To succeed in today’s job market, it is important to have an online presence with the right kind of information. If you are applying for a job, someone is probably Googling your name to learn about you. Once something becomes part of the public domain it is hard to delete, especially with sharing features on social media. There are plenty of stories out there of people losing their jobs or getting in legal trouble because of things they post online. For a few examples, see “These Social Media Posts Can Get You Fired” and “5 Cases of Employees Getting Canned over Social Media.”
To learn more about why an employer can fire you because of what you post online, check out this article from the Sacramento Bee: “Venting on Social Media? Yes, You Can, but the First Amendment Won’t Save Your Job.”
The first step to managing your online presence is to see what’s out there about you. Then, if needed, you can take some steps to restore your online reputation and develop your online presence.
In this section: Google Yourself, Building Your Online Presence, and Develop Your Brand.
The best way to see what you look like online is to Google yourself. What do people see when they Google your name? Are there some embarrassing photos or inappropriate comments? Are you linked to certain groups that could affect your reputation? Or is the search empty—which could mean that you’re not up-to-date on how to use social networking tools?
Here are some search terms you can use:
- First and last name, in quotes. The quotes indicate to the search engine that those two words (in this case your first and last name) need to be together.
- Example: “Telecom Toolbox”
- First and last name (in quotes), plus one or more of the following:
- Home address
- Company or businesses where you have worked
- Work address
- Email address
- Schools you have attended
- Social media account user names
You can also search Google images, news, and videos to see what other types of information come up in the search.
If you want to keep up-to-date on new information that is posted about you (or about someone else with your name), you can sign up for Google Alerts, a service that will send you an email with a link when something about the search term appears online.
To learn how to sign up for Google Alerts, see Google Search Help: Create an alert
You found something bad. Now what?
If you find information you don’t want online, you have a couple options.
Option 1: Remove it.
If you posted the information yourself, you can remove the information and update your privacy settings. See How to Manage Your Social Media Privacy Settings for information about privacy settings and instructions on how to change them for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn, and Pintrest.
Unfortunately, content can be shared by others and can be very difficult to remove.
Option 2: Cover the bad with the good.
You can populate the web with more favorable information such as blog posts, tweets, or product reviews, so that less reputable photos, comments, and affiliations fall later in your profile search. Generally, people Googling your name don’t look past the first few pages of results.
Building Your Online Presence
If you want to bury not-so-great stuff about yourself on the internet, the main thing you can do is create some positive content and share good things about yourself. This also is a way to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in a particular area.
For example, if you mention your volunteer experience on your resume and pictures of you at a volunteer event show up online, an employer will know you’re telling the truth on your resume. (According to a 2018 survey, 75% of hiring managers have caught a lie on a resume. Don’t be one of those people.)
Professional Social Media Presence
You might think about creating separate professional accounts on one or two social media sites. Some social media sites, like Facebook, don’t allow you to have two accounts, so if you want to do this you could think about having a professional account on one platform and a personal account on a different one:
- your personal account (for example, Facebook or Instagram), with high privacy settings, where you share funny memes and jokes with your friends
- a professional account (like LinkedIn or Twitter), which is public, where you share things related to your professional interests. This account is the one that potential employers could see if they Google your name.
Bury the old with new content
Many social media sites dominate search results, so if you start posting new content you can quickly bury older posts.
Tweet on Twitter
Twitter is a popular social media platform that allows users to send and read short messages called (tweets). Tweets are a quick way to populate search results because they are fairly easy to create.
Some ideas to create content on Twitter:
- tweet about professional opinions, articles, or content
- follow thought leaders in your professional industry
- retweet interesting or compelling ideas
See Twitter for more information on how to set up a Twitter account and how to use Twitter to search for a job.
Post Pictures on Instagram
Posting professional or proof-of-performance images on Instagram can be valuable for boosting your online identity. This is particularly true for creative professions like fashion design, food preparation, landscaping, or web design. Use hashtag strategies to optimize chances that your photos will be viewed by the right people.
See Instagram for more information on how to set up an Instagram account, hashtags, and how to use Instagram in your job search.
Post Videos on YouTube
If you’ve been on the internet lately, you may have noticed videos. They’re everywhere, and people use them for all sorts of reasons: to try to sell you shampoo, to make you laugh, to ask you to donate money, to pass along information. As you’re building your online presence, you may want to think about creating and sharing some videos about yourself. Videos provide a way for other people to see how you communicate, and can showcase characteristics that might not be obvious in your paper resume, like your humor or creativity. Just remember to keep it professional and related to the reputation you want people to remember you by.
You could make videos that share your point-of view on a professional topic, a short bio video, or a video that shares your position on an advocacy issue.
If you have a smartphone or laptop computer with a webcam, you have the tools you need to record and edit videos. For tips on how to make and edit videos, check out “How to Make Your Own Videos for YouTube.”
Create a Personal Website
Another way to highlight your personality, experience, and proof of performance is to create a personal website. A website gives you a place to share things about yourself that might not fit on your resume, and links to articles, things you’ve published, or photographs of your work or something you’ve created.
