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Keen Observations on Life … Whether You Need Them or Not

Ninth Grade Advice: Build An Effective Online Presence


This morning, I was one of four panelists in the AHS AOIT presentations on soft skills. My topic was Establishing and Building an Online Presence, and I focused on using technology to build a good resume and personal platform. Talk about FUN. Those kids were totally interesting.

I suppose I could resent the term “soft skills,” but I choose instead to embrace the importance of its theory: the skills that either get you in the door or keep you there. Soft skills are your people skills, and they are a nuance — aspects of your personality that allow you to excel with problem solving, teamwork and adaptability. Critical thinking is a soft skill, and it’s a critical piece of the puzzle, man. The world is full of computer programmers and doctors and CEO’s; what it needs is effective, charismatic, engaging communicators. Some things you’re born with, plain and simple. So take these diamonds of wisdom for what they’re worth … and they are diamonds, people. There’s some good stuff here.

Online PresenceRemember: this discussion was for ninth graders in the NAF’s number one AOIT academy in the nation. These kids breathe awesome. But they’re 14 and 15, and just starting out in terms of considering their future selves. To this point, most of the kids counted as their social media presence apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, and Tumblr, so we focused on LinkedIn and WordPress, and the death of paper resumes.

My great friend, Angela Connor, used to be the managing editor at GOLO while we were both with Capitol Broadcasting Company. She is awesome, and is now the Senior Vice President | Group Director at Capstrat. I reached out to her for a little sage advice to share with the kids. What follows are some take-away tips from her thoughts and mine, in no particular order.

  • Your online self is NOT different from your real-life self. Protect it.
  •  “When someone Google’s you, you want to be 100% sure that they will find information that has been provided and updated by you. You don’t want them to find all of the pictures you’ve been tagged in on Facebook or Instagram that don’t put you in the best light. Even though you don’t trust the privacy settings, be sure to set them. If there is an option for you to approve something before it posts, do it.” – AC
  • “Treat your online presence like a resume.”  – AC
  • Establish yourself as an expert and thought leader. Even at your age, you have something important to say.
  • It’s never too early for you (AOIT students) to begin building your LinkedIn profile. By the end of your first semester in ninth grade, you will have three professional Microsoft Certifications (Outlook, Word, Excel). By the time you graduate from high school in 2017, you will add to that certifications in SAS, Cisco, C+, along with programming skills in Visual Basic, and a formal internship. You will enter college leaps and bounds ahead of the curve. THAT is the basis for a spectacular online resume. Using things like LinkedIn make it easier to network, and that makes it easier to get where you want to be.
  • Once you publish your first comment online, anywhere, you’re in the system. Every Tweet is stored in the US Library of Congress, if that tells you anything, so remember that the hurtful comment you posted about your ex-boyfriend or that embarrassing party photo you Instagrammed, or the questionable racially biased video you shared on Reddit is lurking somewhere, like the Lost Ark. Until you have a substantial work history, the only thing potential employers or colleges have to go on with a Google search is your online profile. Do you want to look like a jackass, or a rock star? Protect your image.
  • “If you are passionate about a subject or gifted in a certain area, consider creating a blog about it.”  – AC
  • Remember: never trust privacy settings. If you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see it, don’t post it. And if you wouldn’t say it to your parents or a friend face-to-face, you should probably rethink posting it online.
  • Everything you have to say is worthwhile. Every opinion you have, every question, every observation is worthy. Just because you’re 14 and 15 does NOT mean you are inconsequential or unimportant to the conversation at hand. Develop your voice and learn how to present it through a personal blog. Using a tool, like WordPress, for blogging and as a Web site (with different pages) is a great way to build your blueprint. It’s free and easy, always accessible, and under your control. Post your resume and references there; add a portfolio and lots of visuals. Make it stand out and impressionable. And always keep your mother in mind. Think: would I show this to my mother? If no, then maybe you need to rethink your approach.
  • YOU are millennials! Think about it: you are the high school graduating class of 2017, and the college graduating class of 2021 … that, in and of itself, is pretty badass. Use the technology at your fingertips and that which will come along in the future, to your best advantage. How can you best represent yourself when you aren’t there in person? What will make you memorable?
  • Consider a Living Resume … by the way, I just found this on Pinterest and think it is Awesome with a capital A!
  • Build a strong LinkedIn profile, and keep it current.
  • Reverse engineer your resume and training. When you find a career that’s interesting, find somebody in the world who has that job. Look at their education, look at the skills they list in their resume/profile, and figure out how to add them to your bag of tricks. Google universities that offer that course of study; find community colleges or corporations that provide industry certifications; contact professionals in the industry and ask them to be a mentor or for advice. Who knows: YOU might be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

And if you’ve gotten this far, here’s a note to parents: know what your kids are doing online. Listen to the social media sites they talk about and join them, too. There’s a big difference in participating and policing. You don’t have to be Big Brother to help guide your kids in their natural progression to a more technological world. Like I said above: they’re millennial. They’ve got to live up to their names.


Author: Dolly R. Sickles

Writer, mother, wife, adventurer, agent of change, advocate, ally, volunteer, instructor ... I'm never bored. I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense under the name Becky Moore, and children’s literature under the name Dolly Dozier. You can also check me out at MacMillan Publishing’s Heroes & Heartbreakers, where I’m a romance blogger. During the fall and spring, you can find me in the classroom teaching other folks how to follow their dreams or how to fund their community outreach at Wake Technical Community College, and Central Carolina Community College. During the summer and at random times during the year, I'm out adventuring with my family.

2 thoughts on “Ninth Grade Advice: Build An Effective Online Presence

  1. Thanks for sharing my advice, Dolly. This generation will be one of the first to really experience the ramifications of making seemingly small mistakes online. But they will also be the generation to gain so much from all that is at their fingertips today. They will build on it and take the world to a new level.

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