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.
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.
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!):
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:
We must all create and manage our social avatars for 2 main reasons:
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.
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:
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.
Once you have created your avatars, they need care and feeding.
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.
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.
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+.