They used to say that people judged you in the first ten seconds after you entered the room and that a big smile and a strong handshake would put you in good stead. But today, they are already half way there before you open the door. Not only will your cv have been scrutinised, but your LinkedIn page, your personal website, online photos and that embarrassing account of the holiday you took in Spain when you were nineteen.
In this world, your professional footprint is important: how are you represented online? How does this reflect the new reality where we no longer have clear differentiation between the formal environment of work and the social one outside it. As the worlds converge to one semi formal space, we are likely to find it increasingly hard to maintain separation, so we may need to more proactively curate ourselves online.
In the old world, the organisation owned your career: you joined, you worked hard, got your small percentage pay rise each year and eventually made team leader, then manager and finally department head. Then you retired and took the pension. Today, you will have been made redundant by the time you get five years in, you will be working with people across the globe and your reputation is more than just the sharpness of your suit and the firmness of your grip. We have an alter ego online and they are highly visible.
The move towards greater use of semi social spaces in learning impacts around this, as we are formally asked to develop and utilise the power of these spaces, we increase our online presence and the exposure of our social selves to our formal colleagues.
Issues of trust and integrity in the online world are significant, alongside a developing understanding by both organisations and individuals that the social world is different from the formal office one.
The rise of self publishing, blogging, Twitter and various other tools means that we are no longer the silent minority: people have opinions and they want to share them. As we encourage it with one hand, developing social spaces and online worlds for learners, we take it away with the other, trying to exert outdated modes of command and control on spaces that are really outside our influence.
Your footprint is bigger than the size of your shoes these days: we all have choices. You can develop your ideas into an eBook or blog and share it with the world. You can cultivate learning communities in your own organisation and use them to achieve more than any of you would be able to achieve individually. I use groups for research, for testing ideas, for rehearsing my language and learning and for taking constructive challenges.
What does your professional footprint look like? How do you engage in semi social spaces? How are we asking people to engage in learning spaces and what are the risks and benefits of this? These are significant questions for 21st century organisations and 21st century workers. The world has changed, we are visible in different ways, we learn and work in different ways and we need to curate our presence accordingly. After all, you think about what you wear when you go to work to ensure you give the right image. Why would your online presence be different?