Go ahead and Google yourself.
We support you in your narcissistic crusade to see what dribs and drabs of your history rank high in Google’s search algorithm.
But seriously, there’s a real method to this madness.
There’s a wealth of information available on each and every one of us, especially for those of us who are actively engaged in social media.
Here it is: Your potential employers will Google you, and you need to beat them to the chase. Here’s why:
- To understand what you’ve been publicly sharing since Al Gore invented the internet.
- So that you can edit any incorrect information, or have it removed (if it’s really bad).
- So that you can you properly defend yourself if need be.
- To check if there’s another person who has the same name as you who’s messing things up out there.
Huffington Post calls this strategy “Defensive Googling.” Be proactive by seeing what (if anything) exists about you in the first three pages of Google. And don’t forget to check Google Images as well. No potential employer needs to see a photo of you doing keg stands in college.
Your Reputation Management Checklist
1. Check all of your social media settings.
Have a thorough understanding of what info you’re presenting as public, and if it’s not what you want, make it private ASAP!
Social media platforms almost always have a settings and security section. Go there and check yourself before you wreck yourself. Have a thorough understanding of what info you’re presenting as public, and if it’s not what you want, make it private ASAP!
Did you know?… All Facebook background pics are public and you can’t hide them. Profile pictures default to public, but you have the ability to change these settings.
2. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Consider using a fake social media name, or having separate professional and personal accounts. If you have a public account, keep yourself in check and be mindful of your posts.
3. Ask nicely.
If there’s something out there you’re not very fond of, contact the source, and simply ask if he or she can remove whatever is ailing you from their website. If a photo you don’t like or some unsavory comment you once said exists on someone else’s website, kindly contact them and ask them to remove it.
4. Hire an expert.
In extreme cases it may be necessary to hire a reputation management company. There are a variety of companies who specialize in cleaning up regretful digital footprints. This can be a pricey investment, but take comfort in knowing it’s an option should you need it. Here are a few resources.
5. Review your own website.
If your own website is more personal than professional, you may want to remove any mentions of your full name or other identifying features during your job search. If, on the other hand, your website serves as a digital portfolio, take the time to make sure it’s up to date and your best work is featured prominently.
But wait, it’s not all bad!
Keep in mind that not every online mention of you is automatically horrendous. Those 5K race results from 1993, no problem. Charity donations? Awesome! Pics of you with family and friends? Totally fine.
A good rule of thumb: As long as your online presence is something you’re comfy showing your Grandma (assuming she’s of the more conservative chicken soup-making variety), you’re golden.
Henry Green is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas who helps small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their online presence through marketing, social media, and website optimization.