The US population ebbs and flows just like the ocean. After WWII there was the baby boom, when the US saw the highest birth rate it had seen since it’s founding. Since then we’ve seen Generation X and the Millenials (Generation Y). The Baby Boomers are getting older now, and they are settling down, retiring, and becoming empty nesters. The Gen Xers are in their mid 30s to late 40s—in the middle of their careers—but the Millenials are just getting started. And growing up in the internet age, surrounded by technology and endless accessibility to data, has given them a different perspective on information sharing and personal reputation not shared by older generations.
Boomers aren’t interested in learning new technologies unless it helps them talk to their children and grand children. And Gen Xers are pretty tech savvy, but they understand that technology is simply a tool and a proxy for interpersonal relationships. Millennials, on the other hand, have grown up sharing all types of personal information online through social networks, blogs, and more.
Where Boomers aren’t concerned about online reputation, and Gen Xers are aware of how damaging it can be. Most Millennials have yet to face the consequences of bad reputation management. And for a generation that has shared so much online, that’s a problem.
However as they leave college and enter the workforce, the problems of sharing anything and everything online will start to become apparent. Not only are prospective employers cruising social networks to check out job applicants but being easily found online is quickly becoming a mark of prestige. As a result, negative and embarrassing online content is a bigger liability now than it has ever been in the history of our culture, and a lack of being easily found can be a sign of lack of experience and engagement.
So it is now the tricky job of Millennials to walk a fine line between sharing too much information and sharing just enough content online to build a positive reputation. Millennials have to be vigilant reputation managers of their identity like no other generation has been. But they can get things straight and cultivate a positive online reputation if they start early and follow a few basic principles.
1) Be mindful
First and foremost, Millennials need to be aware that what they do and say online matters. In high school it’s easy to think, “I can do and say what I want, no one cares.” But you have to keep in mind that the thing you didn’t think was important four years ago is still there, and people you want to impress can find it easier than you think. So the first step in cultivating a positive personal reputation management strategy is to only post positive content to social networks and blogs. Don’t post embarrassing information or (heaven forbid) brag about doing something illegal or unethical.
2) Get a head start
Because most Millennials are not concerned about these things, those that recognize the importance of reputation management have a fantastic opportunity in front of them. Grab up as many personalized online properties as you can while you’re young. And hang onto them. For example, personalized social profiles, name specific domains, and more. You may not need to use them now, but one day they will come in handy. And you want to grab them before someone else does.
One of the best things you can do to cultivate a positive online reputation is to create content. That is, start a blog, curate content through your social networks, and become an influencer online. Even though you may still be young, start building a professional profile now. Colleges and future employers will be impressed with the work you’ve done so early in life, and you’ll be a shoo-in compared with applicants who aren’t aware of their online reputation at all.
4) Take care
As you look toward the future, think about reputation management as you go about your digital life. Look toward the future with a goal of being easily found online (for positive reasons) and work toward it. If you don’t take control of your online reputation, then your carelessness will. Stay on top of new technology and new platforms as they arise so you can always be ahead of the reputation management game.