Your Career and You: "On Being ‘Virtually’ Real"


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I spent this past weekend in New York participating in a PRSA Board of Directors meeting. As I commented in one tweet, the room was filled “with a lot of very smart people…and me”!

We covered, as usual, a boatload of material, and one thing that I noticed (not the first time, but somehow just stuck with me this time) was how many times social media was referenced in our conversations.

Terms that I heard again and again were “authenticity” and “value.” And that got me thinking about my…and your…presence in the virtual worlds of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the myriad other platforms available to facilitate getting your name, face, and other information “out there.”

As usual, I came away with some thoughts that I will share with my undergraduate Public Relations classes at Curry College as well as with my graduate Communication classes at Regis College.

For starters, if I were to visit your Facebook page, what would be my first impression based on the information that would be available to me? For example…your picture.

Yeah, I know…it’s none of my business what you choose for your picture.

But try this on for size.

It is my business if I’m looking for someone to fill an open position in my company or to join a volunteer organization that I’m involved in. I care very much about the impression that you will make on current and potential customers, donors, supporters…the list goes on.

Appearance does matter. The old saying “you only get one chance to make a first impression” is true in the virtual world just as it is in the “real” world.

Then, what might I read about you? I’m thinking here, in particular, about Twitter, where you have the option of saying something about yourself. This applies to LinkedIn and other platforms as well.

I get a half-dozen or so new Twitter followers each week (not a huge number, but enough that I can compare how people represent themselves).

Some are clearly or cleverly…or both…descriptive and encourage me to follow them in return. Others…not so much. They ricochet from silly to suggestive to stupid.

Others are bad enough that I report them as spam in the hopes that others will do the same and the offending individual will be blocked by the site.

Finally, I look at what other information you provide about yourself. Do I get a reasonably good idea of who you are and what you have done or are doing?

We also had a discussion in the PRSA board meeting about “information” versus “content.”

Information is facts…data. “The sun is shining.”

Content is the value added…the “color.” “The intense sun beat down mercilessly on the tired travelers.”

Do you give “just the facts”? Or do you paint a picture of yourself that helps me get a sense of who you really are?

Especially in my world of public relations, the ability to create messages that give as full a picture of a product or service as possible is critical. We are competing with hundreds of other, similar products or services. And our target audiences are being bombarded with an equal number of similar messages.

How do you get the attention of a target audience (a hiring manager, for example) and get your name on the “follow-up” list?

With information that quickly and professionally paints a mini-picture that encourages him or her to give you a second look…and an interview.

As you start preparing for life after college or if you’re already working and are looking for another opportunity, take a minute…or more…to look at your online presence(s).

The old saying goes, “perception is reality,” and your virtual presence…your online presence…is reality for anyone who sees it.

“Between the idea

And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow”
T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men [1925], V.
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About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 10 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in careers, Communication, Curry College, job hunting, job search, Public Relations Society of America, Regis College. Bookmark the permalink.

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