There are many free website-building platforms out there. Some popular ones include WordPress, Wix, and Weebly. Check out “The 10 Best Free Website Builders in 2018” for more information on different website-building platforms.
What to put on a personal website:
- A creative and professional photo that fits with your industry.
- A brief personal statement
- Tell people about who you are and what you are interested in
- Links to your other professional social media profiles
- Contact information
- If you don’t want to give out your personal email address, consider making a professional one. For example, FirstNameLastName@gmail.com. It is also a good idea to have a professional email address to put on your resume and to use for your job search
- Links to relevant documents, such as your resume or a short bio
- A portfolio of your best work
- This could include articles or stories you’ve written, graphics you designed, art you’ve created, pictures of meals or baked goods you made, events you helped set up… the list is endless. Show off what you’re most proud of and what you want potential employers to know you for
Here are some examples of personal websites:
- Nina G, comedian, professional storyteller, writer, educator: https://www.ninagcomedian.com/
- Liz Jackson, advocate: http://www.thegirlwiththepurplecane.com/
- Jaleel King, photographer: http://www.jaleelking.com/about/
- Nyle DiMarco, model, actor, activist: http://www.nyledimarco.com/
- Marla Runyan, Paralympic and Olympic athlete: http://www.marlarunyan.net/
- Christine Ha, cook: http://www.theblindcook.com/
As part of your personal website, you could have a blog. A blog is a website or page on a website that is a way for the author to share many different kinds of material, such as personal reflections or comments, photographs or artwork, or other types of multi-media. By posting regularly on a blog, you can increase your visibility and online reputation, showcase your skills and ideas, and engage other people in your network.
Starting a Blog
To get started with blogging, you need to choose a blogging platform. Check out this article for a list of 10 popular blogging platforms, and the pros and cons of each. How to Choose the Best Blogging Platform in 2018 (Compared). Most of the platforms listed here have free versions.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, another blogging option is to share longer, professionally-focused posts on LinkedIn. See Publishing Articles on LinkedIn—Overview and 5 Steps for Maximizing LinkedIn’s Blogging Feature for Personal Branding for more information.
Other blogging tips:
- If you want to use your blog as a space to show your knowledge about a certain topic, make sure all of your posts are related to that topic.
- Post regularly. It’s probably unrealistic to try to post every day. Decide how often you would like to post, and set a schedule. You could post once a week, every-other week, once a month, or however often makes sense for you. The most important thing is to regularly have new posts.
- Add pictures and videos to your posts. If you can, find some that are relevant and add them to your post. If you did not create them, make sure you properly acknowledge and link to the person who did and where you found the photo/video.
- Link to relevant websites, especially if you had to look anything up as you wrote your post. This can help build your network, and also shows that you did your research.
- Share your posts on your different social media channels.
For more information about blogging, see How to Start a Blog—Beginner’s Guide for 2018 from Blogging Basics 101.
Develop Your Brand
As you start to post content on the internet, you need to think about your personal brand, or your professional reputation. Your personal brand helps you stand out from other job seekers: it highlights your skills, values, passions, and traits.
Decide what you want to project to the world. Take time to figure out your professional goals and the characteristics or skills you want to emphasize. To get some ideas, look at other people who have careers or jobs that you want. How have they marketed themselves? What skills, types of content, and ideas to they emphasize? How could you put your unique spin on something related?
For more information on why personal brands are important and some advice on how to get started, check out “Tips on Creating and Growing Your Personal Brand.”
“The Complete Guide to Building Your Personal Brand,” by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius, has a lot of great step-by-step guidance to help you develop your personal brand.
This article, “The Absolute Best Way to Figure out Your Personal Brand,” shares a link to an online, interactive workbook from PricewaterhouseCoopers that you can download.
Things to think about as you plan out your personal brand:
Use the same user name across platforms.
Using the same user name for all your professional networking sites helps make sure that people connect you with your posts, no matter where they see them. A good user name should try to include your first and last name or your first and last name plus an additional descriptor that you want to showcase (i.e. jane.doe.baker). If your name is fairly common, you might need to get creative in coming up with a user name that is available on multiple sites.
Provide consistent messages.
Pick a general topic, and stay to it as best you can. This will help you establish yourself as an expert in that topic, and show that you have a professional interest in it. It shows how you fit with, and might contribute to, an industry.
For instance, if you are trying to boost your baking career, post about favorite bakeries, baking strategies, or baking products you use. If you are trying to land a professional accounting job at a big firm, post comments about cutting edge accounting practices and pictures that show you in appropriate professional attire.
Posting about multiple topics outside your target area results in a confusing personal brand. If you are trying to secure a baking job, don’t post about preparing the perfect steak or sewing a quilt.
Tell your story.
Telling your personal story can help demonstrate your skills, interest, and passion about something. Your story helps to demonstrate what makes you unique.
Keep it current.
Share new information on a regular basis to keep your profiles current and active.
Keep posts positive and fair.
Positive or fair comments show leadership qualities. Posting negative or overly critical information makes you look both unprofessional and hard to work with.