The idea of having a perfect online identity is not realistic. Instead, maybe you should focus on making your offline identity one that you’re proud of.

First of all, no one is getting away with anything online. Today recruiters are expert and tireless Internet researchers when it comes to scoping out candidates. I just read a story about someone interviewing for a job who was asked about his wish list on Amazon. I would never have thought of that. (In fact, I can’t even figure out how to find other peoples’ wish lists on Amazon.) The list of ways to snoop feels infinite. And the list of ways to fix snoopable problems seems very limited.

If there’s someone in your life who is glued to their computer each night, posting career-killing commentary, maybe you should forward a link to this Wall St. Journal article by Vauhini Vara chronicling one man’s struggle to get his page removed on MySpace:

“He emailed MySpace, begging the site to take down his old page. Nothing happened. He sent at least eight more urgent messages to the site, including a note to MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson. Finally, he received a cryptic email telling him to write his user name — “craigisanidiot” — and password with a marker on a piece of paper, to take a photo of himself holding it up, and to email it to MySpace along with a note saying, ‘I wish to be removed from MySpace.” (Note to the concerned: It worked.)

A pseudonym will not save you. A majority of bloggers use pseudonyms, but people will find out who you are. The first weekly column I wrote was about my job while I was in my job. I used a pseudonym and presumed I was safe. I wrote about my CEO’s pharmaceutical cocktail and diagnosed him (correctly, I still think) as manic depressive. I described the scene of my boss sexually harassing me. I documented my expensive and useless business trip. It turned out, pretty much the whole company had been reading my column.

If you are going to be anonymous, take a tip from Waiter Rant, who never reveals his restaurant but never disses it either, or Your HR Guy, who writes funny human resources scenes, but publishes his policy of not getting fired for his blog.

But don’t go to the other extreme. If you get too careful, you’ll be like college student Matthew Zimmerman, and find yourself unable to write anything. (Don’t worry, he got over it.)

The BBC News tells us How to Blog and Not Get Fired, but it seems much harder to give advice on how to blog and still get hired. When it comes to recruiters, a blog is like a lighthouse: You don’t know how many people have been repelled because they never show up.

At some point, you just have to be yourself. Figure out your best self and be that — online and offline — and then no one will be surprised.

The people entering the workforce today did not grow up posting every little thing that happened to them. But in five years, those kids coming to work will have no way to cleanse the Internet of their posting transgressions from when they were fifteen years old.

There will have to be new standards for what is okay to have online. It will have to be okay to say, “Oh, yeah. I remember when I posted that. Stupid, huh?” Interviewers will have to judge people by what they are doing right now, or else they won’t be able to hire anyone.

So for now, take a look at that wish list you made. Does it make you look like a moron? Instead of getting rid of anti-social items and replacing them with crowd pleasers, ask yourself why you want to read books that reflect poorly on you. Ask yourself who you are.

Karen Salmansohn writes about the idea of congruence: “Be yourself wherever you are, whether at work, with your partner or with friends. When you compartmentalize yourself to be wildly different in different circumstances you can start to feel out of whack. Create a life that is congruent with the person you truly are.”

The impact of incongruence is big: You’ll have an online persona that conflicts with your work persona. You’ll have huge stress. When I was making fun of my co-workers in my column it was because I was a fish out of water in that office. When your impulse is to write mean things about the people you work with then you probably shouldn’t be there.

Research published in the Harvard Business Review (paid) shows that in order to be a great leader, you need to make your work consistent with your core self. When you can be authentic in your job and authentic when you blog that’s a step toward living congruently and you will be priming yourself for success.

Getting a call from a recruiter is like getting asked to the prom. It doesn’t matter if the offer is sub-par; it’s always flattering to be asked. But there’s a lot of advice about how to get a prom date and not very much on how to attract recruiters.

The best way to encourage recruiters to call you is to understand how they do their job. So I talked to a few recruiters and came up with five things you can do to look attractive to recruiters.

1. Post to sites with good search tools.
Recruiters like to visit sites that aggregate resumes and offer specific search criteria, says recruiter Matt Millunchick. Blogs are difficult to search but social networking sites like MySpace and LinkedIn facilitate keyword searches. Be sure to fill in profiles thoroughly on these sites so that your resume matches more searches.

