Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Creating an Online Presence

One of the things I've been beat over the head with over the last couple of years is the idea that in order to get anywhere you want career-wise in life, anywhere at all, you must create and maintain an online presence for yourself. There's a lot of wisdom in this assertion, and it's something I'm in the process of trying to do for sure. However, coming from a girl who has been halfheartedly trying to fill up the same paper journal since her 18th birthday - to be fair, I'm about 80% of the way there now - the idea of creating and maintaining a niche for yourself online that is creative, innovative, flattering, and professional yet full of your own personality is an almost insurmountable challenge. Even keeping this blog regularly has proved, at least over the last brutal quarter or two, to be more than I can handle.

When I check out the personal websites of people in professional positions I covet, at first glance, it doesn't look like it'd be too difficult at all to set up something similarly streamlined and professional-looking for myself! Minimalist webpage with my name as the URL, buttons to all my other social networking sites readily available (Facebook, Twitter, blog, my as-yet-non-existent Tumblr, the LinkedIn profile I haven't updated in at least a year, etc.), my resume and contact info, a mission statement, quirky About Me section, and what will hopefully eventually be a long list of projects I've worked on and/or contributed to in some significant way. But then, after thinking about it a little more, I realize that creating this online presence is kind of like getting in shape: the initial uphill struggle of setting everything up is a total bitch, while maintaining it comes more easily with a lot of time and practice, neither of which I've given much thought to over the past couple years.

I think part of it stems from the topic I addressed in my last post. I don't really know yet where I'd specifically like to end up. I know without a doubt that my primary goal is to work with people - my greatest joy in a workplace environment comes with bringing diverse people and personalities together and helping their creative gears turn smoothly by anticipating and filling needs. I'm not creative in the way that encourages individual creation of art or music or a product, but I'm a creative interpersonal problem-solver, and I also really enjoy finding people the information they need at any given time. I'd like to work with people who create, and who are passionate about what they do, since I am passionate about working with people like that. Only problem with this? I've never been in a position to do any kind of project management, and thus don't have a sexy Projects or Professional Involvement list to include on my resume.

So why not network, you say! Use the influence you gain via Twitter or other online media to create those kinds of opportunities for yourself! Easier said than done, I reply. At the moment, I am following 266 people on Twitter and have 171 followers myself (@katie_westlake). I've got this blog, which I try and update at least once every month or so, and there's always the myriad of other more subtle social networking methods you can use, like interacting with people over Facebook or Google+. And many of the networking opportunities I've participated in in the past (the lovely #libchat discussion that goes on every Wednesday on Twitter, for example) aren't as open to me as they once were because my focus is shifting further and further away from library work and more into...unknown territory. Much of the networking available to me right now is library-centric, and I feel a bit unsure as to how to proceed when I see questions geared around "In your library...", or when networking or professional development events pop up in my school email that are designed for job searching in the library world.

All that being said, I'm going to try and work a lot harder on developing and maintaining a solid online presence for myself. I'll recruit all the help I need to build an awesome website to showcase my accomplishments, whatever they'll eventually be, and I'll be posting a lot more on this blog, Twitter, and Google+. Might even start up a Tumblr, if it wouldn't be too hipster-y of me. The danger of doing this, of course, is figuring out how much of myself I can include in these things without being seen as unprofessional, but that's for another post. Right now, it's off to check the discussion boards for 580 and do some reading for INFX 543.

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