Who are you online? In the business world, there is a simple way of working out who our professional personas are: just pay attention to how others see us.
When we enjoy the luxury of convening with colleagues and clients in person, people get their impressions of us based on our physical presence, including how firm our handshakes are. In physical settings, we don’t have the opportunity to see ourselves exactly as others see us, and our feedback is only as good as the signals convey to us (a smile or direct eye contact), or what we are told directly.
However, now that so much of our communication takes place online, we have all become our own “avatars,” and have more access to information that indicates how we are seen. The data we produce on the internet fuels the artificial intelligence algorithms that track our digital footprints. It’s also what other people use to make quick judgments about our attributes, particularly when they are deciding whether to recruit us, hire us, invest in our startups and so on.
We have options in how we curate that online information.
To help you get started, here are some of the “building blocks” of your online presence, and how you use them to enhance your digital presence:
1. PHOTOGRAPHS: Online and offline, people bring their own biases — conscious or unconscious — to their judgments about your physical appearance. Some things are beyond your control, but there are many aspects of your appearance that you can manage. One option is to consult a stylist to help you refine your look. Another approach is to use tools like “Zoom touchup,” which can change your appearance during video calls.
2. VIDEOS: If you post videos of yourself in the public domain, make sure that they depict you in a favorable light and only capture the ideas and impressions that you feel are professionally appropriate. If a video does not represent the “you” that you want others to experience, don’t post it, or try to have it taken down.
3. TONE OF VOICE: Your tone of voice in video or audio recordings can convey both emotions and authenticity. One way to monitor your tone is to invest in feedback from an experienced executive, acting, voice or media coach — someone who can provide you with insights about how you sound, and help you practice speaking in a manner that creates the impression you desire.
4. WRITTEN COMMUNICATIONS: Analysis of articles and messages posted online in terms of presentation and speech is a rapidly expanding field. Recruiters can use tools like IBM Watson sentiment analysis to translate your personal style of language into a full character profile. It pays to pay attention to what you say and how you say it.
5. SOCIAL MEDIA POSTINGS, SHARES AND LIKES: These activities can be analyzed for quantity, quality and content. Although we don’t know of any major companies that publicly admit to using this technique in their processes for candidate evaluation, it makes sense to assume that they do.
Before beginning to curate your online persona, set objectives for the impressions you want to make. When you’re trying to impress the algorithms and organizations that are evaluating you, a few pixels might make all the difference.