The Emergence of Creating an Online Presence

By Bob McDonald

While understanding the Internet's role in the job search and career development has always been important for professionals, the emergence of new Web technologies, such as social media, blogging and social networking have permanently changed the playing field.

At the heart of the matter are our clients, whose time spent on the Internet may either be a blessing or a curse. When speaking with your clients about this, you should impress on them three things:

  1. Prospective employers have begun to use search engines, such as Google, to do a free background check on applicants.
  2. Job seekers have found that using the Internet to display samples of their work is an excellent way to grab the attention of employers.
  3. Using social media to pass along industry-related information allows job seekers to expand their personal network, which may include potential job leads.

What employers find could make or break the job seeker's chance of getting their foot in the door. It is crucial in an already-tight job market to counsel clients on the dangers of creating questionable content that either the client or their acquaintances can post online. First, learn how much time is spent online and the level of knowledge your client has about online sites.

From there, it is easy for you to talk about what kind of sites you both visit, and undoubtedly the subject of a social networking site such as MySpace could potentially come up. Ideally, you will want to find out what type of content is up on the client's page. Because search engines regularly search dynamic sites like My Space, it is a good idea to advise the client to be careful of their content, citing potential damage to their job search as a reason.

However, protection of your clients' online reputation is only the first step. You will also want to familiarize yourself with business networking and online profile resources that are regularly used by companies that can help your clients. In reality, many of the business networking tools are utilized by more of the white-collar professionals. However, as the Internet has grown, many blue-collar industries are embracing technology to find the best employees. No matter the case, building a professional online presence for your client will allow them to stand above competing applicants.

Just as with working with your clients on their resume, creating a generic online profile is done by asking for the following information:

  • Work Experience - Company, job title and noted accomplishments
  • Education - School name, degree and major, extracurricular activities
  • Skills - Dependent upon the online format, skills may be added through the site's automated system or by simply adding it to a form field like you would experience or education.

Building an online presence can depend on the client's network. Many of the business sites allow for users to connect with current and former colleagues, customers, business partners and classmates. For that, you will want to initially walk the client through the system's connection invitation process. As with face-to-face networking, the same rules apply. Courtesy is king. Advise them not to assume that they will be able to connect with their network automatically. Assist clients in creating a short personalized invitation that they can e-mail to potential connections.

Here are examples of some of the most popular business networking sites available:

  • LinkedIn - At the moment, LinkedIn is the undisputed king of business networking with more than 30 million users around the world.
  • Naymz - This site allows users to build their profiles and connections to improve their Reputation Score.
  • VisualCV - One of the newest online profile sites where users can add resume-style elements and upload samples of their work to create a fully interactive display to present to employers.

As with all other dynamic Web sites, business networking sites are checked regularly by the major search engines. Once you have walked your client through the process of building an online profile, be sure to advise them to maintain it on a regular basis.  In a volatile job climate, positions can easily go as fast, and again, any advantage you can give your clients will be beneficial in the long run.

Bob McDonald holds a M.Ed. in Adult Learning and Development from Cleveland State University with a concentration on career development. He is currently the owner of TOG Solutions in Cleveland, Ohio, which provides a number of career services, including resume writing and mock interviewing. He can be reached at bobmc@togsolutions.com or at his Web site, www.togsolutions.com.

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