The internet is part of most people’s everyday life. We use it to support our educational, working and social lives. But how many people consider how those three ‘lives’ that we live online could impact us, both positively and negatively?
The recent media furore around Paris Brown, who was appointed as the Youth Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent and then resigned after criticism over her previous Twitter comments, has highlighted some of the consequences that can occur when our online ‘lives’ are exposed to people that we didn’t expect would encounter them.
Some have said that Paris’s age when she made the comments should have negated the criticism that she received: at the age of 15, she didn’t know that two years later, she would have an opportunity that these comments would be potentially damaging to. Had anyone explained to her that her digital presence whilst a teenager could damage her future job prospects in any field?
In reality, how many of us have Googled a new colleague when they are appointed? Or, as a recruiter, checked out a candidate before or after interview? Doing a search of online presence is likely to bring up our ‘professional’ life e.g. via Linked In, but also other aspects of our online lives.
It’s not just young people who might not be aware of how their online presence in the ‘social’ sphere can impact their professional life. Another recently publicised example was a TV personality who, having been subjected to online abuse, tracked down the person who had been abusing them and reported them to their employer.
So as part of helping both young people and adults to develop their career plans, we need to highlight the impact that their online presence could have in the future.
There are two strands to this.
Whilst the importance of understanding the potentially negative impacts is well highlighted, the positives are also important.
Your online presence gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills and abilities. Young people in particular need to understand how they can improve their employment prospects by demonstrating their skills online.
During a recent visit to a school, we spoke to a number of students who had ambitions to work in photography. Only one had developed an online portfolio of their work.
Several wanted to work in website development but none had actually developed their own website.
Two wanted to work in journalism – one had created a blog which had attracted interest and an offer of a work placement from a local newspaper, the other hadn’t published any of his writing.
The internet can be an excellent place to demonstrate skills and can help young people set themselves out from the crowd. Aside from the skills that they have demonstrated, taking the time to develop (and maintain) an online presence to showcase their skills also demonstrates other attributes that many employers seek, such as creativity, commitment and passion.
Understanding the potential of an online presence needs to be integral to helping both young people and adults manage their career.
Tristram Hooley from the International Centre for Guidance Studies recently led a very interesting webinar which explored these and other issues around the impact of the internet on careers. You can watch a recording of the webinar by clicking here.
Young people (and adults) need to be aware that planning a career is no longer just about seeking information from the internet. It’s also about making sure that what people can seek out about you portrays the image that you want future employers to see.