Growing up in what has been coined the “Information Age” has been a pretty incredible experience. I’ve never had to wonder longer than I can type about how long a dolphin can stay underwater and as I write this, I just heard someone on the Stirling to Glasgow train ask (on his new iPhone 4S) the names of Liam Neeson’s children.
If you haven’t already checked yourself: dolphins usually stay underwater for anywhere up to 8 minutes and you can find out the children’s names for yourself! What’s even more astounding, I will admittedly allow myself to forget this information instantly, because I will be able to retrieve it not in my brain, but online, all day and every day. What a world we live in.
I’m not as interested in this anymore, as much as I am interested in the new era we’ve entered: what I’d call the “Your Information Age.” I can Google, Facebook, Tweet, etc. any person I want to, and I’ll more than likely come up with something. In some cases, I can come up with a lot of things, most of which I’ll wish I never knew.
In the job search and professionalism game, this is a big deal. Our “digital footprints,” as people are calling them, can be a make or break for us in our careers and lives. So, what can I say now to you, as graduates of the University of Stirling about how to succeed in the “Your Information Age?” Here are three tips:
1.) Play privacy “Whack a Mole” – Social networks update features and settings regularly to stay current. But, with updates often come changes to privacy controls, many of which are opt-OUT not opt-IN (Facebook’s Instant Personalization feature is one example of this). Treat these opt-out updates like the moles in the “Whack a Mole” game seen at amusement parks and fairs. Be vigilant about how your information gets shared, and knock down any feature with which you’re not comfortable.
2.) See something, say something – Help each other out. I talked with a colleague last semester who told me that he routinely deletes friends’ comments and messages on his social networks when he doesn’t like what they say. Then, he takes it one step further and tells them why he did and why they should care, too. We don’t have to be the police of on-line professionalism. But, we can encourage each other to succeed, and then we will.
3.) The best defence is a good offence – Rather than an all “protect, protect, protect” strategy, aim to have at least one searchable professional presence. It’s inevitable that you will be found on-line, and by taking this approach it should be in a positive light. LinkedIn is an obvious one for this, but Twitter and blogs are great places to start, too. When on the offence, it’s possible that the jobs and opportunities will come to you.