2. Choose your friends carefully, and then monitor them.
Recruiters will put up with a little quirkiness in an online profile but don’t worry only about what you post yourself: “Be careful about what photos of you are available and what and your friends post about you,” warns Millunchick. Recruiters will find everything. Recruiter Mark Jaffe told me he has a full-time employee with a master’s degree who researches candidates. “The two of us work like the FBI looking at persons on interest.

3. Be a thought leader.
Recruiters use Google to find the articles you’ve published, says Millunchick. So write some. Many sites are eager to get well-written content for free. If you feel totally lost in the article-writing world, Article Marketing Niche Blog can show you how to do it.

4. Use the scientific method.
The importance of keywords on your resume cannot be overestimated. John Sullivan, recruiting advisor and professor of management at San Francisco State University, told me that he advises his students to post three different resumes in an online database and see which receives the most responses. This is a way to continually hone the keyword effectiveness of your resume.

5. Do great work at the job you have.
The higher up you get, the less likely it is that a recruiter will troll the Internet. Jaffe told me he relies on word of mouth to find senior executives. “We follow candidates like my sixteen-year-old son follows all the details of baseball players. We look at minor leaguers, we look at who’s coming up, and we track people who we see as nascent superstars.”

He adds, “If you’re doing a really, really good job at work, we’ll find you. Once you try to get our attention you are turning that dangerous corner where you start looking like a used car salesman in gold chains.”

The job market is good, the Internet is buzzing, and optimism is high. Still, the best jobs require talent before you walk in the door — you need to know how to search. Here are seven tips to help you:

1. Big job sites cater to keyword-focused applicants.
Only three to five percent of job seekers find employment through online job sites. In order to be one of this small percent, you need to tailor your resume to keyword searches. “Sending a resume to a big company’s web site is like sending your resume into a black hole,” says John Sullivan, human resources consultant and professor of management at San Francisco State University. “In a big company, your resume is sorted by an applicant tracking system.”

These companies receive thousands of resumes a month and the tracking system sorts them by skill. Sullivan tells of a study where researchers took a job opening and wrote 100 perfect resumes for that opening. Then the researchers added 10% more information to the resumes. Of those resumes, only 12% were picked up by the tracking system as qualified. This means that even if you are the perfect candidate, if you submit your resume blindly to a large company, there is almost a 90% chance that no human will ever see your resume.

But you can increase your chances by knowing how to use keywords in your resume. “Recruiters locate individuals based on a certain skill set of the job they are looking to fill,” says recruiting advisor Matt Millunchick. So try to imagine how someone else would use a search box to find you, and be very specific about your skills.

These rules remain true if you post your resume to an online database also. The mass of resumes on job sites is so unruly that human resource staffs are paying people in India $20 an hour to sort through resumes to find the good ones, according to David Hanley, owner of So, even in this case, keywords are your best friend.

2. Don’t depend on your resume.
The typical resume is linear which makes people without linear careers look like a mess. The resume highlights work gaps in a negative way and leaves little space for achievements and experiences that did not somehow contribute to corporate life.

“The marketplace is changing and the life experience that informs the work that people do is changing,” says Anne Burdick, information designer and professor at Art Center College of Design. The static, linear resume is not an effective way to convey this new experience, so don’t lead with it.

Dana Zemack, a publicist, got an agency job by abandoning the conventional resume: She wrote a letter to the agency about how she had been throwing large, elaborate chocolate tasting parties and charging admission. Zemack explained that at first, she publicized the parties to make sure she’d make enough money to pay for the party. But then she realized that she had talent as both a party planner and a publicist, so she started planning bigger and bigger parties. “I used my own endeavors as an experiment to see how far I could go as a publicist,” she wrote. On a second page, she listed the publicity she was able to generate for the parties.

It worked. She got the job. Which leads to tip number three:

3. Go local. Smaller companies posting on smaller job sites look for employees who may not have a resume optimized for a computer screening. This is how Zemack found her job.

Another way to go small is to join professional groups on MySpace. These are people who will know where jobs are. Also, Millunchick says recruiters search through these groups for marketing and technical people.

4. Focus on the referral.
Eighty percent of available jobs are not posted on job boards. But people who work at companies know what positions are available. And employers love referrals, because referral employees have such low turnover.

