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What? You’ve never heard of it?

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It’s all the social media rage.

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And all the kids are doing it.

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Heck, not just all the kids either. Some of us older folk are doing it, too.

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Because we want to be found. We want to be seen. We want to be known.

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And is that so wrong?

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I’m talking about the selfie – the uninhibited, self-promotional, narcissistic, look-at-me-I-rock photographic posting activity booming today. Even if it’s in a self-deprecating light, which I happen to partake in as well, it’s still look at me, please! 

I know, the fact that I’m referencing the following in the same piece while trying to distance myself from it doesn’t actually make logical sense, but 33-year-old reality star Kim Kardashian’s selfie book titled Selfish has helped push selfies into the mainstream face (no, I’m not linking to it).

According to a Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year, 55% of Millennials (18-33 years old) have posted a “selfie” on a social media site; no other generation is nearly as inclined to do this. Overall, 26% of Americans have shared a “selfie” on a photo-sharing or social networking site.

When compared to my Gen X Brothers and Sisters, where we’re less than half of the Millennials who post selfies (and Boomers were only a fraction), I’d have to argue that all those Gen Xers partaking in the selfie “boom” are probably all my friends and me.

Really. Just look at our Instagram feeds. I even posted the morning I had knee surgery, complete with the hospital cap.

Ironically, the same survey says that 9 in 10 Millennials say people generally share too much information about themselves online, a view held by similarly lopsided proportions of all older generations.

I’m not really sure what that means, other than some aren’t as restrained and emotionally intelligent as others, sharing more of what’s self-serving, startling and offensive than what’s fun, maybe educational and certainly relevant for the rest of the world, or at least our various little social worlds. Or, just not sharing anything at all because it’s nobody’s business. Transparency isn’t for everyone you know.

However, if a Millennial falls in the forest, and it hasn’t posted a selfie on its online social profile, do we even know it’s there? Half the time we don’t.

But half the time we do, because half the time he still wants to be found. She still wants to be seen. He still wants to be known. Those selfies will continue to appear. Many Millennials were raised in attention-rich, feedback-laced environments (I didn’t say coddled, mind you), which is why they’ve probably adopted the online social profile where they post their selfies to at a faster rate than other generations (who are all catching up, by the way).

No, they didn’t all grow up with social; the 30-year-olds in the crowd were already 10 when the Internet became public domain, still years from Facebook. The youngest of them did grow up social, though.

That said, let’s jump to our professional (personal) brands online. Today LinkedIn has more than 313 million members in over 200 countries and territories, and please note that students and recent college graduates are also LinkedIn’s fastest-growing demographic. The online professional profile is becoming the career currency of choice for many young and old, but still second to the resume.

Yes, there’s still much recruiting hubbub about the online professional profile, with recruiters heavily leveraging LinkedIn to source, but not especially found of the subjective recommendations and endorsements, both of which can help tell a story to prospective employers, HR pros, recruiters and hiring managers.

Not necessarily a fact-based story, but a story nonetheless, one that gives a subjectively padded worldview of the person, maybe even more so than the resume. In fact according to CareerBuilder, 58% of hiring managers said they’ve caught a lie on a resume. On the other hand, online professional profiles that have recommendations and endorsements more than likely have fewer blatant falsities, only because of the peer validation in play.

I mean, if we put ourselves out there with previous work experience, skills, projects, wins, connections and more, and asked previous employers, peers and even friends to “validate” us by recommending/endorsing, then we’re probably going to reduce the number of those old resume white lies, don’t you think? I do. Most of us certainly don’t want archenemies, or even a nemeses, to call us out (although we all know how the anonymous think it pays to be hated). I would also hope the incidence of professional catfish stories are pretty low.

kwg surgeryHey, don’t worry, because I’m real and my name is Kevin W. Grossman and I’m sticking to my story (and my pics, even when I had knee surgery recently).

But our story’s return is only as valuable as the investment of keeping ourselves found, seen and known. That’s why we serve it selfishly. What? You think we put ourselves out there for just kicks and giggles? Forget it. We’re in it to win it, kids.

Regardless of generation, we should all ensure our online profiles are as consistent and accurate as possible across all social points of presence if we want the investment to pay off long-term, not short-term until we’re caught in a web of lies. In other words, whoever we say we are and whatever we say we’ve done and we do is close if not identical on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, G+ and the many other industry and association niche networks and communities we might belong to.

The same is now true inside the enterprise, with Millennials taking ownership of their social profiles busting at the seams inside talent management software and internal social networks. Companies are benefiting from these robust talent profiles, which provide a consolidated view of data for all employees, permanent and contract alike. Talent profiles enable more proactive workforce planning and are also instrumental in providing highly personalized training and development.

Yes, there are those who have highly sought after skills and do not want to be found. There are those who work in smaller companies and don’t need to been found. And there are those who work in larger companies and don’t want to be seen or known.

The rest of us, extrovert or not, don’t have that luxury. We need to be found, seen and known. We serve the return when we invest in our personal branded profiles, our professional selfies, inside and out (and so do the companies we work for, or will work for, we hope). The return being where we go on our career adventures, the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards we receive, the business outcomes we help our employers and ourselves generate – so it behooves us to take special care with:

  1. Consistency and Accuracy. These are the critical keys, because those searching you out and reviewing who you are will be looking for anomalies that don’t add up — and you want to always have everything add up. You want to stand out, but you want to add up — and for goodness sake you want to be accurate and truthful about everything. That includes reviewing your recommendations and endorsements. Never over-spin, or allow it. Not only that, you should at the very least review and update your online profiles at least once per quarter, and kill those you no longer want to maintain, even if you’re not looking for work.
  2. Continuous Upkeep. Our profiles are only continuously valuable to the us as professionals and our organizations if they’re being maintained. The good news is that Millennials and Gen Y have grown up in social networks, and all other generations are adopting them, which includes updating their personal profiles quite regularly so their friends, families and peers see their day-to-day activities just as regularly. That’s why another value-add of talent profiles is user adoption, since the employees’ “talent profiles” are the key to being seen in the organization. Plus, I argue that all generations today crave continuous performance feedback and recognition and our professional profiles help solidify the emotionally productive connections to our craft.

You never know when that great new opportunity is looking for you (and at you), inside or out. It’s your personal employment brand. Take care of your investment, kids.

And do us all a favor and share a little smile when you take that picture for your online profile.

This article was inspired by the TalentCulture #TChat Show. Don’t forget to check out the TalentCulture #TChat Show every Wednesday from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT). Join us!

photo credit: Infomastern via photopin cc