Well, another year has come and gone, and the internet is abuzz with resolution ideas, tips and advice for self-
improvement, self-proclamations to eat less, drink less, exercise more, and achieve long-dormant goals, and – who could forget – the students are back from their short holiday breaks for another grueling semester of classes, assignments, exams, late nights studying, and stress.
In the world of career blogs, all kinds of articles have been popping up in the last few weeks concerning ways that job seekers can revamp and re-energize their job search, makeover their resume, solidify their personal brand, and etc. For the most part, I didn’t find a whole lot of new information in these seemingly obligatory “new year, new career” posts.
However, I will admit to having being somewhat lax in one area of the career identity spectrum: online presence. Sure, I set up a basic personal website a while ago, I have a profile on LinkedIn, twitter, facebook, and the rest. I thought I had my bases covered. That was until I read a few posts out there in the “career blogosphere” recently that focused on the issue, and I decided, in uncharacteristic fashion, to adopt a resolution for the new year: to create a new online me.
You might be wondering what the big deal is. “I’ve got my privacy settings on facebook clamped down,” you say, “isn’t that enough?” Well, the fact of the matter is that, these days, employers DO check out what the internet says about prospective employees, and the information that they find can drastically influence whether or not they decide to give job seekers a chance. So, as a job seeker who wants to make sure that google doesn’t ruin their job hunt, you have two main tasks:
- Clean up any online profiles you have that have any kind of even semi-questionable content from the perspective of potential employers. In other words, keep your personal life hidden.
- In an opposite sense, increase your professional visibility online, so that when employers use online tools to look you up, they do find you, but what they find is the good stuff.
With the above two tasks in mind, I’ve put together a list of 10 things that I’m sure you’ll find helpful in your own quest to create a new online you this year.
Quite simply, google yourself. This is probably the first thing that employers will do when they decide to check you out online. Make sure you put your full name in quotation marks (i.e. “David Lindskoog”), and be sure to try out all the different permutations of your name to get a full sense of the results (i.e. “Dave Lindskoog,” “D Lindskoog,” D T Lindskoog,” etc.). Does this simple search yield some questionable results? If so, you’ve got some work to do.
- In a similar vein, set up a google alert for your name, so that when new content begins to appear in that google search, you’re aware of it (remember, you’re likely not the only one with your name). Essentially the google alert will continuously do a search with your name, and when new results appear, it will let you know.
- Google isn’t the only tool that employers will use to try to find out about you online. There are others, such as pipl.com, that are arguably more comprehensive. In fact, using this tool I found my old flickr photo stream, which had a whole bunch of pictures I wouldn’t necessarily want an employer to be looking at, so I immediately took them down. Phew.
- Here’s another helpful tool that you can use to get an idea of your online identity: the online identity calculator, This tool will help give you an idea of roughly what percentage of the first three pages of google search results have to do with you, so that you can try to beef up that percentage. Why the first three pages? Research has shown that employers rarely look beyond three pages of search results.
- They say that the traditional paper-based resume is going the way of the dinosaur. It’s probably not long before it becomes a relic of the past, so why not get a jump on things by setting up an online resume on visualcv.com? It’s quick and easy, and you’ll be able to link to it easily from anywhere. It will also appear on google search results. Handy.
Have you heard of LinkedIn? Many people have and are setting up profiles, but it’s kind of startling how many students I see that have never even heard of it. Essentially, LinkedIn is like a more professionally-tailored version of facebook that is very friendly to job-seekers. It’s also a great way to keep track of your professional connections and solicit recommendations/references for past work that you’ve done that are visible and easily shared.
- Speaking of facebook, how’s your profile doing? How would it look to an employer? You may have your privacy settings set to be very strict (which I would recommend to everyone anyway), but there still may be pictures, comments, etc. that an employer could see using a simple search. Also, you don’t have control over what your friends say and their privacy settings. In a word, be careful – people have lost jobs over facebook and lots more will. But there is a way to be visible on facebook without getting screwed – consider setting up a fan page on facebook to represent your professional self. This page can be visible to everyone while your personal profile is in lock-down mode.
- Just like facebook can get people into trouble, the common act of emailing seems to also be difficult for some to do. It’s almost like the instant, faceless, somewhat-anonymous nature of emails has given some people the idea that they don’t have to exercise common courtesy using this form of communication. Since we don’t have a “sarcasm key” yet, the fact is that emails, texts, etc. don’t have the luxury that other forms of more direct communication do of tonal cues such as voice tone, facial expressions, body language, and such. As a result, your intended message in an email could very easily be confused for something different, perhaps even hostile. That’s the motivation behind programs like Tone Check, which are designed to alert you to language in your emails that could be confused for something you didn’t mean to convey. Handy, and a potential job saver.
- Try to establish some regularity to your facebook/twitter/LinkedIn/etc. updates. These tools won’t really get you noticed unless you have an active presence out there. Also, be sure to link all of your profiles to one another so that you make it easy for people to find out more about you no matter how they first find you.
10. Consider setting up your own website if you haven’t already – it’s easier than ever these days with sites like wordpress.com that will let you set up a blog for free that can easily be converted into a sort of online portfolio. This site can also act as a sort of hub for all of your other profiles/portfolios to be linked to.
Hopefully the above give you at least a start to creating the online presence that you always wanted this year. Oh, and you should probably drink less and exercise more, too.
*Cross-posted at the Career Services Informer.