‘Nothing’s a secret on social media’

Make sure your digital identity protects and projects your best self, says Esther Barrett, a digital practice specialist at Jisc

What does an employable person look like? Everyone irons their outfit before a job interview, mentally prepares answers around their skills and ambitions, arrives with a big smile and offers a firm handshake – because first impressions count. So does your online presence. In today’s job market, being charming face-to-face is only half the battle; if your social media tells a different story, that’s a problem.

Social media savviness is not ingrained

There’s a misconception that people who grew up in a digital world will automatically – almost innately – understand how to create an online identity that protects and projects their best self in a professional context. How on earth would young people, who’ve never had a job before, know how to do that? We all have to learn this stuff.

That’s why, in Wales, the government introduced digital literacy alongside literacy and numeracy as national qualifications in the Essential Skills Framework. The English government is now bringing in a very similar model – Digital Functional Skills – which includes teaching people how to use social media safely and wisely. Similarly, Jisc’s digital capabilities model features a strand around identity and wellbeing, which helps people unravel how social media works, see the power of it, and understand how not to fall foul of it.

Business vs. pleasure

Separating personal and professional digital identities can work well – but only if you accept that everything is visible. Never post things on any social media platform that could be misinterpreted or that might work against your interests. It’s fine to post photos of yourself at a gig or say you’ve had a bad day on a personal site – but think carefully about your language and behaviour. Nothing’s a secret on social media. What are you willing to share? Who are you comfortable sharing it with? How do you know it’s going to stay in the place you shared it? Education around digital literacy helps people determine where they draw the line – because there’s an element of personal choice, and it’s only with knowledge, skills and experience that you find the right balance for you.

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Teachers cannot be gatekeepers; learners need to know how to use social media well. Some might go on to become entrepreneurs, others might become businesspeople or artists. They might be self-employed. They will all have to engage with professional networks. In all environments and for all ways of working, tomorrow’s workers will need to protect and project themselves and the business they work for. By supporting them to develop their digital identity, educators are nurturing a very important skill.

Broadening our world and our horizons

In a career, social media is useful in so many ways.

How else can people find out what’s happening in their field? Looking at Twitter and LinkedIn is the easiest, quickest way. How do you find out what jobs are available? There are websites, but a lot of jobs come through social media. And, once people are in work, internal social media can help people progress and feel part of their company. It’s important to understand these benefits. In the Welsh Professional Standards for Practitioners, for example, teachers are expected to do professional networking – but no one can really do that without going online.

It’s easier to evidence your CPD when you have a digital presence. Our world and our horizons broaden if we tap into digital professional networks.


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