Life online: just a virtual world or the real you?

I could write so many blog posts with this title, I can’t get enough of the discussion of online in every format it comes in. I wrote an essay on the validity of cyber culture for my degree last year and actually enjoyed it, rather a lot in fact. Ok, geekness clarified, let’s get on with it.

Despite the many more interesting angles I could take, I’m instead going to bore you all with a comparison of our lives both offline and online in terms of professionalism. (Say now if you’d prefer to make a coffee, finish the ironing and actually do some work before you want to carry on reading.)

I think we can officially say it’s no secret I’m looking for a graduate job at the moment. I’m signed up to just about every graduate e-newsletter going, some with jobs posts, some with advice. I’d gotten one of these mixed up at to what type of content it offered and got over-excited when I read ‘social media’ in the subject box. Here’s another non-secret: I’d like a social media job. Anyway, I thought the email contained job postings but instead found some advice about being on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The real lauramsmith? Unfortunately not.

It didn’t tell me anything I wasn’t already doing, but it did remind me of a useful hashtag I’d forgotten about: #gradjobseeker. I’d used it a couple of times on the end of tweets and not really gotten anywhere, and was in a sightly procrastinating mood so tweeted a message which looked something like this:

@lauramsmith: #gradjobseeker #gradjobseeker #gradjobseeker #gradjobseeker#gradjobseeker #gradjobseeker#gradjobseeker #gradjobseeker#gradjobseeker

Rather silly perhaps, or straight to the point you might say. Needless to say, I got a few responses from employers asking what kind of thing I was looking for. I’m not about to hold my hands up and declare formal applications a waste of time just yet, but I will say this: perhaps informal approaches aren’t to be disregarded. Through doing this I have had a few casual chats with people and feel the small amount of information they’ve gathered from me tells them a lot more about me personally than an application form would. We’ve had direct conversations (albeit, virtual), visited each others’ blogs and websites and generally got a personal feel for who each other are, all in the space of about 15 minutes. My last formal job application took me four hours.

I’m not saying this from a lazy point of view; if there’s a job I want I’d dedicate a month to the application if I had to, but I’m not the only one short of time: employers are too and if they can get an immediate feel for a person over Twitter and save themselves the (costly) hassle of advertising, processing applications and reviewing them all individually, surely that can only be a good thing.

We’ve seen so many things convert to online in the last few years, is recruitment next? My point was that our virtual selves often are portrayed as an alter ego of falseness, be that mainly focussed on virtual sites like Second Life, but there are suggestions this spills over into social media too. Is this now being challenged? If we are interacting with employers and others online, my thoughts are that we are offering a much more ‘real’ sense of ourselves than a couple of sheets of paper with ‘CV’ stamped at the top could ever do. For now it’s a waiting game, but it’ll be interesting to see what the employers down the line think.

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