Monday, January 19, 2009

Projecting a Professional Image Online

Law student professionalism doesn't just include projecting a professional image in person or on paper: your online conduct and the image you present over email and on the internet also matter--so much so that it can cost you job opportunities. In fact, a February article in the National Jurist reports that about 15% of law schools consult applicants' personal websites and social networking sites when deciding whether to admit an applicant! Legal employers may also check a candidate's online profile before extending a job offer.

In one case filed against AutoAdmit, a college discussion board and website, two Yale law students claimed that they were victims of regular disparaging remarks on the site's forums, which ultimately caused them to miss out on jobs and internships.

How can law students avoid looking unprofessional online? Start with the following tips:

* Beware of your social networking habits, as employers are increasingly looking at social networking sites before making hiring decisions. Your Facebook or Linkedin profile should not include anything that you wouldn't share with a potential employer in person.

* As I wrote in my career column for the National Jurist, you can use blogging to your advantage. A blog may help you stand out in the eyes of a potential employer--but only if you blog right! Rather than maintaining a personal blog, write about professional issues: for example, a practice area that you're interested in or have studied, or your involvement in a student group. Your writing should be positive and professional.

* Remember that your postings on the internet may be permanent. Even if you delete content, it can still be cached and pulled up later.

* The basic rules of professionalism also apply to email. It's easy to view email as a relaxed, informal communication tool, but if you're using email in a professional setting, you still need to be professional--so don't send out anything that you wouldn't put in a formal letter. (Remember the "bla bla bla heard 'round the world?")

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