Here’s a fact: Your children are going to be Googled or searched for online over and over and over again in their lives, from adolescence to old age. And what comes up in that search may have huge implications, everything from where they might get accepted to school, who might hire them, and even who they might spend the rest of their lives with. Like it or not, having a positive, impressive digital “brand” is an increasingly important aspect of professional (and personal) life these days.
The Wall Street Journal suggested this week that, The New Resume: It’s 140 Characters and offers up tips on how to build an employable profile on Twitter. And as Glenn Liopis in Forbes reminds us, building a brand is now a “leadership requirement,” one that requires a “a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself” both online and off.
And who exactly is teaching kids that?
For some personal thoughts on the branding of two teenagers, read on.
A couple of years ago, I bought my children what I was hoping would be a lasting gift for Christmas: their own domain names. I watched excitedly as they “unwrapped” the envelopes with the details inside, thinking they’d jump up and down like when they were little kids getting cool new toys to play with. No such luck. As my daughter would say today, it was “awk-ward.” As in “Gee…wow…um, thanks Dad. That’s so cool…ok, who gets the next present?” (Still not as bad as those who name their children based on the availability of the domain, however.)
Regardless, I’m happy I did it. They have a space online that they can fill with whatever they want, hopefully the good, important, creative work they’re destined for. (Hey, a dad can hope.) And I like the idea that when they do become the subject of that Google search that those domains will float to the top of the search, way above any missteps or mistaken identities that might drag them down. To put it simply, I want my kids to be Googled well.
But that’s only half of it, right? The “brand” they will most likely have to construct is more than a few Tweets, the number of followers or friends they have online, or some impressive artifacts of their work. In the more complex scheme of things, that brand is also going to be forged on the interactions they share with friends and strangers, online and off. It is, as that Forbes article suggests, and ongoing, full-time journey, one that is decidedly different from the one I was on as I grew into adulthood. And it’s one that’s going to require a great deal of energy and thought and smart decision making to be useful.
The “brand” is not on the test. It’s not in the curriculum. Shockingly, it’s not in the Common Core. And so, it’s not much on the minds of most teachers or administrators, aside from the potential negatives that can so easily go viral. Our kids have few adult models for the type of branding we’re talking about, that type that is a “requirement” for leadership. And all of that makes this a really, really important moment for us. It’s not just about giving kids space (which this important new project is tackling, by the way.) It’s also about helping them fill that space.
We adults, the parents, teachers, aunts, uncles and others who circulate in our kids lives, might need some branding of our own. Have you Googled yourself lately? Was that a good thing? Was it “any” thing? And what are the implications if not?
Would love to hear your thoughts.