As we found out in my last blog while creating our Gmail account, it doesn't take
long before these sites start wanting to know more about you. This can be
intimidating to those of us who work in public works because normally our motto
is "keep a low profile." We are the "behind the scenes crew," making sure
everything is running well while the world goes about their business. And we
like it that way.
However, in today's world we are beginning to see that this approach has
worked against us. When things go so well and no one understands why, they don't
realize what it takes to support that effort and the people behind it. So our
revenue and salaries and positions get cut — you all know the story; you're
living it everyday. So, yes, telling the world a little bit about yourself might
be against everything you've been taught. But, in the end, it might be worth
trying if it can help reinforce in the public mind the importance of what we do.
Your online profile — the username
Enough about the philosophy behind why we need to tell the world about
ourselves. Let's get into the details of how we do that. Typically an online
profile will include a username, a short paragraph about yourself, and a photo.
Let's start with the username. We already had to choose one during our Gmail expedition. And if you continue on in this journey,
you'll find that almost every social media site asks you for a username. So
first, you should think about whether you want to use the same name on every
site or change it depending on the site.
There's several thoughts on this. If you end up active on many sites with the
same username, your username can end up branding you. People will become
familiar with you, your ideas, your thoughts, and your interests. So when they
see your username on a site, they have an understanding of what you are all
about based on your online activity. Of course if someone else signs up on a
site with the username you normally have, there is a risk your personal brand
could be compromised. And few of us have the celebrity status it would take to
allow us to contact the site and ask for the username to be transferred to us.
This is why some people choose a name and then before going forward with it,
check to see its use across social media platforms. You can use services like knowem or NameChk to see the availability of
a specific username.
There are others who aren't interested in creating an online image or brand
of themselves — they just want to participate in the online conversation
without worrying about what others think of them. They aren't interested in
protecting their name or in consistency in their online activity. The risk with
this approach is that we are still in the beginning stages of knowing the
results, or consequences, of our online activity. Perhaps doing whatever you
want without a care about the image you create will someday be the norm. But for
now, most professional people I know are treading cautiously online. They take
care in what they post and how they portray themselves. One reason is employers
have been known to disregard potential employees because of what they posted
And finally, there are those who aren't interested in creating an image or
participating in the online conversation. In this case, creating the same
username on every site is probably not that important. In the end, the direction
you take with your username will be up to you, depending on what is important to
you and your level and type of participation.
Your online profile — the photo
As we also found out in my last blog, social networking and browser-based email
sites like Gmail want to know what we look like. They typically ask us to upload
a small photo. While at first you might be hesitant to do so, having your photo
tied to your profile is important to better reinforce your connections with
people. So what you'll need to decide is if you want to use an actual photo of
yourself, or use some other image to represent you. Remember, this is for
work-related purposes, so using a photo showing you partying or worse, passed
out, is not wise. If an actual photo is what you want, find one that shows you
in a safe, neutral setting. If you decide to use some other image, pick one that
will not offend anyone else. Something related to your work is probably a good
Once you have your image in mind, you must prepare it for the sites on which
it will be displayed. Typically, these photos are shown as a small thumbnail
image on a website so they do not have to be large or high-resolution. If you
are familiar with image-editing software, open your image in your favorite
graphics program. For those of you who might not be very familiar with photo
editing software, you can always use free online tools like fotoflexer.com. Once you get
your photo into the program, crop out any portions of the image you wish to
eliminate. Resize the image to 120x120 pixels with a resolution of 72 or 100.
Give this file a name like myprofilephoto and save it as a jpg or png file
somewhere on your computer where it is easy to find. Then the next time a site
asks for your profile photo, you'll be ready.
Your online profile — personal summary
Finally, these sites want to know what you are all about. They usually ask
you to fill out a quick summary about yourself in 100 words or less. If you're
joining these sites for professional reasons, this summary of you should focus
on work-related information. While some people include the name of their
employer and exact location, others choose to remain more vague. This decision
is also yours to make. Perhaps if you have any reservations about sharing your
life's details, you might want to start by using vague references such as
"engineer for a mid-sized community on the East Coast," or "salesman for a small
distributor in the water treatment industry," or "operator of a 4-mgd wastewater
facility in the Western U.S." As you become more comfortable on a specific site,
you can always go back and edit this information, adding more detail.
Some sites do ask your age and encourage you to state your gender. Usually
you can turn this information on or off or make it private or public so you only
reveal what you choose.
One additional tip for your personal summary: It might be a good idea to type
it in a simple program like Wordpad. Then save and name it so it's easy to
remember, using something like "mywebprofile." Then each time you sign up on a
site, you can find the file and copy and paste the information. This also helps
to make sure that no matter where people find you online, your summary will
always be the same.
And that's it! With your username, photos, and personal summary, you're ready
to join online sites!