May 14, 2007 -- We've told you about the pitfalls of the Internet when it comes to your job, but there's also a flip side.
If you're an employee or entrepreneur looking for a job, a promotion, new clients or better business opportunities, there are several smart ways to create and enhance your digital identity.
Take a few minutes to use technology to your advantage in the workplace.
Set up electronic profiles. I've suggested that everyone Google themselves to see what comes up -- hopefully good stuff. But thousands of people e-mailed us to say nothing came up when they searched for themselves, and they were kind of disappointed about that!
In this Internet age, it's smart to have an online presence, and there are easy -- and safe -- ways to do it.
One of the best sites is LinkedIn.com with more than 5 million users in the United States. You can create a free professional profile where you control the content. Then your name and a link to your profile are indexed on the search engines like Google, Yahoo and others. So when someone Googles your name, this profile will appear in the search results. This is an ideal way to showcase your skills and expertise.
Recruiters now use professional networking sites like LinkedIn to look for new talent. And because it's known as a professional networking tool -- unlike online job boards -- you don't have to worry that your boss will assume you're job searching if or when your profile is found.
Three tips for maximizing your success with LinkedIn:
1. Select "full view" of your "public profile."
By selecting "full view," you will enable more information to be shown from your profile even when a Web user is not logged in to LinkedIn. The more content you allow to be shown, the more likely your profile will show up higher in the search results on sites like Google or Yahoo. This is a great way to control what people can learn about you if they Google you. (Don't worry: Personal data, such as your contact information, is never made public.)
2. Claim a "vanity URL" using your name.
When you create a free profile on LinkedIn, you can opt for a customized URL using your full name instead of using the default URL assigned to you. For example, my LinkedIn public profile URL is www.linkedin.com/in/toryjohnson.
3. Invite friends and/or desired professional contacts to link to you.
The power of LinkedIn rests with the ability to use your connections to connect with other people. Think of the business world as "six degrees of separation," the people you really want to reach are just six steps away. When you invite people to be one of your LinkedIn connections, you then have access to their connections, and so on. This helps people find you, and of course it helps you find someone at the company of your choice, or in your field of interest.
You can also create a free profile at ZoomInfo.com, as well as look for people and companies of interest to you. Professional women and entrepreneurs can create free profiles on my Web site in the Women for Hire Network at network.womenforhire.com. This is a source used by employers to find new hires and for women to help other members make introductions to the business associates and decision makers they're trying to reach.
Subscribe to Google alerts. Since being an expert in your chosen industry is important for anyone who wants to advance, it takes only a minute or two to set up Google alerts. On the Google site (google.com/alerts), you can indicate the desired key words -- perhaps specific companies you're interested in working for or an industry or particular trend you want to keep up on -- and Google will send you links to news articles and relevant items as they're posted throughout the Internet.
You can choose to receive them as they happen or once a day. It's fast and free -- and it's a fabulous way to stay up to the minute on news as it happens related to your field. And then you'll showcase that newfound knowledge to your peers or managers.
For example, if you're eager to know everything that's happening at "Good Morning America," you'll want to set up an alert about the program. You could also sign up for alerts about "ABC News," so you're up on what's happening within the whole news division. Google alerts will send that information right to your inbox.
Create a blog. It sounds intimidating because we think it requires extensive technical expertise or a commitment to typing away all day, every day. Neither are true. Blogging is a fresh way to get noticed -- and to put the knowledge gained from those Google alerts to good use.
Technology companies scour blogs to find new talent, and now recruiters in other industries -- retail, hospitality, sales, marketing, advertising and so much more -- are checking out blogs to find talented people who are passionate about their skills and knowledge.
Among the popular sites to set up your own blog include Blogger.com, Vox.com, Wordpress.com and LiveJournal.com. (Check each site before settling on one so you're comfortable with the format and requirements.)
Follow the easy-to-use instructions on how to create a blog on the topic of your professional expertise and then decide on your content. You can offer your opinion and expertise on current hot button issues in your field, or you could go the opposite route and use the blog to dissect obscure aspects of your field. Link to articles and other blogs of interest, and then ask those bloggers and writers to link back to your stuff too.
Your resume is the document that states what you claim to know, and a blog is an in-depth forum showcasing or proving what you know.
Just like company Web sites have an "about us" section, you should create an "about me" section, including details on your education, work experience and skills and interests.
Be sure to use "public" not "private" forums so your content is searchable and accessible by everyone, not just those you designate. This enables recruiters and hiring managers to find you.
Submit your blog at no charge on Technorati.com, which is a search engine of thousands of blogs searchable by category. Be proactive about promoting your blog by sending links to your musings and work to people in your field who would likely be interested.
Above all, pay particular attention to your writing skills. You're not delivering the right impression if the spelling and grammar leave a lot to be desired, even if your thoughts are great.
Post expert opinions. Get your name and your knowledge out there by posting reviews to books on Amazon.com or other similar sites related to your expertise. You can also post comments on industry blogs and message boards that showcase your knowledge. All of this content becomes accessible by other people who are interested in the same topics. And they're becoming a primary source for recruiters.
Tory Johnson is the Workplace Contributor on Good Morning America and the CEO of Women For Hire. Visit her Web site at www.womenforhire.com.