In fact, many companies pay employees tens of thousands of dollars for a successful referral. Pander to that carrot system by offering yourself up to an employee at one of those companies.

Find people to refer you by looking on sites such as MySpace, Friendster and LinkedIn. Do keyword searches to see if your friends of friends have jobs at companies that interest you.

Offline networking works, too. It’s just slower. There is no keyword search when you walk into a party. But once you’ve made the acquaintance, you can Google the person to find their connections.

5. Stalk your dream job. If you know your dream job but you have no connections, identify someone you want to talk to within a company and use the Internet to get in touch with them: Find an email address, phone number, a conference your target is speaking at. Then ask for an informational interview.

You are far more likely to get a job from an informational interview than from blindly sending resumes. Most people will be flattered by your request and will give you some of their time. Remember an informational interview is not when you ask for a job. But often, if you make a good impression, the person will help you get a job.

6. Make your own job.
Zemack’s career really took off when she created a job for herself: throwing chocolate tasting parties. She is still genuinely touched by each person who turned out for those early parties where she bet her credit rating on herself. And in the end, she discovered something that is not a new rule at all: That believing in yourself and creating avenues for your own success attracts a magnificent network of supporters.

The more you like your job, the more you should network. If you have a great job, you probably have a lot to offer people. Do all your favors now, when you don’t need any in return. The problem with networking to get a job is that you are not that attractive when you need a job. Who wants to network with unhappy people?

Recently I interviewed a bunch of recruiters for my column, and they were absolutely gung-ho about social networking. Recruiting advisor John Sullivan told me that referred candidates have a 50% higher retention rate than candidates who come to the company via a job site. To land that referral, he recommended, among others, LinkedIn.

This surprised me. In the past, I have delete emails from people who ask me to be in their network. I never considered that the networks were so useful.

So I took the advice of the recruiters and I checked out LinkedIn. I was immediately impressed. To get a job, if you are qualified for the job, all it really takes is a third-party connection. I was shocked at how quickly the world opens up to you with a social networking site. And I was surprised by how much we can help each other by offering up our networks to friends in a searchable, useful way.

My first instinct was to search for who has the most contacts, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that. So I filled out a cursory profile, which the recruiters say is a no-no. (You should fill it out in great detail so people know what you have to offer.) Then I started trying to figure out who I knew that would be on the site.

The first few names I tried did not work. But that was because I tried the people I’d be most comfortable asking to be in my networks (it’s a request that seems a little weird to me, still). Instead, I started trying the email addresses of the people I know who are comfortable with technology and good at networking, and the first four names I tried were listed.

One is Dylan Tweney. After about an hour of dealing with LinkedIn, I had four contacts. Dylan has 150. I asked him how he does it, and he said he sent email to everyone on his email list. I had contact envy. There were some people who have more than 500 contacts. I wondered how they did it.

Then I heard that the CEO of Linkedin — who has more than 500 contacts — will not speak to analysts unless they can get to his network. One senior banker at a top firm has been trying for months. It gives me hope: It seems that people who have large networks are not those who make the most money, it’s those who offer the most to their friends.

Wouldn't it be nice if recruiters called you regularly to see if you're interested in interviewing for one of their jobs? Here are some steps you can take to make that fantasy come true:

1. Get a high profile in your industry.
Speak at conferences. You might not get paid in cash, but you'll be noticed. And because you won't get paid, landing a spot on a panel is actually not that difficult. Speakers get noticed not only by conference junkies, but also by the press (a fine line, really). And the best way to get your name in the news is by saying something intelligent and elucidating to someone who can quote you.

Also, if you can afford it, hire a public relations professional. I got the idea for this column from a press release (generated by a public relations specialist) sent to me in the form of an article by David Theobald, CEO of Netshare. Who knows if he really wrote it (I doubt it since writers are cheap and CEOs aren't.) But he does have good ideas. And look, it worked. Now you know his name and might check out his company.

2. Send a resume recruiters can use.
Become a specialist. I once met a recruiter for lunch. She spent the whole meal finding out about me, and then she said, “You need to say what you are up front. Generalists don't help recruiters.” I did not take her advice. At the time, I was scared to specialize — I thought I'd miss opportunities.

