What’s the Big Idea?

The knowledge economy only seems to be limited to broadband. Actually, all careers are converging towards cyberspace, says Soraya Darabi, the digital media strategist for ABC News. The 27-year-old techie, who began her career managing social media partnerships for the New York Times at just 23, has over 400,000 Twitter followers -- one of the largest on the site (you'll find her at @SorayaDarabi). 

Whether you too are a god of the Twitterverse, or happier with a ballpoint pen in hand, your career will likely be influenced by social networking in some way. For example, a 2009 survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 45% of employers use the Internet to research applicants. "As more and more jobs become digital, it is increasingly imperative for [all of] us to have a strong digital presence,” says Darabi. Will reputations now be made or broken online?

It depends. Of the employers who participated in the survey, 35% reported rejecting a potential hire based on content unearthed on the web. But generally, the offenses referenced were obvious eyebrow-raisers (i.e. tirades against previous employers, photos of the candidate asleep under a thirty pack) rather than subjective considerations, which means that as long as you're smart, networking shouldn't be "no fun and games." 

It's actually preferable to show your authentic self on your LinkedIn or Facebook profile, even if you're connected to coworkers. People want to employ people, not automatons. Your boss may not care what your aunt is bringing to the family picnic, but having a following is now decidedly a virtue.

Darabi puts some distance between work and life by using different social networks for different functions. "On Facebook I tend to follow friends in real life, and as a 27 year-old woman from Minnesota my feed is dominated right now by friends who are having babies. So my Facebook feed is nothing but homemaking and my Twitter feed is nothing but 'have you heard about this story on Tech Crunch?' That's kind of how I like it. My lives are filtered on a personal level and a professional level." 

What’s the Significance?

If you're currently looking for a job, Darabi's admonition to close your .pdf file and open LinkedIn may feel like being told to put away your homework and go out and play. But if you're proactive, your digital résumé can help you find the connections you need to land a gig or make it to the next step. Assume you're being Googled by employers, and use social networks to declare your brilliance. It might get you noticed. 

It might even get you your next job. The digital economy is rapidly expanding, and it's likely where many of the the businesses of the future are headed. According to a paper by the Chief Economist of the U.S. Census Bureau, "The ubiquitous availability of inexpensive and powerful computer hardware and software greatly reduces the costs setting up an e-business regardless of location... This is likely to have significant market structure implications for a wide range of goods and services."

What do you think? Is sending out physical copies of your résumé a vestigial habit, as antiquated as wearing a hat to work -- or should recent graduates still invest in 24 lb. woven ivory writing paper? Is it fair for employers to Google potential hires?