There have always been—and will always be—certain soft skills, like interviewing, that people will need to master in the professional world. But, with a changing workplace come new requirements that future professionals need to keep in mind.

Like it or not (and if you’re reading this I hope you do!) we are living in a digital age, and with having an online presence comes certain worries for a professional or someone looking to start their career. Social networks play a role in a working professional’s life, and there is a certain level of privacy lost by displaying personal information online.

In Soft Skills at Work: Technology for Career Success, author Beverly Amer writes that what you choose to post about yourself online becomes an extension of the image you give off to the public – it’s your “online persona.”

Amer writes that though when we share information on sites like Facebook our aim may be to share that information with friends and family members, those looking to hire you may also use information they find to give them a better picture of the person they’re looking to potentially employ. Knowing how to properly manage this “online persona” has become important in today’s professional world.

Amer writes that about eight out of 10 employers will run searches online to uncover more information about their applicants. Though they can’t question you about your personal life in the course of an interview, they can search the Internet to learn more about who you are outside of work. Amer recommends avoiding certain topics when posting online, including: age, unprofessional screen names, political affiliation, and personal correspondence intended only for friends or family.

So we know what not to share about ourselves online, but what could be beneficial to add to our online persona? Amer lists a few items she acquired from a survey by ERE Media that companies are looking for online. Those include: Verification of content on your resume – like job skills, good communication and presentation skills, associations or affiliations, and proof of innovation or creativity.

So as your students move toward lives in the professional world, they have new soft skills to keep in mind. Some easy ways they can be sure their online persona is a positive extension of their image include:
1. Go through content on social sites and remove anything that paints a negative picture of who you are.
2. Update unprofessional e-mail addresses or screen names.

3. Conduct on online search for yourself – your name and associated information – to see what’s connected with your name and resume content and easily searchable.
4. Make sure your security settings are stringent and up-to-date.

Taking these steps can ensure students get past that first screening step, and get the opportunity to let their other skills shine in person. (Amer, pp. 19-29)

Reference: Content adapted from Amer, Beverly. 2009. Soft Skills in a Digital Workplace: Technology for Career Success. Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.