Most of us have a web presence – whether or not we are aware of it – but we don’t always know what information (or misinformation) exists about us online. Your online presence is part of your brand (your image, who you are, what you stand for and how you and your essence are perceived by others). With more and more employers researching potential job candidates, you need to know what they’re likely to find in an online search of your name and how to increase the likelihood that what they find highlights your professionalism and qualifications.
1) Google yourself. The first step is to do an online search on yourself. Using search engines such as Google and Yahoo! type your full name and review at least the first few pages of the search results. Since you are likely to get results that differ slightly from one search engine to another, try at least two of them. Look for anything that is inaccurate or negative (including anything you think would be inappropriate for your potential or current employer to see). Also explore what information comes up that showcases your skills, accomplishments and professional values, and communicates the message you want to potential employers or clients.
2) What to do if you find negative information? Let’s say your search shows information that mistakenly links you to an organization you would not want to be associated with (first ensure it refers to you and not someone with the same name). Try contacting the site’s webmaster and asking that they remove/correct the inaccurate post. If you uncover information that is accurate, but not something you’d want an employer to see (say, something you impulsively posted online in a fit of anger and now regret), you can still request that it be removed. Keep in mind that this request may not necessarily be honored, and even if it is, you have no way of knowing for certain where else this information now lives on the web. In a future article we’ll look at tips for highlighting positive information in search results.
3) What about social networks? Some of the content about (and by) you may come from the many social (and professional) networking sites available today. Sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter can be a great resource for staying in touch with your network, learning new things, meeting others with similar interests, and sharing your knowledge and expertise. Social networking sites can also provide the “opportunity” to post comments or information you might later wish you’d kept private – or at least not made visible to everyone on the online community. Get to know the privacy settings (and limitations) each offers and decide which sites fit your interaction style, personality and needs. You may also want to start by limiting who can see the information you post and expand what you make public as you become more familiar with how the site works.
4) When employers dig deeper. If you need another reason to think carefully about what you share online, here’s one. There are some employers who – depending on their sector and position requirements – will spend the money and resources to hire firms specializing in conducting “digital dirt” searches and finding information you think has been completely removed from the web.
5) Avoid the need to clean up your web presence. Consider developing a habit of evaluating each item before posting it online and deciding whether you would be comfortable with others reading or seeing it. This includes pictures, comments on blogs and social networking sites and anything else you post or submit online. This might greatly reduce (or eliminate) the need to go back later and clean your online presence.
6) Keep updated. Once you’ve “Googled yourself” and learned what information is available about you, you can continue to keep up with what’s being published about you on the web by setting up a Google Alert using your name. This is an easy way to receive an email notification any time a new post containing your name is found.
These tips will help you get started in effectively managing your online reputation. In the next article, we’ll look at creating a positive, professional online presence.
Shahrzad Arasteh, M.A., helps people create and pursue their career search plan using 10+ years of experience and a holistic approach to career counseling. She is a Certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Practitioner, a Master Career Development Professional, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, and a Certified Global Career Development Facilitator. If you are ready to create your career search plan and find your meaningful work, visit http://www.careerconsultmd.com or contact her shahrzad[at]careerconsultmd.com
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