Reinventing Yourself

Over the past year I’ve been growing both professionally and personally. It hasn’t been an easy growth and there’s been a lot of learning, reflection and decision making going on. Nearing the end of 2012, I realized that for as much as I was growing, my online identity was no longer akin to who I was, so I made the conscious choice to “reinvent” my image on social media. Now, this has not been a simple process and has taken months to accomplish. When I first decided to do this, it seemed a daunting challenge. However, as I went through this journey, I realized that I’m not alone in this reinventing effort. Fellow professionals were also dealing with the need to “reinvent” their digital identity as they entered their respective areas of higher education. Even friends not in the higher education field were struggling with this.

After sitting and thinking of an attack plan to undertake this self-improvement project, my mind went on a tangent and came to the conclusion that many of the challenges dealing with reinventing digital identities are rooted in having had profiles since the conception of social networking platforms, such as Facebook and MySpace and no precedence for guidance. Back in 2003, when I first registered on Facebook and was already well on my way with MySpace, I would never have dreamed of the scope, growth, and level of power of social media that it has reached today. If that had been known, I expect many of us would have made better choices in postings and photos. So how do you take years of social media existence and “reinvent” yourself so that you are ready for the professional field or even the newest chapter in your life? Over the past few months, I’ve come across and created some best practices, reflective questions and suggestions and want to share these with you now and the process that I went through. I think that some of these can also help you decide on creating an online identity if you don’t already have one too.

1) What is the purpose for your profile? Is it professional, personal or a combination of both?

For myself, I decided, after long talks with colleagues, to have one profile that is both professional and personal. I believe that these are the most honest and successful profiles for Student Affairs practitioners.

2) What is the current content on your profile and is it how you want to represent yourself professionally and personally? Read through some of your past posts, statuses, photos, etc. Make mental or written notes of what postings that you feel are good and not so good representations of who you are and how you wish to be represented in your online identity.

For myself I found that I had an over excessive amount of postings about my social life and used it far too personally and had a poor balance of personal with professional. Then I made a list of attributes not already portrayed in my online identity that I wanted to portray to the world and wrote those out.

3) With these two questions answered, I suggest you begin with the About Me sections of your profiles. You can use this as a foundation and guide as you reinvent your digital identity. Take time to write a short, honest and well written introduction. State who you are, both as a professional and individual. You don’t have to throw in the entire kitchen sink. List your interests and then use your posts, shares, statuses, tweets etc to elaborate on those interests.  Also depending, you could use the same introduction for multiple platforms.

For myself I covered who I am, as a professional and personal interests that I am passionate about:

I am a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, pursuing a degree in Higher Education-Student Affairs. I’ve been in the Student Affairs field since graduating from UM-Flint in 2007. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, web 2.0, LGBT issues and general life inspirations and observations. I also serve as the District Grand Master of Michigan for Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

4) Take a look at your profile settings. Who can see posts, photos?  Who can post on your profile? Will these settings help to accomplish portraying yourself as you have set out in your About Me section?

I have set all my settings, if possible to “only friends” as well as ensuring that any posts on my Facebook, LinkedIn etc. walls be approved by me prior to their launching. By having these settings, I am able to control content and ensure what I want as representation of myself on my profiles. Additionally, having only friends review my posts, I can ensure that my content is shared with individuals who, I know, can appreciate what I share. I then also utilize my followers and friends as my filter to the general public. If my followers or friends find value in what I’ve posted they will share or retweet my content. Having a private profile doesn’t always mean that you are not able to reach the multitudes.

5) Be mindful of your social media practices. Are you creating content, sharing content, or simply following content? Are you being consistent with your content about the interests you’ve shared?

For myself I’ve decided to create content as well as sharing and following it. I make it a point to write one original status or tweet a day, in addition to sharing articles, videos, photos, etc. I also ensure that I write at least 2 new blog posts per week if at all possible. It can be time consuming, but for me, I want to be recognized as an individual who is not only staying up on the latest information and news, but also helping to guide and move both professional colleagues, friends and family forward in my areas of interest.

6) Optional Purge!

This is what takes the most time and I put until last. And, while it could very well be left alone and justified that it was “in the past”, I still went through every one of my photos, favorite quotes, groups, etc. It’s taken about 4 months to go through, but I wanted my profiles to speak about who I have grown into not who I was in my younger years. Additionally, I can tell my past better than my online profiles. I am willing to share but there is a time and place. Personally I can understand that who you were a year ago can be 180 from who you are today. I’m a walking example of that. However, I want to enforce what I have learned and show that on my platforms.

These are some of the key steps that I took to reinventing my digital identity. I hope some of these can help any of you readers find a place to begin such a daunting task. For me, it took some time, but the effort is paying off. By no means is this list exhausted and if you have any good suggestions or practices, please let me know! Also let me know of your journey in reinventing your digital identity if you’ve gone through this! I love hearing stories of fellow comrades in arms.

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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