While writing a recommendation for a friend on LinkedIn earlier this week, I realized I was doing something that I couldn’t have imagined doing few years ago.
You’re probably thinking, ‘Sure, it’s not like LinkedIn has been around forever’.
But it wasn’t about LinkedIn. It was more about the recommendation itself. It was for someone I had never met. We’ve worked together, exchanged thoughts, agreed, disagreed, debated, collaborated – all via online interactions.
Now, I know I wasn’t doing something path breaking. I am sure this kind of thing has been happening on LinkedIn for a while now. But it was a first for me. And yet, not having actually been up close face to face nor having worked side by side with my friend did not seem to make me ill-equipped for the job at hand. I was perfectly comfortable and feeling credible enough to provide the few lines of testimony I was making on his professional bearing. I really felt I knew him.
Online is the new reality
That our work and personal networks are getting more and more distributed is not new. What is new is the ever increasing, and ever improving kaleidoscope of mediums that help us to not only widen our networks, but to also engage more and more effectively, pushing our personal and professional spheres of reach and influence farther apart. And naturally, professionals from every area have begun to embrace and help themselves to benefits thereof.
It is easy to dismiss this as another incidental side effect of all that is happening with the ubiquity of the internet and social media, but of course, there is more significance to it. Take a look at the list of articles right here on Successful Worktagged “Social” and you will get an idea of the extent of impact from all of this.
But what stands out as a significant result, is that our Online Persona is assuming more and more importance.
Your online reputation is important
Almost anyone with an access to the internet now has a Facebook account. Almost anyone with a white-collar job and access to internet has a LinkedIn profile. Employers are increasingly looking up prospective employees on the internet. Kevin Jordan, one of our writers here on Successful Work wrote about such an experience. Kevin discusses how it felt coming to terms with realizing that his prospective employer was looking him up online even while interviewing him over the phone.
Because of sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, your resume is no longer the last thing an employer is going to check before an interview. In fact, these sites can become evidence for any future incriminating posts you may make as long as you have your job. Recent rulings have suggested that workers are free to speak about company matters on social sites without any fear of being fired, but is that Facebook post going to keep you from getting a promotion, or getting the job in the first place?
I recommend reading the rest of the post where he comes to terms with this ‘online stalking’.
Social Persona & Influence – a professional badge
So the sum-total of your online persona can have a positive (or negative) influence on your professional bearing. Jeanne Roué-Taylor’s post, The Internet is actually a small village – are you ready for that? sums it perfectly.
Online reputation is becoming like reputation once was in the small village: Everyone quickly understands who the rascals and thought leaders are. Even in a world of 2 billion people connected by one system, we end up in our groups and having (sometimes) long-distance conversations as though we’re neighbors. Some people rise to positions of influence while others mumble on in obscurity.
Prepare for the new world
Virtual teams and working relationships are clearly going to be more common and as I wrapped up my first recommendation of a virtual colleague, I realized that that this was going to be the norm rather than the exception it seems today to me. With the absence of physical presence, gestures, expressions, tones of voice, and so on, our Online Personas become very crucial in establishing the foundation for working relationships we form in the virtual world. A lot has been written about the dos and don’ts of social engagement and building an online reputation. But IMHO, it doesn’t take a calculated strategy or a marketing genius to build one. Maybe those can help, but in the end the fundamentals of building a reputation online happen to boil down to a few things like respect for others, empathy, being polite, giving more than taking – the same qualities that help you build a great reputation offline.