But research shows that after five or six years, you will move faster in your career if you establish yourself as a specialist. This makes sense, because a recruiter has to sell you to her client in one sentence, for example, General Motors guy who is a management star, or advertising genius who can take a brand to the top.

Also, create a keyword-friendly resume. No one wants to imagine that their career is dependent on some computer plucking them out of a black hole. But the reality is that recruiters manage large piles of quality resumes with keyword searches. So write a resume that includes the keywords you want to be identified by.

3. Say the right thing.
You never know where you are going to meet a recruiter. Maybe you'll sit next to one on an airplane, or maybe you'll get a phone call in the middle of your busiest day at work. You have to be ready to talk at any time.

So have a pitch about yourself ready to go, and focus on accomplishments. When a recruiter asks, “What have you been doing?” he is sniffing around for star performers, not just people who get their job done. So don't bore the recruiter by listing job duties. (Many people say they cannot do this because the recruiter needs background to understand the accomplishment. This is not true. Everyone understands raised revenues, saved time, and decreased costs. Lead with one of those phrases, and if the way you did the task is a little obscure, you'll still get your point across. Don't bother clarifying details that don't matter.)

Also, be prepared to talk about what you're looking for in your next step. If you can't answer that question, a recruiter can't determine if you're a good fit.

After all this, you're probably wondering what Mr. Theobald has to say. Here's an example: Have a good voice message. “You have only one opportunity to make a first impression, and everyone thinks that’s eyeball to eyeball, but it’s more likely to be on the phone. Be sure the tone and message on your answering machine is upbeat and professional.”

During the Internet’s go-go days in the late 1990s, I thought the term generalist meant “she's doing two jobs and pays herself double.” Now it seems the word generalist means “good at nothing and unemployed.” In either case, generalist is the label for a career that will die.

Think cars: You never hear an advertiser say, “Buy my car, it's good for everything!” Volvos are safe. BMWs are fun. Saturns are easy to buy. Just as successfully branded products offer specific benefits, successfully branded careerists offer specific talents. You get to the top by being the best, and you can't be the best at everything.

Ezra Zuckerman, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, agrees — and has the research to prove it. In his study of typecasting in Hollywood entitled “Robust Identities or Nonentities,” Zuckerman found that specialization leads to longer, more productive careers. Contrary to conventional Hollywood wisdom, big bucks come most often to people who become known for a certain type of role. Zuckerman finds that typecasting, as this practice is called, is also a moneymaker in the business world, where the hiring system is set up to reward those who differentiate themselves. “Headhunters are specialized,” he says, “and they look for something they can package and sell.”

Generalist is a good moniker during the first few years of your career. For example, if you're a standout college grad, you may win a place in a general-management rotational training program, such as General Electric Co. and other well-known consumer products companies offer. But the point of such training programs is to figure out what you're good at and then seek an internal role in that department.

So take a gamble. Figure out what you're best at and start making your mark. Then hope for good timing — that someone needs that particular talent when you have become expert at it.

Carly Fiorina, for example, is an outstanding marketer in the technology sector. She got to be chair and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard by being the best — and having a little luck: the company badly needed marketing expertise when it was conducting a search for a CEO. If it had needed an engineering genius, Fiorina would not have been considered. By the same token, if a food-products company needed a marketing-oriented CEO, Fiorina would not have been a candidate because her background is in technology. People who define themselves clearly are clearly wrong for certain positions, but super-achievers take that risk.

Many professionals hesitate to define themselves because it limits where you can go. But top players must have clear definition. Most have enough confidence in their abilities to risk specialization. Very simply, they believe that adequate opportunities will be available as they progress up the ladder.

To specialize, think discipline (marketing, sales, operations, etc) and sector (media, technology, fashion, etc.) Become known for your extremes. If you aren’t extremely good at something, you won’t get to the top.

Still not convinced of the benefits of typecasting? Then consider the current job market. Hundreds of applicants vie for most jobs, and many are more than qualified. This means hiring managers can demand a perfect fit — and specialists rather than generalists typically offer a perfect fit.

Figure out what your strengths are and hone them. Sure, take varied positions in the company, and learn a range of skills, but make sure people know where your talents lie. People at the top need to see you as someone who is extremely good at something, and no one is extremely good at everything, so don’t sell yourself that way to upper management.