Job Searches And Digital Footprints – What If You’re Not Online?

“What if I’m not on Facebook?”

It’s an interesting question that emerged out of a presentation we gave at the Spring 2014 AMERIGO session. The presentation, entitled “Who Are You, Again?” was an overview of how to comport ourselves online, now that the digital world intersects with almost all aspects of real life, especially our professional lives and job searches.

The fact is, most of us now have an online presence and a digital footprint. Whether it’s intentional or not, on social media, through online comments, a personal website, or just through apps, we’re all online. We find one another and stay in touch online. College admissions staff, professional recruiters, potential employers, and colleagues certainly know how to find us and do their due diligence on us online. And after 15 years of using social media, we’re all aware of certain basics. Namely the lack of privacy and the imperative to keep things clean.

But there are still a few among us who eschew social media. And for them, the question arises – what if you’re not on FaceTweetGooglePlus at a time that everyone else is? What if people simply can’t find you? What does it say about you if a hiring manager is wondering whether you’re a good fit for the company and everyone else has a bit more information about them but you do not? Should you worry?

Our short answer—no.

The longer answer is a bit more complicated.

First of all, if you are not on social media by choice—congratulations on bucking a trend that many of us do not enjoy but have grudgingly come to consider a necessary evil in today’s business environment. That said …

one yellow peep among blue peeps

Which One Are You? (image via Kate Ter Haar)

Don’t be a mystery.

You don’t have to be on any particular social media, but at a time when everyone is online and easily reached, you should have something about yourself online just so you’re not a complete mystery. Because it isn’t that your lack of a social media account could cost you. It’s that in the absence of any additional information about you, the other candidates or co-workers will seem more real. We tend to connect with a human being, not a piece of paper or words on a page. That’s a huge reason why people now make a part of their social media or online presence available to the professional part of their lives, and why employers and recruiters suss out candidates through social media—all those status updates and tweets help flesh out who a person is past name, address, and work experience on a resume.

That’s not me!

It’s simple: If everyone is telling stories, and you might feature in them, it helps if you tell yours first and best so that others don’t tell yours for you. Having something up on the web about yourself, by yourself, keeps a hiring manager from piecing together information about you from a variety of sources that may or may not have your input, consent, or the professional context you’d like to create in a first impression. Certainly, having information from you about you helps to combat negative impressions others may inadvertently leave about you. Like that picture of you in front of a giant margarita glass. Nothing wrong with it, but if that’s the only image of you on the web, and there’s no way of knowing it was a gag everyone else at the office party was in on, there’s nothing to present a more balanced professional side of you.

It doesn’t have to be social media.

If you loathe the idea of any social media having your information, consider creating your own web presence. It is no longer difficult to have your own website. In fact, one could argue that having your own site is to the online world what having a business card is in real life. It’s where and how people find and reach you. And what you put up there, and the first impression you want to create before anyone has even met you, is entirely up to you.