Is digital identity only for experienced people ?

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A few weeks ago I attended an event called YouOnTheWeb which purpose was to make people aware of digital identity, e-reputation and personal branding. A competiton was organized to reward students who are managing well their personal brand what means, on an employer’s side, that their abiliy to be relevant on a specific topic can be felt through their web presence.

Partner companies submitted subjects, in order the jury could assess students according to real employer issues. I was member of a jury in charge of assessing student’s relevance to cross-generation knowledge transfer and community management issues.

Before going further, I have repeat the context and the assumptions : we were suppose to face the first “representatives” of an hyper-connected generation, which shares everything online and naturally interacts a lot within networks.

Now let’s see the result.

On a factual point of view, not so many things to say. Nothing on any blog that can make me say “wow…this person really gets it…I would want to know more about him/her”. When I checked social networks I noticed, at best, a very weak connectivity. In the worst case no connectivity or presence a all. At the end, we decided to prize someone whose discourse had nothing special but who was leading personal projects such as a community website  that made us think he had a some talent for community management, or, at least, that he was really trying to do things in this field.

According to me it does not matter after all. I tryed to ask myself what we were really looking for, what were our expectations and shared my thoughts with some people. As a matter of fact, maybe we were too demanding for people who logically have few experience and hindsight.

Accord to the number of “expert bloggers” who were there, people who managed to build a good reputation and strong networks, it was not hard to get some interesting insights. In our very own opinion, in the first times, our blog were not…humm… ver far from being interesting. And most of us had 5, 10, 15 years of professional experience when we started our blogs. It helps being self-confident and have a ripe reflection. And, even despite of that, our first months as bloggers were very hard.

This may explain some behaviors (or non-behaviors) which would only mean “I have nothing to say so what should I write ?”. Ok, we agree there are many passionated students who write interesting blogs, show a real interested and a clear understanding of a business, an industry. I also know many who developed their networks during their internships and took the greatest benefits from it, even before being greated. But, compared with all the assumptions about today’s students, things are disappointing.

This inspired me two things towards both recruiters and students.

Students first. My first point is that that’s not because they have nothing to say that they should not take their place. Even the smallest one. A digital space where people will find you if they’re looking for you and where the available informations will be those you decided to show. Then, make this space grow as you’ll make progress. No need to find the “killer idea”, your thoughts about what you’re doing, what surprises you, what it makes you think about. So at least a blog and a profile on linkedin. Remember that even at 22 you have a network : classmates, people you met during your internships, bloggers, professors… Don’t forget that your network is also what makes other people think of you when they’re asked “do you know someone who….”.

Then recruiters. Don’t expect to find  mutants : the hindsight of an experimented professional, solutions to all your issues, the whole in a 22 yo head. You should try to read between the lines and detect a kind of openness, a potential. After all, you’re trying to hire a recently graduated person. Forget all the “experts blogs” you usually read and don’t try to compare a student’s blog to them : if they have so much contents and so many interesting things to say, maybe it’s because they have left school for a while.

E-reputation and personal branding are not dedicated to those who are experienced enough to have things to say. They improve as time goes by, they are being fed as experience grows. On the other hand we have to be conscious of what we may find…according to what what we’re looking for.

Two more thought to conclude :

• Students are playing a waiting game with their digital identity. They are not conscious that for most of them their degree will not differenciate them they will leave school since nearly all of them will have the same resume.

• The point was to evaluate the digital identity of someone who’s applying to a job. We can also see things differently and consider that the purpose is to be identifiable from people who are looking for a profile, for competences, without knowing you’re existing.