We’ve all been there. You Google a business contact, an interviewer, or (let’s be honest) a prospective date, and the only thing of relevance in the search results is a LinkedIn profile. And unfortunately, there’s frustratingly little you can learn from that besides a person’s employer, job title, and (yawn) membership in professional associations.

If you’re in the market for real insight into someone’s personality, the LinkedIn snoozefest isn’t going to cut it. Without exposure to this person’s true character, you’re marooned in a digital wasteland, thirsting for any droplet of individual flavor. I call it the LinkedIn Desert.

Think about it: when people look for you online, are they stranded in the Desert?  If you want to tell someone—or the world—who you really are, your resume will never be enough. By definition, it’s standardized, limiting, and devoid of character. In a digital age capable of 280 high-definition pixels per inch, your resume draws you as a stick figure with a graduation cap. It’s time for a change.

Put it All Out There

Let’s face it, there are plenty of liberal arts grads with consulting experience. But how many of them have run a marathon on every continent or won a salsa dancing competition? Scanning the bottom of a resume, where a brave few include interests and so-called “non-professional” pursuits, can surface all kinds of colorful tidbits about someone—from a yoga certification to a motorcycle affinity to a sustainable food blog. So, why is this tiny section—which arguably says the most about who you are—relegated to the bottom of the resume or omitted altogether?

Opening yourself up and sharing your distinguishing qualities can give you a leg up over another candidate in an interview or facilitate an introduction to someone you admire. Sure, you might be nervous about revealing too much of yourself online. But increasingly, the world is going digital, and you won’t  be able to hide. It’s up to you to take the reins on your online identity, and there’s no better time than now.

Digitize Your Life

If you’ve shied away from Twitter or WordPress because you think no one wants to read self-indulgent diatribes about your latest break-up or hear about your trip to the grocery store, you’re right. Developing your identity online requires meaningful curation to reflect who you are, not just what you ate for lunch.

But social technology has opened the door to a whole new world of self expression, and there are scores of digital tools to help you come alive online effectively. Here are a few ways to get started.

  • Show the Real You: Consider starting a blog, setting up a Twitter account, or sharing a Flickr album. Not only will it help you explore your own identity, but it’ll be a refreshing treat for the next person who Googles you.
    • Share Your Stuff: If you’re into reading, why not set up a “bookshelf” on Goodreads? Musician? Give SoundCloud a try.  If making things by hand is more your style, an Etsy page might be up your alley.
      • Create a Collection: If your preference is to consume rather than create, a Tumblr or Pinterest account allows you to collect and share content that is meaningful to you.
        • Upgrade your Resume: Don’t get me wrong, resumes are still important. There will always be a place for work experience and education. But imaginative startups like Vizualize.me and Zerply are embracing the importance of design and creating new ways to share resume information, so you can express yourself even when covering the basics.
        • Of course, using social technology is a two-way street. Creating an online presence gives you a voice, and if you act foolishly, you can get yourself into trouble. But when cultivated thoughtfully, an authentic online identity adds richness to your character, making you a more interesting job candidate, professional contact, and digital citizen.

          With a dearth of female role models in technology and entrepreneurship, Gen Y faces a challenging question: what does it mean to be a woman in the digital age? In "The Download," Anneke Jong explores the new ways that young women engage with technology to pursue their passions, curate their personal brands, and develop a new paradigm for the female identity. Read more every other Friday.

          Photo courtesy of Pete O'Shea.