Steps For Cleaning Up Your Online Persona
Last week I mentioned that your online persona could be costing you jobs. Everything that we say or do online is available for anyone to see, so it’s very important that the image you project online presents you in the best light.
There are several services on the market that claim to clean up your online persona. They allow you to get monthly reports, much like your credit report, that will tell you if anything negative has been posted. But with a little bit of tech savviness on your part, you can do the work yourself and save the registration fee that it costs to sign up for these services.
1. Social Networking
In the early days of the internet, people crafted alter egos for themselves, and they were relatively anonymous. Nowadays, however, the distinction between online and the “Real World” is fairly blurred.
If you are on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Friendster, or any other social networking sites, you need to remove any pictures or videos that might show you acting a fool. This includes your account, but it also includes your friends’ accounts. If you’re tagged in someone else’s photos and they show you doing body shots off a stripper, photocopying your buttocks on the company’s copy machine, or anything else like that, you need to contact your friends and ask that they delete those pictures.
As far as Twitter goes, what are you tweeting? Do you use professional language? Or do you swear up a storm? Are you tweeting posts about drug legalization, or talking smack about your job? You need to go in and delete any tweets that make you seem unprofessional.
2. Google Search
Type your name into Google. Right now. I’m willing to be you’ll be surprised by what shows up. Social networking accounts are likely to come up first, since those pages have a high Google ranking. If you blog, that’s going to show up. But so will any discussion boards or e-mail listservs. I would read everything that comes up on the Google search. Literally. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting, but you should definitely do it some night while you’re watching American Idol or just idly surfing the web.
You need to read everything through the eyes of an employer. What does the post about growing marijuana in your closet say to potential job recruiters? And what does your post about the capitalist pigs say to a job recruiter? Don’t read these posts from your own personal standpoint. Think about someone who has different politics and motivations than you do.
If you find something on Google that makes you look like a potential liability for an employer, you need to try to eliminate those webpages. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Trying to get something deleted from a campus newspaper or a public listerv/discussion board can be pretty difficult (and in some cases impossible). But the first step is to contact the site owners and ask them to take down the information.
Keep in mind that it could day a few days for something to actually be removed from a Google search. So you will need to monitor Google on a regular basis to make sure that something actually gets deleted. You can set up a Google alert so that you get an e-mail anytime something new is posted about you on the web.
3. Set up a separate e-mail
Honestly, the best way to prevent employers from digging up dirt on you is to surf the web anonymously, and to stay off of social networking sites altogether. But I realize that this isn’t a reality for most people. Set up a separate e-mail account that isn’t associated with the one you’re using to send out resumes. Remember, firstname.lastname@example.org is fine for cruising on Manhunt, but it’s not really a prime e-mail address to be using for job applications. Then make sure your “anonymous” e-mail account is the one that you use for listservs, discussion boards, and social networking sites.
These tips are meant as a suggestion only, and I can’t guarantee that you’re going to be able to eliminate everything that you find online. But at the very least, you need to take control of your social networking profiles and eliminate anything that could potentially turn off an employer.
Best of luck with your job search!
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