When you look at a successful person, what do you see? Do you simply see the string of events which have marked them out from their peers? Is there a linear progression that you can define, or is there something more?
Bring the same questions closer to your own world. Who do you admire? What piques your interest in them? Is it their technical skill? Is it their knowledge? Is it their seemingly effortless ability to bring projects in, on time and budget?
Perhaps it is a combination of all these things. But another question remains – HOW did you come to know of this person’s work? How did were you able to come to understand their position in your profession? My guess is that it comes down to one thing – contribution. It is through your contribution to your profession and to your community that you become “known” for something. You become known for doing, for creating and for participating.
This is important in our ever-increasingly connected world. Our social and professional artefacts are now easily spotted online. We receive recommendations on LinkedIn, collaborate on open source or community projects, share our knowledge on forums and provide feedback on content all over the web. It is easy to think that this is all unconnected. But our identities (in all their forms) are more recognisable and discoverable than ever before.
This has impacts on our careers, reputations and future working and professional opportunities. After all, what happens when a potential employer “Googles you”? What happens when a new colleague searches for “your name” online? What is the story that they will find?
This interesting experiment from the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Lab, reaches out to the web and brings back all the information it can find on “you”. It shows uncanny insight but also “inadvertent errors” related to the inability to differentiate between people with the same name. For example, this is one of the screens that is shown when searching on my name.
It may not be 100% accurate, but gives you some idea of the story that your digital footprint tells. But clearly, the more you contribute online, the more “you” feeds into these online stories. And in the long run, that’s only going to help your career.
Update: The link to the persona builder is here.