Guide to Online Reputation Management for more details.)

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.

Put These New Social Media 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:

  1. Your LinkedIn Profile with the right keywords for you
  2. Your LinkedIn activities and presence (Groups, Updates, posts on Pulse, etc.)
  3. Your Twitter Bio and Tweets (on-brand, hopefully)
  4. Your blog and/or guest posts on other blogs
  5. Your Facebook account -- copy your resume into the "About" page
  6. Your YouTube channel
  7. Your Pinterest boards
  8. Your Instagram account
  9. Your Tumblr and Medium posts
  10. Your personal blog and your other professional social media accounts

If you are invisible or a negative image is associated with your name, you will drop off the list of "possible hires" as a potential management problem or just someone to avoid hiring. Leverage these avatars to eliminate that potential problem.

Manage Your New Social Media Avatars

Once you have created your avatars, they need care and feeding.

Don’t Wait Until You Need Them

The longer you work with your social media avatars, 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 social media 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 up-to-date, cared-for, and current to present you at your best. AND to make it clear that you are reachable when a recruiter is interested in contacting you.

Particularly LinkedIn should be created and expanded well before you need it so that your network and visibility are ready when you need them.

Put Google to Work for You

As part of your reputation management, Google yourself regularly to see what’s online. I call it Defensive Googling for a reason:  someone else’s avatar or bad image may hurt your chances for a new job.

Set up Google Alerts on your name and topics. It’s simple to do and free (thank you, Google!). Using Google Alerts for your job search will help track new or high-ranking references, comments, or posts about you and your favorite topics. Google Alerts will even help you with your personal branding.

What Color Is Your Parachute? author Dick Bolles said that "Google is the new resume," and he's absolutely right! Read Managing Your Google Resume for the details on how to pay attention to this new requirement.

More About Managing Your Avatars


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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